In Memoriam: Dr Isrun Engelhardt (1941–2022)

Isrun Engelhardt (photo: Emanuel Engelhardt)

With the passing of Isrun Engelhardt (née Schwartz) colleagues in Tibetan studies have lost a devoted historian and independent researcher of more than thirty years’ standing. She will be remembered for her articles on the Capuchin missions to Tibet, the 1938-1939 Schäfer expedition to Lhasa, the Tibetan Melong newspaper and “the Buddha from Space”. Equally, colleagues and friends will greatly miss Isrun’s kindness and constant readiness to share information, and to assist colleagues with her great investigative skills.

Isrun was born in Arnsdorf in the foothills of the Riesengebirge Mountains. In the 1950s she moved with her parents and siblings to Icking, south of Munich, and continued to be based there for the rest of her life. She passed away at her beloved home in Icking on 2 March 2022 after a long struggle with cancer.

Isrun came from a scholarly family and was a distant relative of the German sociologist Max Weber. From her youth onwards she struggled with severe health problems but never allowed these to restrict her in following her passions: historical research and mountaineering.

In 1974 Isrun earned her doctorate at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. Her thesis carries the title Mission und Politik in Byzanz. Ein Beitrag zur Strukturanalyse byzantinischer Mission zur Zeit Justins und Justinians, and discusses the politics of the Byzantine missionary enterprise in the sixth century AD. In the course of her studies, she met her future husband Hans Dietrich Engelhardt who later became Professor of Sociology and Social Work at the Hochschule München. Their son Emanuel was born in 1979.

Since there were few employment opportunities for Byzantine scholars, Isrun at first worked as a career advisor for high school and university graduates. After Emanuel’s birth she worked at a children’s library as a volunteer. In 1986/1987 she undertook professional librarianship training in Frankfurt.

Meanwhile, her research interests began to shift towards the Himalayan region.  With her husband, also an enthusiastic mountaineer, she went on her first trekking tour to Nepal in 1973. They were impressed by the kindness and religious devotion of the Tibetan refugees whom they met and, as a result, became interested in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. They therefore seized the opportunity to visit Ladakh when it was opened to foreign tourism after 1974. Several more visits and trekking tours followed, and in 1994 Isrun went on her first trip to central Tibet. These personal encounters with the peoples of the Himalayan borderlands and the Tibetan diaspora led Isrun to resume her academic career with some four years studying Tibetan at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Bonn in the early 1990s.

Isrun taking part in an interview, Dharamsala, 1997. Photo: Bianca Horlemann

Since Isrun had already established her academic credentials with her doctorate, she never felt the need to register for a further degree in Tibetan Studies. However, she received a research grant from the prestigious Gerda Henkel Foundation for a project on the 1938-1939 German expedition to Tibet led by Ernst Schäfer, showing how it was caught in the crossfire between politics and scientific research. The fruits of her work include the beautifully produced edited publication Tibet in 1938-1939 (2007), which highlights the photographs taken by expedition members in Sikkim and Lhasa.

Isrun was often called to distinguish between “fact and fiction” regarding the expedition’s links with the Nazi administration as well as the alleged esoteric aspects of its work. In this regard, one of her most notable contributions was her 2017 article on the provenance of the “Buddha from Space”, a statue which had apparently been fashioned out of metal deriving from a meteorite. Numerous press articles and blogposts suggested that the statue had been taken from Tibet by the Schäfer expedition in 1939. Isrun convincingly argued that the statue had most probably been designed and made for the eccentric Russian orientalist and artist Nikolai Roerich (1874-1947).

Alongside her work on the Schäfer expedition, Isrun took particular pleasure in the history of the Melong (Yul phyogs so so’i gsar ‘gyur me long), the monthly newspaper published from Kalimpong between 1925 and 1963 by Gegen Dorje Tharchin (1890-1976). In a series of articles, she drew out the distinctive characteristics of the paper and its editor, including its reporting of international news, its innovative use of cartoons and Tharchin’s “one-man war against Mao”. The Melong provides valuable insights on a range of topics linked to 20th century Tibet and Isrun readily shared these with other researchers.

Isrun was the most encouraging of colleagues, taking as much pleasure in other people’s discoveries as her own. Perhaps her most outstanding characteristic was her generosity in sharing source materials, often going far out of her way to make them available to individual researchers as well as the wider scholarly community. Among many other examples, she contributed to the Tharchin Collection at Columbia University’s Starr Library, using her own funds to purchase photograph albums from the Tharchin family and delivering them to New York in person. Similarly, she worked hard to collect copies of the Himalayan Times, which was published in Kalimpong, for the period 1947 and 1963: these are now available online through the University of Heidelberg.

Isrun kept in touch with her colleagues and friends through an extensive e-mail correspondence and – above all – through her participation in conferences and workshops. She took part in all the IATS conferences from the Seventh Seminar in Schloss Seggau (Austria) in 1995 until the 14th Seminar conference in Bergen (Norway) in 2016. In addition, she participated in many colloquia organised by the International Association for Ladakh Studies (IALS) as well as other more specialist workshops. Her final visit to India was in 2015 for a conference in Kalimpong on “Transcultural Encounters in the Himalayan Borderlands”. On the same occasion, she took the opportunity to make a side visit to Bhutan.

In Kalimpong with Trine Brox and Miriam Koktvedgaard Zeitzen. 2015. Photo Markus Viehbeck

Isrun was always excellent company, and her conference contributions were unfailingly insightful, often drawing out fresh angles from previously neglected or undiscovered materials. However, many of us will remember her most fondly from her presence at some evening gathering – glass of wine at hand – following a long day’s academic discussion in Gangtok, Ulaanbaatar, Kalimpong, Oxford or Pistoia.

Isrun’s academic legacy includes a long list of high-quality scholarly publications. More than that, her colleagues and friends will remember her personal qualities with warmth and gratitude.

Bianca Horlemann and John Bray


  • (1974). Mission und Politik in Byzanz. Ein Beitrag zur Strukcturanalyse byzantischer Mission zur Zeit Justins und Justinians (Miscellanea Byzantian Monacensia 19). Munich: Institut für Bynzantinistik und Neugriechische Philologie der Universität München.
  • (2007) (ed.), Tibet in 1938-1939. Photographs from the Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet. Chicago: Serindia.
  • (2017). Un mythe occultiste démasqué – les prétendus liens entre le Tibet et le National-socialisme. Saint-Genis-Laval: Akbrieia.

