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.

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The Tibetan script according to Dungkar

420_dict.jpgUnder the Resources tab you can access my translation of an essay on the Tibetan script by Dungkar Losang Khrinley.  The essay is a fine introduction to the features and usefulness of the Tibetan script. Of particular interest are his account of the early development of literacy in Tibet (a mixture of traditional and modern scholarship), his classifications of the various elements of Tibetan writing, and his account of the six features of the Tibetan script which make it an especially useful alphabet.