Rewriting the Medieval History of Tibet: A Field Survey of the Great Tombs and Relics of the Tibetan Empire in the Western Kokonor Region

Rewriting the Medieval History of Tibet:
A Field Survey of the Great Tombs and Relics of the Tibetan Empire in the Western Kokonor Region

Professor Yongdrol K. Tsongkha Yongdrol K. Tsongkha , Professor for Ethnic and Tibetan Studies, Lanzhou University, Research Associate, Indiana University

Since the 1983 discovery of plundered imperial tombs in Dulan in the western Kokonor Region of the Tibetan plateau, thousands of tombs dated to the period of the Tibetan Empire (7-9th centuries) have been discovered in the area. A great number of tomb relics such as gold, silver and silk artifacts and Tibetan inscriptions on stone tablets and wood slats are now circulating in public museums and private collections in Europe, North America, Japan and China as well as in antique markets in Hong Kong, Beijing, Lanzhou and elsewhere. Based on extensive field studies, Professor Tsongkha’s lecture will give a survey of the tombs, relics from the tombs, and recent academic studies, all detailing the significance of these discoveries for understanding the medieval civilization of Tibet.


Yongdrol K. Tsongkha is Professor for Ethnic and Tibetan Studies in the School of History and Culture and School of Ethnology, founding director of the Institute for Tibeto-Burman & Altaic Studies at Lanzhou University, Gansu Province, and a Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology at Indiana University. He has published extensively, in Chinese, Tibetan and English, on a wide range of topics, including Tibetan folklore, archaeology and early history of Tibet, local history of Amdo, linguistics, history of Tibetan, Indic and Chinese medicines, ecological and environmental issues. He is also a cultural entrepreneur and advocate for the revival of the lost traditions of Tibet. He has initiated more than seven festivals featuring traditional Tibetan dances, sports and games in his hometown in Kumbum and other areas of Amdo. His 2003 film, Life Among the People of Choni, has been showed by Gansu TV, Canadian Shaw Multicultural, Maysles Institute Cinema, and at the Sichual TV International Festival where it won the Golden Panda Award in 2009. He has lectured at the University of Virginia, Columbia University, Harvard University, Cornell University, Simon Fraser University and Waseda University as well as at universities across the PRC.

Professor Tsongkha holds a PhD in Medical History and a master’s degree in the local history of Amdo. He has taught at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and Department of Anthropology (adjunct 2001-2003) at Indiana University and was a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute for the History of Natural Science of Chinese Academy of Sciences 1995-2000 and Junior Research Fellow in the Department of History at Tso-ngon (Qinghai) Normal University from 1988-1991.