Articles and book chapters

  • (1999) “Zur Ent-fremdung des Europäers: Gastfreundschaft und Abbau von Fremdheit in den Beziehungen von Tibetern und Europäern im 18. Jahrhundert.” In Aneignung und Selbstbehauptung: Antworten auf die europäische Expansion, ed. byDietmar Rothermund. München: Oldenbourg, 183-202.
  • (2001) “Perlen, Pelze und Pistolen: Facetten des Geschenkaustausches zwischen Tibetern und Europäern vorwiegend im 18. Jahrhundert.” In Tractata Tibetica et Mongolica. Festschrift für Klaus Sagaster zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. by Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz and Christian Peter. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 85-102.
  • (2002) “The Closing of the Gates: Tibetan-European Relations at the End of the Eighteenth Century.” In Tibet, Past and Present: Tibetan studies 1: PIATS 2000: Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000, ed. by Henk Blezer and Abel Zadoks. Leiden: Brill, 229-45.
  • (2003) “The Ernst-Schaefer-Tibet-Expedition (1938-1939): New Light on the Political History of Tibet in the First Half of the 20th Century.”In Tibet and Her Neighbours: A History, ed. by Alex McKay, London: Edition Hansjörg Mayer, 187-230.
  • (2004) “Tibetan Triangle: German, Tibetan and British Relations in the Context of Ernst Schäfer’s Expedition, 1938-1939.” Asiatische Studien 58/1, 57-114.
  • (2005) “Between Tolerance and Dogmatism: Tibetan Reactions to the Capuchin Missionaries in Lhasa, 1707-1745.” Zentralasiatische Studien (ZAS) 34, 55-97.
  • (2005) “Schäfer, Ernst.” In Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) Band 22, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2005, S. 503-504.  [Online-Version]; URL:
  • (2007) “Tibet in 1938–1939: The Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet.”In Tibet in 1938-1939: Photographs from the Ernst Schäfer Expedition to Tibet, ed. by Isrun Engelhardt, Chicago: Serindia, 11-61.
  • (2008). “Mishandled Mail: The Strange Case of the Reting Regent’s Letters to Hitler.” Zentralasiatische Studien (ZAS) 37 (2008), 77-106.
  • (2009) “Nazis of Tibet: A Twentieth Century Myth.”In Images of Tibet in the 19th and 20th Centuries, ed. by Monica Esposito. Paris: EFEO, 63-96.
  • (2009) “Die Ernst Schäfer Tibetexpedition 1938–1939.” In Brennpunkt Tibet März, ed. by Klemens Ludwig.
  • (2009) “Tibet und der Nationalsozialismus: Fakten und Fiktionen.” In Tibet und Buddhismus 3.
  • (2010) “Tharchin’s Melong.” In Hartmut Walravens (ed.), The First Tibetan Serial: August Hermann Francke’s La-dvags-kyi-ag-bâr (1904 – 1907): Facsimile of a Unique Set in the Archives of the Evangelische Brüderunität, Herrnhut. Neuerwerbungen der Ostasienabteilung. Sonderheft 22. Berlin: Staatsbibliothek, 1-22 (separate pagination).
  • (2011). “Praise for Sikkim from 1938: Sikkim in Original Quotes by the Ernst Schäfer Expedition.” In Buddhist Himalaya: Studies in Religion, History and Culture. Volume II: The Sikkim Papers, ed by Anna Balicki-Denjongpa & Alex McKay. Gangtok: Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, 191-206.
  • (2011) “Reflections in The Tibet Mirror:News of the World, 1937-1946.” In Mapping the Modern in Tibet, ed. by Gray Tuttle. Andiast: IITBS, 205-64.
  • (2012) “Tharchin’s One Man War with Mao.”In Studies on the History and Literature of Tibet and the Himalaya, ed. by Robert Vitali. Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2012, 183-209.
  • (2013) “The Holy City of Lhasa: Dream and Destination for Sven Hedin and Ernst Schäfer.” In Nordic Ideology between Religion and Scholarship, ed. by Horst Junginger and Andreas Åkerlund. Frankfurt/M: Peter Lang, 207-24.
  • (2013) “Tharchin’s Tibet Mirror: A Christian Oriented Newspaper?” In Historical and Philological Studies of China’s Western Regions 6, edited by Shen Weirong. Beijing: Science Press, 129-55.
  • (2015). “Italian Capuchins as the First Western Healers in Lhasa, 1707-1945.” In In Tibetan and Himalayan Healing. An Anthology for Anthony Aris, ed. by Charles Ramble and Ulrike Roesler. Kathmandu: Vajra Books, 195-210.
  • (2017) “The Strange Case of the ‘Buddha from Space’.” In Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 42, October 2017, 39-67.
  • (2018). “The Quip as the Whip: Political Cartoons in the Melong.” In Cahiers du Mirror, ed. Françoise Wang-Toutain and Marie Preziosi. Paris: Collège de France, 41-57.
  • (2019) “L’évolution de l’image du Tibet dans la pensée et les écrits de Nicolas Roerich: d’une spiritualité exaltée à un chamanisme dépravé.” In Autour de Nicolas Roerich: art, ésotérisme, orientalisme et politique, ed. by Dany Savelli. Slavica Occitania 48, 201-37.
  • (2020) “An Indigenous Tibetan Name for Mount Everest?” In On a Day of a Month of the Fire Bird Year. Festschrift for Peter Schwieger on the occasion of his 65th birthday, ed. by Jeannine Bischoff et al. Bhairahawa: Lumbini International Research Institute, 245-64.

In Memoriam: Nima Dorjee Ragnubs ར་ནུབ་ཉི་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལགས། (1934–2021)


༡༩༣༤ – ༢༠༢༡

༄༅། ༢༠༢༡ ཟླ་ ༩ ཚེས་ ༢༡ དེ་ནི་སེམས་ཤིན་ཏུ་སྐྱོ་པོའི་ཉི་མ་ཞིག་ཡིན། དེའི་ཉིན་མོ་བྲག་གཡབ་མ་དགོན་ར་གནུབ་ཚང་གི་བུ་ཉི་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལགས་ཨ་མེ་རི་ཀར་འདས་གྲོངས་སོང་འདུག  ཁོང་གི་སྐྱེས་ལོ་ ༡༩༣༨ ཡིན་ནའང་། ལག་ཁྱེར་ནང་ ༡༩༣༤ འཁོད་པར་བརྩིས་ན། རང་ལོ་བརྒྱད་ཅུ་གྱ་གསུམ་རེད།

            ང་ཆུང་ཆུང་དུས་ནས་ར་གནུབ་ཉི་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལགས་ངོ་ཤེས་ཀྱིན་ཡོད། ང་གཉིས་མཉམ་དུ་རྩེད་མོ་རྩེས་པ་རང་དྲན་གིན་མི་འདུག  ཁོང་གི་མི་ཚང་དེ་ལ་“ར་གནུབ་ཚང་“དང་། “ར་གནུབ་དཔོན་ཚང་“ཡང་ཟེར་བ་རེད། བྲག་གཡབ་༧སྐྱབས་མགོན་སྐུ་ཕྲེང་བཞི་པ་དང་། ལྔ་པ་གཉིས་ཀ་ཁོང་ཚོའི་ནང་ལ་འཁྲུངས་པ་རེད། ང་ཆུང་ཆུང་སྐབས་ལ་ཁོང་ཚོའི་ནང་ལ་ཞག་པོ་ཁ་ཤས་བསྡད་མྱོང་། ར་གནུབ་ཚང་ནི་བྲག་གཡབ་ཀྱི་དཔོན་ཁག་གྲས་ཡིན་ཙ། ཁོང་ཚོ་མི་ཚང་ཆེན་པོ་རེད་ལ། ཁང་པའང་ཆེན་པོ་འདུག  ཁང་པའི་མིང་ལ་“ར་གནུབ་རྒྱས་ཁང་“ཟེར་བ་རེད། རྒྱས་ཁང་ཟེར་བ་ནི་ཕལ་ཆེར་ཕོ་བྲང་ཟེར་བ་དང་གཅིག་པ་རེད།

