The Tibetan Empire and the Formation of Buddhist Civilisation in the Highlands
Studying the historical period encompassing the Tibetan Empire and the formation of Buddhist civilisation in the Tibetan highlands enables VISCOM to examine issues central to the project over a long time span. From the heyday of the Empire (7th-9th centuries) to the period of post-imperial Buddhist Renaissance (from the 11th century onwards), significant developments of regional, religiously-dominated hegemonies were set in motion, shaping the political topographies in Central Tibet until the early 17th century.
With the adoption of Buddhism in Tibet in the time of the Empire, a universalist programme of civilisation met older ideas and principles of community building anchored in a tribal order represented by patrilineal clans. Until well into the post-imperial period, largely regionally oriented ancestral lineages formed the fundamental element of the polities of the Highlands. They were also a decisive link for the establishment of Buddhism in the post-imperial period (11th-early 17th c.), with their significant developments of religion-dominated hegemonies in the vicinity of the Tibetan Buddhist orders in central Tibet and beyond.
Thus far, these interrelations between older orientations and Buddhist discourses of community in early and medieval Tibet have been underrepresented in Tibetology. VISCOM aims to fill that niche, and turn these issues into the primary field of research in this project part. Based on in-depth studies of primary literature, the aim is to investigate the decisive elements of the political, religious and narrative contexts of the visions of community that established themselves as a consequence of the Empire and Buddhism. The work is methodologically combined with questions from social and cultural anthropology, and is supplemented by ethnographic data obtained through field research.