Kingship and Religion in Tibet

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Kingship and Religion in Tibet

Our five-year project employs kingship as a heuristic device to chart the relationship between spiritual and temporal power in Tibet. Drawing on historical and philological methodologies, our research group performs a thorough examination of Old Tibetan sources to describe in detail the features of the Tibetan kingship.

Situating this in a wider geographical and historical context, the analysis investigates the Tibetan kingship in light of traditions of sacred kingship in India, Southeast Asia, Central Eurasia, and China, while also taking into account comparative anthropological theories of kingship.

We place the focus on royal religion and the cult of kingship – a complex of beliefs and rituals that might include both Buddhist and non-Buddhist practices, and priests from several traditions. We thereby try to move analysis beyond a Buddhist versus non-Buddhist dichotomy in Tibetan Studies.

In addition, the project analyzes the Buddhist transformation of Tibetan kingship in the post-imperial period, along with the competing depictions of the early kings in both Buddhist and Bon histories. Our research will hopefully contribute to relevant debates in the fields of religious studies and anthrolopology, by situating these Tibetan historiographical problems within their wider intellectual context.

All of this is achieved through a focus on three complementary themes:

  1. Tibetan kingship in the earliest sources
  2. Buddhism and royal religion
  3. The post-imperial Buddhist transformation of Tibetan kingship

The research project is sponsored by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (2010-2015).