ཉི་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལགས་ཀྱི་ཕ་ནི། ར་གནུབ་དྲུང་ཡིག་བློ་བསྟན་རེད། ང་ཚོ་བྲག་གཡབ་བླ་བྲང་གི་དྲུང་ཡིག་བརྒྱད་ཀྱི་ནང་ནས་ལེགས་གྲས་ཤིག་དང་། མི་གོ་ཆོད་པོ་འབྱོན་ཐང་ལྡན་པར་བརྩི་གིན་འདུག  ༡༩༥༢ ལོར་ང་རང་ལྷ་སར་འགྲོ་དུས་ཁོང་ཡང་བླ་བྲང་གི་ལས་བྱེད་ཁོངས་སུ་མཉམ་དུ་ཡོད། ལྷ་སའི་བྲག་གཡབ་བླ་བྲང་གི་ཕྱག་ཁང་ནང་ལོ་ཤས་ལས་ཀ་བྱས་ནས་བསྡད་པ་རེད།  

            ཉི་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ལགས་ཀྱང་ང་རང་བྲག་གཡབ་ནས་ལྷ་སར་སློབ་གཉེར་བྱེད་སར་འགྲུལ་བཞུད་སྐབས་དེར་མཉམ་དུ་ཡོད། ལྷ་སར་འབྱོར་ནས་ཁོང་རྭ་སྟོད་དགོན་པར་སྒྲིག་ཞུགས་ཐོག  སློབ་གཉེར་ཡག་པོ་བྱས་སོང་།

རྗེས་མ་རྒྱ་གར་ལ་འབྱོར་ནས་ཝཱ་རཱ་ཎཱ་སིར་སློབ་གྲྭ་ཆེན་མོར་ལེགས་སྦྱར་སྐད་ཀྱང་སྦྱངས། དེ་རྗེས་སློབ་གྲྭ་དེའི་དཔེ་མཛོད་ཁང་ལ་ལས་ཀ་བྱས་ཤིང་། རིག་གཞུང་སྣ་ཚོགས་ལ་དོ་སྣང་དང་། མཐོང་རྒྱ་ཆེ་བས། ཤེས་ཡོན་སྣ་འཛོམས་ཡོད་པའི་མཁས་པ་དང་། ལོ་རྒྱུས་སྨྲ་བ་པོ་ཞིག་ཆགས་སོང་།

            ཁོང་ནས་ཕ་ཡུལ་བྲག་གཡབ་ལ་བལྟ་བསྐོར་ཕྱིན་པ་དང་། ར་གནུབ་ཚང་ཡོད་སའི་ཕྱོགས་ཀྱི་གྲོང་གསེབ་དེར་སློབ་གྲྭ་བཙུགས་པ་རེད།

ཁོང་ནས་ལོ་མང་པོའི་རིང་ལ་དཀའ་ལས་བརྒྱབས་ནས་བྲག་གཡབ་ཀྱི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་རྒྱས་པ་ཞིག་བྲིས་སོང་། དེའི་སྐོར་ཁོང་ནས་ང་ལ་ཡང་ཡང་འབྲེལ་བ་བྱས་བྱུང་ལ། དེའི་ཆེད་དུ་ང་ཚོའི་སར་རྗར་མེ་ནིར་ཡང་སླེབས་སོང་། ང་རང་ཁོང་སྡོད་ས་་་ནིའུ་ཡོརྐ་དང་། ཁྲ་ཁོ་མ་་་གཉིས་ཀ་ལ་ཁོང་དང་། སྐུ་ཟླ་ཐུག་སར་ཕྱིན་ནས། ཁོང་གཉིས་ཀྱི་ནང་ལ་ཉིན་ཤས་རེ་བསྡད་པ་ཡིན།  ད་ལྟ་ཁོང་གི་དེབ་དེ་མི་ཁ་ཤས་ཀྱིས་རྩིས་འཁོར་(གློག་ཀླད་ཀྱང་ཟེར་)ནང་བཅུག་ནས་ཞུ་དག་གཏོང་གིན་ཡོད་རེད། དེ་ནི་ཁོང་གི་བྱས་རྗེས་ཆེ་བའི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་ཀྱི་ཡིག་འཇོག་ཅིག་ཡོང་གི་རེད། 

ང་ཚོའི་མི་རབས་ཀྱི་གྲགས་ཅན་མི་སྣ་གཅིག་མེད་པར་གྱུར་པ་འདི་ལ་ཕངས་སེམས་ཆེན་པོ་འདུག་ཀྱང་། མི་རྟག་པའི་རང་བཞིན་ལ་འགྱུར་བ་གཏོང་ཐབས་ཡོད་མ་རེད། ཁོང་གི་སྐུ་ཟླ་གཙུག་ལག་སློབ་དཔོན་་་ལི་ཟ་སྦེ་ཐི། སྦར་ནེ་ཌི་་་ (Prof. Elisabeth Benard ) སྐུ་གཟུགས་བདེ་ཞིང་། ཐུགས་སེམས་ཧ་ཅང་སྐྱོ་པོ་མེད་པ་དང་། རིག་གཞུང་གི་ཕྱག་ལས་གནང་བཞིན་འདུག་པས་དགའ་པོ་ཡོད།

བྲག་གཡབ་༧སྐྱབས་མགོན་སྐྱེ་ཕྲེང་དགུ་པའི་མིང་འཛིན་བློ་ལྡན་ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱིས་བྲིས། ༢༠༢༡།༢།༨ ཕུལ།

Nima Dorjee Ragnubs 1938–2021

The 20th of September 2021 is a day marked by great sadness for me. It is the day when Nima Dorjee, son of the Ragnubstshang family associated with the Dagyab Magon Monastery in Yemdun, passed away in the United States. Nima Dorjee was born in 1938, even if his passport suggests 1934, and was eighty-three years old at the time of his passing. His family, known as Ragnubstshang or Ragnubs Pontshang, and the Fourth and Fifth Dagyab Khyabgons were born in this family. 

I knew Nima Dorjee from early childhood. Even though I do not recall playing with him, I vividly remember visiting his family estate situated within Dagyab principality. The extensive family lived in a four-storied house known as Ragnubs Palace. 

At the time, Nima Dorjee’s father, Loden, worked as the Ragnubs secretary and was known as one of the most gifted and capable staff members. As part of the Labrang, the monastic estate, he accompanied me on my trip to Lhasa in 1957. Loden remained for one year, working in the Dagyab Labrang treasurer’s office. In 1954 Nima Dorjee travelled to Lhasa to enrol at Rato Monastery, where he successfully took up a course of study in Buddhist philosophy and logic. 

Once he arrived in Indian exile in 1959, he received a scholarship from the Sampurnan Sanskrit University in Varanasi to study Sanskrit and Buddhist philosophy. Upon completing his studies, he became a librarian at the university’s manuscript library. He indeed became an expert in historical disciplines based on his lively interest in different cultures, various fields of knowledge, and his ability to cultivate a broad perspective on the topics he studied. 

In 1969, Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, a relative of Nima Dorjee, invited him to come to the United States. Throughout his life there, he worked in different occupations. He particularly enjoyed working at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art in New York. During his time there as a Tibetan art historian, he co-authored Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.

In 1995 he visited Dagyab and founded two schools in Ragnubs Village and in a nearby village. Schools, which then flourished for 20 years.

As the outcome of many years of arduous research, he began to write a history of Dagyab, and it was in this context we renewed our contact. He visited me in Germany, and I also visited him and his wife in New York and Tacoma. With the manuscript now typed up, proofread and copyedited, I am much looking forward to the publication of this significant historical contribution. 

The passing away of one of the most significant figures of our generation fills me with a deep sense of grief and the clear awareness that there is no way to exert influence on the nature of impermanence. To his wife, Prof. Elisabeth Benard, I would like to express my most heartfelt condolences, my hope that she may not be overwhelmed by sadness, and my very best wishes for her good health. In concluding, I would also like to use this opportunity also to express my appreciation for her academic contribution. 

