The Tibetan Empire and the Formation of Buddhist Civilisation in the Highlands

Research Focus

The Formation of Sakya Monastic Communities in Southern Central Tibet

Featuring monasteries in present-day Lhoka (TAR, PR China), this dissertation project focuses on processes of community building and monastic formation in late medieval Tibet during the hegemonic period of the Phagmodupas (1354–ca. 1480).

Largely unedited and unpublished hagiographies are submitted to literary analysis in view of tracing the visions of these celibate communities that had formed from and around monastic founders. The work investigates various aspects of Tibetan monasticism among the institutions that were newly founded or converted by Sakya followers. Conducted in close cooperation with Tibetan language scholars, the project benefits in terms of processing the unstudied source material, producing digital editions and contributing new historical evidence to the field.

Combining textual analysis with ethnographical methods enables a historical-geographical survey of the monastic landscape with its networks of mutual exchange. Fieldwork observations and findings provide complementary data for the research and stimulate methodological considerations in the transversal working groups of the larger SFB. This case-study on Sakya monasteries contributes to the larger interdisciplinary project insofar as it provides insights on the self-perception and organization of monastic communities on the Tibetan plateau, showing common features with other forms of religious community life studied in other parts of VISCOM.

Researcher: Mathias Fermer