This course is discontinued

REL4170 – Tibetan Literary Culture, Genres, and Language

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

The course provides an overview of the rich Tibetan literary heritage not only of Tibet, but of Tibetan societies in northern India, Nepal, and Bhutan, as well as Mongolia. Tibetan literature is a major literary tradition in Asia, and is of crucial importance for the study of Buddhism. The earliest Tibetan texts are royal proclamations and chronicles as well as ritual and mythical texts dating from the 7th-9th centuries A.D. There is a vast body of Buddhist texts translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit, chiefly during the 7th to the 12th centuries A.D. From the early 11th century until today Tibetans have also produced their own Buddhist literature consisting of historical, biographical, and liturgical works, commentaries, meditational texts, poetry, works on logic, grammar, and philosophy. Since the middle of the 20th century a secular Tibetan literature consisting of poetry, essays, novels and short stories has emerged, written in a modern idiom. The course also provides a basic introduction to classical and modern literary Tibetan, and basic elements of modern spoken Tibetan.

Learning outcome

The course aims at providing students with an overview of Tibetan literary culture, from the 7th century A.D. to present times. The course also includes an introduction to the basic grammar of classical and modern literary Tibetan, and the phonology of modern standard Tibetan. The student is expected to master the Tibetan alphabet in dbu-can script and in romanized transliteration, the use of dictionaries, and the basic phonology of modern standard Tibetan.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

Acceptance as a Master student in History of Religion or Tibetan Studies. The course requires a Bachelor's Degree in one of the following programmes (or equivalent): Asian and African Studies, History, Culture and Ideas Studies, Religious Studies, Social Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Development Studies, Archaeology, Art History and Conservation and Language. In addition the following credits (or equivalent) are recommended:


The course is based on a combination of lectures, seminars, and practical language training. The course aims at involving students actively and providing feedback on their progress throughout the course. Students may use CDs/DVDs with language lessons spoken by native Tibetans in the language laboratory.

Guidelines for obligatory qualifying essays


1. One essay of eight pages (c. 2300 characters per page) on an assigned topic of literary history, to be written at home. 2. One written exam of four hours, testing language skills.


The course is part of the Master in History of Religion, Program for Culture and Ideas Studies (Culture and Identity), and the Master in Tibetan Studies, Program for Asian and African Studies.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language