Loden Sherab, the Ninth Dagyab Kyabgon

Translated by Chandra Chiara Ehm 

In Memoriam: Géza Bethlenfalvy (1936–2021)

Apart from memories of scholarly nature, older colleagues will certainly remember the conferences in the old days when one would meet in the evenings in Géza’s hotel room, commonly referred to as “Géza’s Bar,” to end the day over a few drinks that he had brought along from Hungary, continuing scholarly discussion of the day, or in relaxed gossip. Géza was a perfect host, and his hospitality was legendary, both at his home in Budapest or his residence in Delhi from 1994-2000, when he was the director of the Hungarian Cultural Centre. “Now that I am not in contact with research,” he used to say at that time, “I want at least to keep contact with researchers,” and he accommodated many colleagues during their stay in Delhi and made them feel at home. In a way, Géza seemed to be predestined for this position. Ever since his high school days, he had been interested above all by Eastern philosophy and religion, including yoga, as well as in Hungarian culture and literature. Cultural relations between India and Europe, with an emphasis on Hungary, also became one of his main research topics, and he dedicated a number of his publications to this subject.

Géza Bethlenfalvy was born on 10 February 1936 in Huncovce (Hunfalva), Slovakia, in a Hungarian minority family. This village is situated at the feet of the High Tatra mountains, and he had the chance to visit its upland areas in his childhood. After World War II his family relocated to Hungary. They settled in Mosonmagyaróvár, his mother’s hometown, the gateway to the scenic Szigetköz region of the Danube with several river branches and islands. He attended secondary school there, and it was during these years that he received a book on yoga by Selvarajan Yesudian from a fellow townsman. He started to do some practice with a few classmates, something that was frowned upon by local authorities because any sort of religious activities was considered undesirable in the early 1950s.

His attempts to enter university education were blocked for two years by the regime as his father’s family had been landowners before the end of the war. Thanks to auspicious coincidences, however, he was finally admitted to Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest, in the summer of 1956. Here he had to take Hungarian and Russian as a major, but soon “escaped” (he actually used this expression when talking about those days) to Indology, which had just started as an independent subject led by János Harmatta. He also took courses in Art History and Psychology. He was the only student of Indology at ELTE then, before he was expelled from university, and even imprisoned, in 1957 for his engagement in the Hungarian revolution of 1956 and for participating in the commemoration of this event a year later. His suspension lasted for two years during which he worked in a foreign language bookshop, learned to play the flute and even received training as a goldsmith. Thereafter he was able to return to university and finally graduated in 1963 with degrees in Hungarian linguistics and literature and Indology.

At that time, he became involved with Tibetan Studies: he was approached by Lajos Ligeti, himself a former student of Henri Maspero, Jacques Bacot and Paul Pelliot, and invited to join the freshly formed Research Group of Altaic Studies at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and to learn Tibetan. During the next years he first studied and then also taught Tibetan and developed an interest in Buddhism and also in Buddhist meditation, and developed a scholarly interest in European-Tibetan relations and in Sándor Kőrösi Csoma (Alexander Csoma de Kőrösi). In connection with his research on this pioneer of Tibetan Studies in Europe, the history of Ladakh and Zangskar emerged as one of Géza’s major fields of interest, as well as Tibetan Buddhism in general, with an emphasis on folk religion, the development of Buddhist canonical literature, and questions concerning the tantric tradition.

Géza’s first personal encounter with Asia took place in 1969, when he made a trip to Mongolia, which he later described as a first love. He spent three months in the country, primarily in Ulaanbaatar, as a member of an academic exchange programme, and explored Buddhist scriptures there. The following year he received a six-month grant to travel to India, and used this study tour to visit Delhi, Pune, Calcutta, Darjeeling and Banaras, where he examined documents related to Csoma de Kőrös as well as various Buddhist texts.

From 1974 to 1980 he was appointed Lecturer in Hungarian at Delhi University, and India became his second home. He was good colleagues and friends with Lokesh Chandra, who encouraged him to continue work on the Mongolian Kanjur. His endeavours resulted in his first major monograph, A Catalogue of the Urga Kanjur, which was published in New Delhi in 1980. Two years later he published another catalogue, that of the Urga manuscript of the Them spangs pa Kanjur, compiled from a handwritten list and from Dzaya Paṇḍita’s Thob yig. He was particularly pleased that he was allowed to feast his eyes for a short while on this rarity, which became fully accessible only about a decade ago.

Besides philology, he researched the lives of Amrita Sher-Gil, Elizabeth Brunner, Charles Fabri, Ervin Baktay and, of course, Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, and published a volume titled India in Hungarian Learning and Literature in Delhi in 1980. After his return to Hungary he continued research at the Academy and taught at ELTE University passionately with his unique personality.

He held various leading positions at the Csoma de Kőrös Society, Budapest, first as secretary (1968-1974), then as general secretary (1984-1991, when he was awarded the Csoma de Kőrös Prize), deputy president (1991-1994), and finally (after 2001) as a member of the steering committee. From 1992–1995 he was also deputy president of the Hungarian Society of Religious Studies. From 1994 to 2000 he acted as director of the Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre in New Delhi. His office and residence on Janpath became a home away from home and a meeting place for many colleagues and friends. Upon his return to Hungary after six years he rejoined the Academy research group until 2006.

Between 2007 and 2010 he was a guest professor at the University of Vienna, reading topics of Tibetan folk religion, tantrism, the Buddhist canons, the discovery of Tibet, cultural history of Ladakh, etc. The students loved him for his unconventional and easy-going way of teaching. His work was always essentially determined by extensive field research in India, Mongolia, and Tibet; in 2008 he joined the Viennese “Tibetan Manuscripts” project in Ladakh and Zangskar.

In the early 2010s he continued to pursue his various research interests related to India, Ladakh, Tibet and Mongolia, while remaining devoted to classical music, fine art and tea. From around the middle of the decade his health started to decline slowly but steadily. He passed away peacefully at his home, a legendary place for numerous visitors, situated on the slopes of the highest hill of Budapest, on 18 November 2021. Alongside the great amount of valuable help he provided to colleagues, his curiosity, enthusiasm, bohemian character and good spirits were irresistible; one walked away from each conversation not only laden with new information (and anecdotes), but a certain cheerful lightness. The international community of Tibetan Studies will remember him as a brilliant yet modest researcher, a reliable partner in the field, a good colleague to all, and a friend to many. On the day following his passing, one of his former students wrote: “if you knew him, you liked him—no exceptions”.

For the English translation of an interview with Géza Bethlenfalvy recorded on 15 April 2017, visit

Publications and Conference Papers – A Brief Selection

Books and articles

“Representation of Buddhist hells in a Tibeto-Mongol illustrated blockprint” (co-author: Alice Sárközi). W. Heissig (ed.), Altaica Collecta, Berichte und Vorträge der XVII. Permanent International Altaistic Conference, 3.-8. Juni 1974, Bonn/Bad Honnef. Wiesbaden 1974. 93–130.

A Painter’s Pilgrimage : Elizabeth Brunner’s Buddhist Paintings from India, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand. New Delhi 1978.

A Catalogue of the Urga Kanjur. Delhi 1980.

India in Hungarian Learning and Literature. Delhi 1980.

“Bla-ma Bžad-pa and the Rdzong-khul Gompa.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 34. Budapest 1980, 4-6.

