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Culture of Tibet


Admission requirements



An introduction to the culture of Tibet, past and present. By highlighting five key figures of the ancient and recent history of the ‘Land of Snows’ important aspects of Tibetan culture will be concretized. Also themes such as art and material culture, pilgrimage, the position of women, and Tibetan medicine will be focused on. The course offers an analytical sketch of the traditional forms and modern shapes of Tibetan culture.

Themes of the lectures:

  1. Tibet: Introduction
  2. Landscape and History
  3. Tibet, Tibetans, and Tibetan Culture Today
  4. Art: Styles / Periods / Regions / Symbolism
  5. Architecture and the World of the Monastery
  6. The Greatest Yogi (Mila Repa, 1040-1123)
  7. The Scholar Reincarnation from Eastern Tibet (Situ Panchen, 1699?-1774)
  8. The Lama-Rebel (Gedün Chöphel, 1903-1951)
  9. The Power of Woman (present Dorje Phagmo Reincarnation)
  10. The Smiling Face of Tibet (14th Dalai Lama, born 1935)
  11. Sacred Sites, Pilgrimage and Sacral Geography
  12. The Art of Healing

Course objectives

  • Fundamental knowledge of the historic and present-day developments in Tibetan culture.

  • Fundamental knowledge of the various forms of expression (literature, art and material culture, performing arts, folklore, etc.) of Tibetan culture.



Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme and their contents will be part of the examination. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

Course Load

Total course load (5 EC): 140 hours:

  • attending lectures (ca. 25 hours)

  • preparation for the lectures (ca. 50 hours)

  • writing the midterm paper (25 hours)

  • preparation for the exam (ca. 40 hours, of which two hours are exam hours).

Assessment method


Mid-term paper and a final exam.


  • Mid-term paper (on a topic from a list provided at the beginning of the course): 30%

  • Final exam (open questions): 70%


The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.



Reading list

  • Kapstein, M.T. (2006). The Tibetans. Malden / Oxford / Carlton: Blackwell Publishing (series: The Peoples of Asia, Gen. Ed. M. Rossabi).

  • Lopez, D.S., jr. (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La. Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago-London: University of Chicago Press.

  • Fisher, R.E. (1997). Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson (series: World of Art).

Further literature will be supplied in electronic form during the course.


Students are required to register through uSis before August 15. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte.


Dr. P.C.Verhagen


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).