Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

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Gray Tuttle / Profile

Leila Hadley Luce Assistant Professor of Modern Tibet | Faculty

Gray Tuttle received his Ph.D. in Inner Asian History at Harvard University in 2002. He studies the history of twentieth century Sino-Tibetan relations as well as Tibet’s relations with the China-based Manchu Qing Empire. The role of Tibetan Buddhism in these historical relations is central to all his research. In his Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (Columbia UP, 2005), he examines the failure of nationalism and race-based ideology to maintain the Tibetan territory of the former Qing empire as integral to the Chinese nation-state. Instead, he argues, a new sense of pan-Asian Buddhism was critical to Chinese efforts to hold onto Tibetan regions (one quarter of China’s current territory). Other long term writing projects include editing The Rise of the Modern in Tibet and co-editing Sources of Tibetan Tradition for the series Introduction to Asian Civilizations, The Tibetan History Reader, and Wutaishan and Qing Culture.

Current Focus

His current research project, “Amdo Tibet, Middle Ground between Lhasa and Beijing (1578-1865) ,” is a historical analysis of the economic and cultural relations between China and Tibet in the early modern periods (16th-19th centuries) when the intellectual and economic centers of Tibet shifted to the east, to Amdo—a Tibetan cultural region the size of France in northwestern China. Deploying Richard White’s concept of the “Middle Ground” in the context of two mature civilizations—Tibetan and Chinese—encountering one another, this book will examine how this contact led to three dramatic areas of growth that defined early modern Tibet: 1) the advent of mass monastic education, 2) the bureaucratization of reincarnate lamas’ charisma and 3) the development of modern conceptions of geography that reshaped the way Tibet was imagined.

Future Goals

Increase publishing about modern Tibet, through the series:

Studies in Modern Tibetan Culture

Series of books on modern Tibet, with Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield: 


The Studies in Modern Tibetan Culture series focuses on Tibetan culture and society from the early modern period of the seventeenth century to the present.  The first series on modern Tibetan studies by a scholarly press, it explores how modernity manifests in a wide range of fields, not only religion, but also literature, history, economy, anthropology, media, and politics.  It seeks to bring rarely heard and important Tibetan perspectives to a wider audience by publishing fresh analyses of yet unexplored source materials ranging from census and yearbook databases to auto/biographies and ethnographic fieldwork, as well as original translations of poetry, biography, and history.  

The editorial board consists of Gray Tuttle (series editor, history), Lauran Hartley (literature), Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy (anthropology), Kurtis Schaeffer (religion), and Emily Yeh (human geography). Feel free to speak to Lauran, Isabelle, or Emily at the conference if you have book you think might fit in the series.

As for books currently in the series, the first has already been published:

Jangbu, translated and introduced by Heather Stoddard, The Nine-Eyed Agate. 2010. Poems and stories by one of the most charismatic and creative Tibetan intellectuals today.

Under contract and forthcoming in the series:

Andrew Fischer, Anatomy of Modernity in the Conquered Snow Lion: Polarization, Exclusion and Conflict within the Disempowered Development of Tibet in China. Study of the increasing marginalization of Tibetans from very rapid economic growth in Tibet, induced by the heavily-subsidized development strategies of Beijing since the mid-1990s.

Charlene Makley, Development and State Violence among Tibetans in China: An Olympic Year. An ethnographically grounded story of a year keyed to seismic global events, the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2008, which provides a rare view of China’s Olympic year from the perspective of the restive western “frontier” (Rebgong).

Simon Wickham-Smith, The Fugitives Lives of the Sixth Dalai Lama. Translation of the 1757 The Beautiful Melody of the Divine Tambura, recording the life of the sixth Dalai Lama, after he supposedly died in Qing custody in Amdo.

Paul Kocot Nietupski, Labrang Monastery: A Social and Political History of a Tibetan Buddhist Community on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier, 1709-1958. Study of the social, religious, and political history of Labrang Monastery.

Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, The Social Life of Tibetan Biography: Textuality, Community and Authority in the Lineage of Tokden Shakya Shri. Study of how Tibetan religious authority has been created, established and consolidated through the intersection between the textual biography and social community that created the lineage of Tokden Shakya Shri (Rtogs ldan Sha’kya shri’, 1853- 1919).