A Hand-list of the Ulan Bator Manuscript of the Kanjur Rgyal-rtse Them-spangs-ma. Budapest 1982.

“The Śatagāthā attributed to Vararuci.” L. Ligeti (ed.), Tibetan and Buddhist Studies Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös. Budapest 1984. 17-58.

Enchanted by India – Ervin Baktay (1890–1963). Life and Works. New Delhi 1990.

“Frightening and Protective Deities: Sky-, Air-, Earth-, Mountain-, Water-demons, Helpful and Harmful Demons, Spirits, Ghosts, Devils, and Witches in Tibet and Mongolia.” Béla Kelényi (ed.), Demons and Protectors. Budapest 2003, 27–46.

The Mystical India – Through the Art of Two Hungarian Painters. (Exhibition catalogue). Budapest 2007.

India magyarjai – Kőrösi Csoma Sándor. (Documentary video). 2008.

A Tibeto-Mongolian Picture-book of Hell. Budapest 2010.

Conferences papers

1992 6th Conference of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS), Fagernes, Norway: “Golden libation (gser-skyems) to the Altai mountains, a Tibetan text from Western Mongolia” [not in the proceedings]

1995 International Symposium on India Studies, Trivandrum, India: “Historical and ideological background of Indian religious syncretism” [no proceedings found]

1996 7th Conference of IATS, Graz, Austria: “Three notices to important Kanjur lineages” [not in the proceedings]

1998 Nemzetközi Orientalista Kongresszus (International Congress of Orientalists), Budapest: “The work of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös in the context of the contemporary historical-political situation in Asia” [no proceedings found]

1998 8th Conference of IATS, Bloomington, USA: “Notes to the Rdzong-khul lineage” [no table of contents available]

1999 Kőrösi Csoma Seminar, New Delhi and Calcutta, India: “Alexander Csoma de Kőrös, a pioneer of Buddhist studies” [no proceedings found]

Lectures: 2001 Ladakh and Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (6 lectures at the Shambala Society, Budapest in November–December 2001)

For his contributions to several documentaries, see:

Gergely Hidas, Péter-Dániel Szántó and Helmut Tauscher

* * *

The following message was recently circulated by Géza Bethlenfalvy’s family

To family and friends, colleagues, students and admirers of Géza Bethlenfalvy

As you may have heard, Geza left us on 18 November 2021. He was at home, with his family beside him. Thank you to everyone who has already, or will be expressing their love and respect for him in kind messages to us!

We know that many friends want to find a way to take leave of him, yet an obstacle is posed not only by the great distances between the countries where we live, but the dreadful surge of the epidemic in Hungary and elsewhere. So we would like to offer a number of ways in which he can be remembered.

Many of us have a memorable story to share about Géza. We have created a page online where anyone can add their story and/or photograph to remember Géza by. You can write on the page by clicking on the + sign you see at the bottom right of the page:

Géza’s ashes were laid to rest in the Cemetery of Mosonmagyarovar in a close family circle on 28 December. We are planning an English-speaking Zoom event for 30 January at 6.30 pm Indian time, 2 pm Hungarian time, 1 pm UTC/GMT, where we can gather to retell short reminiscences of Géza. If you would like to join us, please let Balint Bethlenfalvy know (

Various institutions of oriental studies in Hungary plan to hold a memorial event in the Spring, where we might be able to see each other in person. A date will be set as soon as the Covid situation gets a bit better.

Warm greetings and thanks,

from Géza’s family

Oral History of Tibetan Studies

Collecting the memories of the pioneers of Tibetan Studies

The IATS is very pleased to inform its members and the public interested in the history of Tibetan Studies, that the “Oral History of Tibetan Studies” has launched its website (, in the context of the 21st anniversary celebration of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at Oxford. Initiated in 2017 by Anna Sehnalova and Rachael Griffiths, with the help of Daniel Wojahn, the project seeks to build and preserve a collection of interviews with pioneers of Tibetan studies and related disciplines.

In Memoriam: Tsuguhito Takeuchi (1951–2021)

Tsuguhito Takeuchi, a linguist, philologist, and an eminent and leading scholar in the field of Old Tibetan Studies, passed away on Saturday, 3 April 2021, at home after a two-year-long struggle against an illness. For many years, he was one of the central figures of the IATS seminars and, from 2013 onward, served as the Japanese representative on its advisory board.

He was born in Amagasaki, Hyogo, in 1951 as the second son—the elder son had prematurely passed away—of the 19th head priest at a Buddhist temple, Josen-Ji. His father was Professor Shoko Takeuchi, a renowned scholar of Buddhist studies. Takeuchi was raised in an academic atmosphere wherein his father’s colleagues and students often gathered and discussed Buddhist studies in his home. However, having entered Kyoto University, he chose linguistics, which was a relatively new academic field at the time.

In 1978, after initial training in linguistics by Professor Tatsuo Nishida, a renowned linguist of Sino-Tibetan languages, particularly for the decipherment of Tangut script, Takeuchi completed his master’s thesis on the sentence structure of the modern Tibetan language. He analysed the spoken words of his teacher, Professor Tshul-khrims skal-bzang, by using the most advanced contemporary theory of case grammar. His thesis was first published in 1990 as an article in Asian Languages and General Linguistics, the Festschrift for Professor Nishida, and then translated into English in 2016: ‘The Function of Auxiliary Verbs in Tibetan Predicates and their Historical Development’. He was an outstanding and pioneering student in the field of linguistics, which was not yet popular at Kyoto University.

In August 1978, he conducted his first linguistic field research on the Dingri dialect in Jawalakhel, Nepal. Dingri is close to Zur tsho, where his teacher Professor Tshul khrims skal bzang was born. However, Professor Tshul khrims skal bzang was educated at the Sera Monastery in Lhasa from when he was 10 years old and thus spoke the so-called ‘Central Tibetan dialect’.

In Nepal, on the way to field research, 1978

In July 1979, after spending a month at the University of Texas as a graduate student of the Fulbright Orientation Program, he studied linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania for a year. He then decided to move to Indiana University, where Professor Helmut Hoffmann was teaching, to learn the Tibetan language. Unfortunately, Professor Hoffmann retired six months later for reasons of ill-health. Nevertheless, Takeuchi continued to study under Professor Cristopher Beckwith, who sparked his lifelong research interest in Old Tibetan Studies.

Takeuchi took Professor Beckwith’s Old Tibetan class and embarked on a philological study of Old Tibetan documents. They read parts of the Old Tibetan Annals, parts of the Chronicle, the Samye Inscription, and the Prophecy on the Decline of Buddhism in Khotan, among other texts. Professor Beckwith remembers that Takeuchi was a brilliant student, very cheerful and kind, and always very helpful towards his teacher.

In 1982, as a doctoral student at Indiana University, Takeuchi made an outstanding debut in the 3rd IATS seminar held at Columbia University with a paper entitled ‘A Passage from the Shih chi in the Old Tibetan Chronicle’. He had found a passage in the Old Tibetan Chronicle that was an adaptation from the Chinese historical record Shiji, with which he was familiar from his childhood days.

In this way, during his days at Indiana University, he met excellent teachers and lifelong friends: Professor Beckwith; Professor Thubten Jigme Norbu, who was the Dalai Lama’s older brother; Professor Dan Martin; and Professor Elliot Sperling, among others.

