curl.jpgThis site is a loosely structured tutorial on reading ancient Tibetan manuscripts by Sam van Schaik. All examples are from the Dunhuang manuscripts, dating from the early 9th to the late 10th centuries, the earliest surviving Tibetan manuscripts. New tutorial pages will be added regularly, as the site develops into a complete guide to reading the Dunhuang manuscripts.


1. Old Orthography
(i) The strong da (da drag)
(ii) The ma attached to ya (ma ya btags)
(iii) The subfixed ‘a (‘a rten)
(iv) The reverse gi gu (gi gu rlog)

2. Punctuation and Ornamentation
(i) The double tsheg
(ii) The mid-line tsheg
(iii) The long tsheg

This site is daughter to my main site, earlyTibet.com.

Recent Posts

The Invention of the Tibetan alphabet

Tönmi Sambho�aNow available under the Resources tab: my translation of the oldest extant version of the story of the invention of the Tibetan alphabet. This is the Pillar Testament (Bka’ chems ka khol ma), which is said to have been retrieved from a pillar in the Jokhang by Atiśa in the mid-11th century. Modern scholarship dates the various extant versions of the text to the 11th or 12th centuries. Coming as it does some 400 years after the invention of the Tibetan script, this shouldn’t be read as an accurate historical account. Its value is in being the first version of popular story of Tönmi Sambhoṭa, and in its detailed (if not necessarily accurate) account of how the Brahmi alphabet of India was transformed into a Tibetan alphabet.

  1. The Tibetan script according to Dungkar Leave a reply
  2. New: Bibliography Leave a reply
  3. New: the double tsheg Leave a reply
  4. A resource for reading ancient Tibetan manuscripts Leave a reply