Scholarly Disciplines
History (), Religious Studies (1)
General Interests
Tibetan Buddhist institutions ()
Time Periods of Interest
Modern (), early modern ()
Places of Interest
Amdo (), Wutai shan (Ri bo rtse lnga) ()


Not a member of any projects.


see below


Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China. Columbia University Press. First printing: 2005. Revised paperback edition: 2007.

“Local History in A mdo: The Tsong kha Range (ri rgyud).” Asian Highlands Perspectives. 1:2 (2010): 23-105. Peer reviewed article.

“The Failure of Ideologies in China’s Relations with Tibetans.” In Asian Nationalism Studies. Edited by Jacques Bertrand and André Laliberté. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2010, 219-243. Invited chapter contribution.

“Shambhala: The Politics of Messianic Tibetan Buddhism in Modern China.”  In L’image du Tibet aux XIXeme-XXeme siecles/ The Image of Tibet in the 19th and 20th centuries. Edited by Monica Esposito. Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient. 2009, 303-327. Invited chapter contribution.

“Translating Buddhism from Tibetan to Chinese in Early 20th Century China (1931-1951).” In Buddhism between China and Tibet. Matthew Kapstein, ed. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism Series. Boston: Wisdom. 2009: 241-279. Invited chapter contribution.

“Using Zhu Yuanzhang’s Communications with Tibetans to Justify PRC rule in Tibet.” ” In Sarah Schneewind, ed., Long Live the Emperor: Uses of the Ming Founder across Six Centuries of East Asian History, # 4 in Ming Studies Research Series. Minneapolis: Society for Ming Studies. 2008: 413-429. Invited chapter contribution.

“Interview with Pema Bhum of Latse Contemporary Tibetan Cultural Library, NY.” Contemporary Tibetan Literary Studies. Steven Venturino, ed. Leiden: Brill. 2007; 147-156. Invited chapter contribution.

“Tibetan Buddhism at a Chinese Buddhist Sacred Mountain in Modern Times.” In Journal of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. (Vol II, 2006), 211-245. Peer reviewed article.

“A Tibetan Buddhist Mission to the East: The Fifth Dalai Lama’s Journey to Beijing, 1652-1653.” In Tibetan Society and Religion: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Bryan Cuevas and Kurtis Schaeffer, eds. Leiden: Brill. 2006; 65-87. Invited chapter contribution.

“The Middle Ground: The Monguor Place in History, between China and Tibet,” New introduction to republication of Louis Schram, The Monguors of the Kansu-Tibetan Frontier, originally published in three parts by the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia) 1954, 1957, 1961; republished by Plateau Publications: Xining, 2006; 37-43.

“Uniting Religion and Politics in a Bid for Autonomy: Lamas in Exile in China (1924-1937) and America (1979-1991).” In Buddhist Missionaries in the Era of Globalization. Linda Learman, ed. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 2004, 210-232.





1) Tibetan Material History seminar & Tibetan Civilization survey:

2) 20th Century Tibetan History, Tibetan Autobiographies:

3) Competing Nationalisms Tibet vs. China:

4) Exploring Tibet from the 17th to 20th Centuries

5) Lamas and Emperors: Seven Centuries of Exchanges

See also Tools section.


The Columbia Research Guide to Modern Tibetan History.” Online publication hosted by the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. Edited by Lauran Hartley. 2008. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/indiv/eastasian/Tibetan/guide/index.html

Place-name database of Joseph Rock’s 1925-1927 Maps of Northeast Tibet (Amdo), Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, 2002: http://www.arboretum.harvard.edu/library/tibet/map.html


Board Member: Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, New York: http://tbrc.org/#home

Coordinate with Melvyn Goldstein at the Center for Research on Tibet, Case Western University, to create and develop a website presenting information about the various NGOs working on the Tibetan Plateau (launched website October 2007): http://www.case.edu/affil/tibet/NGOProjects.htm

Advisor, Non-profit group Pilgrim-Nekorpa, which is committed to preserving, restoring and promoting traditional sacred sites and associated traditions throughout the world, http://www.nekorpa.org/

Direct Contact

Email: gwt2102@columbia.edu

Contact Notes

I am on leave until the spring semester of 2012.

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