Takeuchi’s research method was simple and straightforward: collect all related documents and analyse the text as a whole. He disliked ad hoc reading and interpretation, and always tried to collect parallel and similar expressions as far as possible. This is probably the most basic way to read a text in the absence of good dictionaries. Nevertheless, in reality, it was a tremendously challenging job simply because many Old Tibetan manuscripts remained unpublished at the time. He was also never satisfied with the edited text and sometimes said, ‘I only believe the original manuscript that I see with my naked eyes’. He regarded manuscripts not only as textual media but also in material terms, such as in terms of the shape of paper and the size, and thickness of wood. He spared no pains to go everywhere to see the original manuscripts, including London, Paris, Helsinki, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Xinjiang. His hands-on approach led him to many unpublished and uncatalogued manuscripts.

He then collected 55 contracts from many Old Tibetan manuscripts worldwide and finished his Ph.D. dissertation. It was published in 1995 as a monograph titled Old Tibetan Contracts from Central Asia, one of the essential works in Old Tibetan Studies until the present day.

He continued to catalogue the Old Tibetan manuscripts: Choix de documents tibétains conservés à la Bibliothèque Nationale, Tome III in 1990 and Tome IV in 2001, Old Tibetan Manuscripts from East Turkestan in the Stein Collection of the British Library, 3 vols. in 1997–98, Old Tibetan Inscriptions in 2009, Old Tibetan Texts in the Stein Collection Or. 8210 in 2012, and Tibetan Texts from Khara-khoto in the Stein Collection of the British Library in 2016. This was detail-oriented work, or ‘slave-work’ as he liked to put it. However, he achieved it through persistent efforts. Using his sincere efforts, his smile and his friendliness as leverage, he built the trust of librarians and scholars, who allowed him to enter the stacks where many unpublished manuscripts were kept. He checked these manuscripts one by one, read them, sometimes corrected the numbering, and even found lost manuscripts.

Field research on rock inscriptions in Ladakh, 1988

Regarding his academic career, immediately after returning from the United States to Japan he was first appointed as a full-time lecturer at Kinki University in 1984. He then moved to the Kyoto University of Education in 1988 and to the Kobe City University of Foreign Studies in 1997, where he stayed until his retirement in 2017 at the age of 65. He was also appointed as the director of the International Office in 2009 and the director of the Research Institute in 2011 and served as the dean of the graduate school during 2011–2013.

He was also eager to cultivate the next generation of Old Tibetan scholars, and launched a private class for reading Old Tibetan texts in 1998. It was held once a week, sometimes once a month, in his office at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies until his retirement in 2017. The first text we read together was Old Tibetan Chronicle, which he had read along with Professor Beckwith at Indiana University. Then, we read many and various texts with him: official documents of the Old Tibetan Empire such as Pelliot tibétain 1089, private letters, Khotanese prophecies, divination texts, etc. He shared many things with us, including the reading skill required for Old Tibetan texts and the gossip of Tibetologists.

His private class was not only the reading group but also an academic salon. We freely discussed numerous topics in a relaxed mood and an informal setting. We discussed numerous new projects, some of which became a reality, such as the Old Tibetan Documents Online project; the publication of some catalogues; and the organisation of several conferences, including the 57th Conference of the Japanese Association for Tibetan Studies, the 17th Himalayan Languages Symposium, the Third International Seminar of Young Tibetologists, theInternational Seminar on Tibetan Languages and Historical Documents, and several Old Tibetan panels in the IATS seminar. We also proposed new ideas, which were eventually published as individual papers. Through discussions with him, we learned how to develop a logical argument and to write an academic paper.

At Andiast in Switzerland, on the workshop “Secular law and order in the Tibetan Highland,” 2014

Unquestionably, Takeuchi opened a new path in Old Tibetan Studies and was a crucial person in Tibetan scholarship in Japan. With his outstanding contributions and a brilliant legacy, he remained cheerful, kind and helpful to young scholars just as he had been in his university days. Everybody who met Takeuchi knows that he loved joking, drinking with friends, and watching football. He always said that he could bring good weather with him wherever he was, and he proved it repeatedly. We respect him as a great scholar and generous teacher and also loved him as a person. We will remember his shining smile whenever we have a drink or look up at the blue sky.

At Munich in Germany with Prof. Helga Uebach, 2012

Kazushi Iwao

Ai Nishida

IATS 2022 CfP deadline extended

Dear colleagues,

we would like to thank all of you who have already submitted a proposal for the upcoming IATS Seminar. We received so many interesting and cutting edge research topics! And since some of you have contacted us in regards to the extension of the submission deadline, we are now officially extending the deadline to the 30th of September. So those of you who were not yet able to submit your topics, please do it so in the near future.

Good luck during the review process and see you soon in Prague!

IATS 2022 team

༄༅། །བཀུར་འོས་མཁྱེན་ལྡན་རྣམས་ལ་ཆེད་གསོལ།

འཆར་ལོའི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་ཆེད་དེ་སྔོན་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་དོན་གོང་འབུལ་གནང་ཟིན་པ་ཀུན་ལ་འདི་གའི་གོ་སྒྲིག་ཚོགས་པ་ནས་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེ་ཞུ། ད་ལམ་ང་ཚོར་གསར་དཔྱད་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་ལྡན་པ་དང་ཡིད་འགུལ་ཐེབས་པའི་བརྗོད་བྱ་མང་པོ་འབྱོར་སོང་། འོན་ཀྱང་མཁྱེན་ལྡན་རེ་འགས་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་དོན་གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་བའི་དུས་བཀག་བཅད་མཚམས་དེ་ཕྱི་སྣུར་ཡོང་ཐབས་རེ་སྐུལ་གནང་བ་ལ་བརྟེན་ནས་འདི་ནས་ང་ཚོས་ཀྱང་གཞུང་འབྲེལ་གྱིས་༢༠༢༡ལོའི་ཟླ་བ་༩པའི་ཚེས་༣༠བར་དུས་བཀག་བཅད་མཚམས་དེ་དུས་འགྱངས་བཏང་ཡོད་པས། དེ་སྔོན་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་དོན་གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་མ་ཐུབ་པ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་གང་མགྱོགས་སུ་གོང་འབུལ་གནང་བར་འབོད་སྐུལ་ཞུ་བཞིན་ཡོད།



In Memoriam: Hubert Decleer (1940–2021)

With great sadness, we share news that our incomparable teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend Hubert Decleer passed away peacefully on Wednesday, August 25. He was at his home with his wife, the poet Nazneen Zafar, in Kathmandu, Nepal, near the Swayambhū Mahācaitya that had been his constant inspiration for nearly five decades. His health declined rapidly following a diagnosis of advanced-stage lung cancer in May, but he remained lucid and in high spirits and over the past weeks he was surrounded by family members and close friends. Through his final hours, he maintained his love of Himalayan scholarship and black coffee, and his deep and quiet commitment to Buddhist practice.

Hubert’s contributions to the study of Tibetan and Himalayan traditions are expansive, covering the religious, literary, and cultural histories of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. For nearly thirty-five years he directed and advised the School for International Training’s program for Tibetan Studies, an undergraduate study-abroad program that has served as a starting point for scholars currently working in fields as diverse as Anthropology, Art History, Education, Conservation, History, Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Public Policy. The countless scholars he inspired are connected by the undercurrent of Hubert’s indelible “light touch” and all the subtle and formative lessons he imparted as a mentor and friend.

Hubert embodied a seemingly inexhaustible curiosity that spanned kaleidoscopic interests ranging from Chinese landscapes to Netherlandish still lifes, medieval Tibetan pilgrimage literature to French cinema, 1940s bebop to classical Hindustani vocal performance. With legendary hospitality, his home, informally dubbed “The Institute,” was an oasis for scholars, former students, artists, and musicians, who came to share a simple dinner of daal bhaat or a coffee on the terrace overlooking Swayambhū. The conversations that took place on that terrace often unearthed a text or image or reference that turned out to be the missing link in the visitor’s current research project. When not discussing scholarship, Hubert inspired his friends to appreciate the intelligence and charm of animals—monkeys and crows especially—or to enjoy the marvels of a blossoming potted plum tree. His attentiveness to the world around him generated intense sensitivity and compassion. He was an accomplished painter and a captivating storyteller, ever ready with accounts of the artists’ scene in Europe or his numerous overland journeys to Asia. The stories from long ago flowed freely and very often revealed some important insight about the present moment, however discrete.  

Hubert François Kamiel Decleer was born on August 22, 1940, in Ostend, Belgium. In 1946, he spent three months in Switzerland with a group of sixty children whose parents served in the Résistance. He completed his Latin-Greek Humaniora at the Royal Atheneum in Ostend in 1958, when he was awarded the Jacques Kets National Prize for biology by the Royal Zoo Society of Antwerp. He developed a keen interest in the arts, and during this period he also held his first exhibition of oil paintings and gouaches. In 1959 he finished his B.A. in History and Dutch Literature at the Regent School in Ghent. Between 1960 and 1963 he taught Dutch and History at the Hotel and Technical School in Ostend, punctuated by a period of military service near Köln, Germany in 1961–62. The highlight of his military career was the founding of a musical group (for which he played drums) that entertained officers’ balls with covers of Ray Charles and other hits of the day. 

In 1963 Hubert made the first of his many trips to Asia, hitchhiking for thirteen months from Europe to India and through to Ceylon. Returning to Belgium in 1964, he then worked at the artists’ café La Chèvre Folle in Ostend, where he organized fortnightly exhibitions and occasional cultural events. For the following few years he worked fall and winter for a Belgian travel agency in Manchester and Liverpool, England, while spending summers as a tour guide in Italy, Central Europe, and Turkey. In 1967 he began working as a guide, lecturer, and interpreter for Penn Overland Tours, based in Hereford, England. In these roles he accompanied groups of British, American, Australian, and New Zealand tourists on luxury overland trips from London to Bombay, and later London to Calcutta—excursions that took two and a half months to complete. He made twenty-six overland journeys in the course of fourteen years, during which time he also organized and introduced local musical concerts in Turkey, Pakistan, India, and later Nepal. He likewise accompanied two month-long trips through Iran with specialized international groups as well as a number of overland trips through the USSR and Central Europe. In between his travels, Hubert wrote and presented radio scenarios for Belgian Radio and Television (including work on a prize-winning documentary on Nepal) and for the cultural program Woord. The experiences of hospitality and cultural translation that Hubert accumulated on his many journeys supported his work as a teacher and guide; he was always ready with a hint of how one might better navigate the awkward state of being a stranger in a new place.  

With the birth of his daughter Cascia in 1972, Hubert’s travels paused for several years as he took a position tutoring at the Royal Atheneum in Ostend. He also worked as an art critic with a coastal weekly and lectured with concert tours of Nepalese classical musicians, cārya dancers, and the musicologist and performer Michel Dumont.

In 1975, during extended layovers between India journeys, Hubert began a two-year period of training in Buddhist Chinese at the University of Louvain with pioneering Indologist and scholar of Buddhist Studies Étienne Lamotte. He recalled being particularly moved by the Buddhist teachings on impermanence he encountered in his initial studies. He also worked as a bronze-caster apprentice and assistant to sculptor—and student of Lamotte—Roland Monteyne. He then resumed his overland journeying full time, leading trips from London to Kathmandu. These included annual three-month layovers in Nepal, where he began studying Tibetan and Sanskrit with local tutors. He was a participant in the first conference of the Seminar of Young Tibetologists held in Zürich in 1977. In 1980 he settled permanently in Kathmandu, where he continued his private studies for seven years. During this period he also taught French at the Alliance Française and briefly served as secretary to the Consul at the French Embassy in Kathmandu. 

It was during the mid 1980s that Hubert began teaching American college students as a lecturer and fieldwork consultant for the Nepal Studies program of the School for International Training (then known as the Experiment in International Living) based in Kathmandu. In 1987 he was tasked with organizing SIT’s inaugural Tibetan Studies program, which ran in the fall of that year. Hubert served as the program’s academic director, a position he would hold for more than a decade. Under his direction, the Tibetan Studies program famously became SIT’s most nomadic college semester abroad, regularly traveling through India, Nepal, Bhutan, as well as western, central, and eastern Tibet. It was also during this period that Hubert produced some of his most memorable writings in the form of academic primers, assignments, and examinations. In 1999 Hubert stepped down as academic director to become the program’s senior faculty advisor, a position he held until his death.

Hubert taught and lectured across Europe and the United States in positions that included visiting lecturer at Middlebury College and Numata visiting faculty member at the University of Vienna. 

Hubert’s writing covers broad swaths of geographical and historical territory, although he paid particular attention to the Buddhist traditions of Tibet and Nepal. His research focused on the transmission history of the Vajrabhairava tantras, traditional narrative accounts of the Swayambhū Purāṇa, the sacred geography of the Kathmandu Valley (his 2017 lecture on this topic, “Ambrosia for the Ears of Snowlanders,” is recorded here), and the biographies of the eleventh-century Bengali monk Atiśa. His style of presenting lectures was rooted in his work as a musician and lover of music—he prepared meticulously to be sure his talks were rhythmic, precise, and yet had an element of the spontaneous. One of his preferred mediums was the long-form book review, which incorporated new scholarship and original translations with erudite critiques of subjects ranging from Buddhist philosophy to art history and Tibetan music. His final publication, a forthcoming essay on an episode contained in the correspondence of the seventeenth-century Jesuit António de Andrade (translated by Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling in 2017), uses close readings of Tibetan historical sources and paintings to complicate and contextualize Andrade’s account of his mission to Tibet. This exemplifies the spirit and method of his review essays, which demonstrate his deep admiration of published scholarship through a meticulous consideration of the work and its sources, often leading to new discoveries. 

In addition to Hubert’s published work, some of his most endearing and enduring writing has appeared informally, in the guise of photocopied packets intended for his students. Each new semester of the SIT Tibetan Studies program would traditionally begin with what is technically called “The Academic Director’s Introduction and Welcome Letter.” These documents would be mailed out to students several weeks prior to the program, and for most other programs they were intended to inform incoming participants of the basic travel itinerary, required readings, and how many pairs of socks to pack. The Tibetan Studies welcome letter began as a humble, one-page handwritten note, impeccably penned in Hubert’s unmistakable hand. 

Hubert’s welcome letters evolved over the years, and they eventually morphed into collections of three or four original essays covering all manner of subjects related to Tibetan Studies, initial hints at how to approach cultural field studies, new research, and experiential education, as well as anecdotes from the previous semester illustrating major triumphs and minor disasters. The welcome letters became increasingly elaborate and in later years regularly reached fifty pages or more in length. The welcome letter for fall 1991, for example, included chapters titled “Scholarly Fever” and “The Field and the Armchair, and not ‘Stage-Struck’ in either.” By spring 1997, the welcome letter included original pieces of scholarship and translation, with a chapter on “The Case of the Royal Testaments” that presented innovative readings of the Maṇi bka’ ’bum. Only one element was missing from the welcome letter, a lacuna corrected in that same text of spring 1997, as noted by its title: Tibetan Studies Tales: An Academic Directors’ Welcome Letter—With Many Footnotes.

Hubert was adamant that even college students on a study-abroad program could undertake original and creative research, either for assignments in Dharamsala, in Kathmandu or the hilly regions of Nepal, or during independent-study projects themselves, which became the capstone of the semester. Expectations were high, sometimes seemingly impossibly high, but with just the right amount of background information and encouragement, the results were often triumphs. 

Hubert regularly spent the months between semesters, or during the summer, producing another kind of SIT literature: the “assignment text.” These nearly always included extensive original translations of Tibetan materials and often extended background essays as well. They would usually end with a series of questions that would serve as the basis for a team research project. For fall 1994 there was “Cultural Neo-Colonialism in the Himalayas: The Politics of Enforced Religious Conversion”; later there was the assignment on the famous translator Rwa Lotsāwa called “The Melodious Drumsound All-Pervading: The Life and Complete Liberation of Majestic Lord Rwa Lotsāwa, the Yogin-Translator of Rwa, Mighty Lord in Magic Intervention.” There were extended translations of traditional pilgrimage guides for the Kathmandu Valley, including texts by the Fourth Khamtrul and the Sixth Zhamar hierarchs, for assignments where teams of students would race around the valley  rim looking for an elusive footprint in stone or a guesthouse long in ruins that marked the turnoff of an old pilgrim’s trail. For many students these assignments were the first foray into field work methods, and Hubert’s careful guidance helped them approach collaborations with local experts ethically and with deep respect for diverse forms of knowledge.  

One semester there was a project titled “The Mystery of the IV Brother Images, ’Phags pa mched bzhi” focused on the famous set of statues in Tibet and Nepal and based on new Tibetan materials that had only just come to light. Another examined the “The Tibetan World ‘Translated’ in Western Comics.” Finally, there was a classic of the genre that examined the creative nonconformity of the Bhutanese mad yogin Drugpa Kunleg in light of the American iconoclast composer and musician Frank Zappa: “A Dose of Drugpa Kunleg for the post–1984 Era: Prolegomena to a Review Article of the Real Frank Zappa Book.”

Frank Zappa was, indeed, another of Hubert’s inspirations and his aforementioned review included the following passage: “If there’s one thing I do admire in FZ, it is precisely these ‘highest standards’ and utmost professional thoroughness that does not allow for any sloppiness (in the name of artistic freedom or spontaneous freedom)…. At the same time, each concert is really different, [and]…appears as a completely spontaneous event.” Hubert’s life as a scholar, teacher, and mentor was a consummate illustration of this highest ideal. 

Hubert is survived by his wife Nazneen Zafar; his daughter Cascia Decleer, son-in-law Diarmuid Conaty, and grandsons Keanu and Kiran Conaty; his sister Annie Decleer and brother-in-law Patrick van Calenbergh; his brother Misjel Decleer and sister-in-law Martine Thomaere; his stepmother Agnès Decleer, and half-brother Luc Decleer. 

A traditional cremation ceremony at the Bijeśvarī Vajrayoginī temple near Swayambhū took place on Monday, August 30 at 8:30 AM.

Benjamin Bogin, Andrew Quintman, and Dominique Townsend
Portions of this biographical sketch draw on the introduction to Himalayan Passages: Newar and Tibetan Studies in Honor of Hubert Decleer (Wisdom Publications, 2014)


༢༠༢༢ ལོར་རྒྱལ་སྤྱི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་འཚོགས་ཐེངས་བཅུ་དྲུག་པའི་ཆེད་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་གོང་འབུལ་གྱི་འབོད་བརྡ།

༄༅། །མཁྱེན་ལྡན་རིག་པའི་གྲོགས་མཆེད་ལགས།

ང་ཚོས་འདི་ནས་ད་ལམ་ཐུགས་སྣང་ཅན་གྱི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་པ་ཚོར་ཅེག་སྤྱི་མཐུན་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་ས་པ་རག་ཏུ་ཕྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༢༢ ལོའི་ཟླ་བ་ ༧ པའི་ཚེས་ ༣ ནས་ ༡༠ བར་འཚོགས་གཏན་ཁེལ་བའི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་འཚོགས་ཐེངས་བཅུ་དྲུག་པའི་ཆེད་རང་གི་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་དེ་གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་བར་བརྡ་འབོད་གཏོང་བཞིན་ཡོད། འཚོགས་ཐེངས་འདི་ཉིད་ཆར་ལེ་སི་གཙུག་ལག་སློབ་གྲྭ་ཆེན་མོའི་རིག་གནས་སློབ་གཉེར་སྡེ་ཚན་དང་ཅེག་ཚན་རིག་སློབ་གཉེར་ཁང་གི་ཤར་ཕྱོགས་རིག་པའི་སྡེ་ཚན་ཟུང་གིས་གོ་སྒྲིག་ཞུ་བཞིན་ཡོད།

འཚོགས་འདུའི་དེབ་སྐྱེལ་གྱི་ལས་རིམ་དེ་སྒོ་བཙུགས་ཡོད་པས། ད་ནས་བགྲོ་གླེང་ཚན་ཆུང་གི་འཆར་ཟིན་དང་སྒེར་གྱི་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་རྣམས་གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་ཆོག་པ་དང་། གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་ཆོག་པའི་དུས་བཀག་བཅད་མཚམས་ནི་ཕྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༢༡ ལོའི་ཟླ་བ་ ༩ པའི་ཚེས་ ༡༥ བར་དུ་ཡིན།

དེབ་སྐྱེལ་དེ་(Conftool)ཞེས་པའི་དྲ་རྒྱའི་མ་ལག་གིས་གོ་སྒྲིག་གནང་ཡོད་ཅིང་། མ་ལག་དེ་ཉིད་དབྱིན་ཡིག་དང་བོད་ཡིག་གཉིས་ཀའི་ཐོག་ཏུ་ཡོད། དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་དང་བགྲོ་གླེང་ཚན་ཆུང་གི་འཆར་ཟིན་གོང་འབུལ་ཞུ་བ་ལ།

༡༽ འདི་ནས་(Conftool)གྱི་ནང་དུ་ཐོ་ཁོངས་ས་དམིགས་ཤིག་བཟོས་གནང་རོགས།

༢༽ དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་དང་ཡང་ན་བགྲོ་གླེང་ཚན་ཆུང་གི་འཆར་ཟིན་གོང་འབུལ་གནང་རོགས།(ལམ་སྟོན་དགོས་མཁོ་བྱུང་ཚེ་ ༢༠༢༢ ལོའི་པ་རག་གི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་དྲ་བྱང་ཐོག་དབྱིན་བོད་གཉིས་ཐོག་ནས་ཡོད།)


ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་འཆར་ཟིན་དང་དཔྱད་རྩོམ་སྙིང་བསྡུས་དེ་ངོས་ལེན་བྱུང་བའི་སྐོར་གྱི་བརྡ་ལན་ནི་ཕྱི་ལོ་ ༢༠༢༢ ལོའི་ཟླ་བ་ པོའི་ཚེས་༣༡ འགྱངས་མེད་འབྱོར་ངེས་རེད། དེ་མཚམས་ཚོགས་འདུར་མཉམ་ཞུགས་ཆེད་མཐའ་མའི་དེབ་སྐྱེལ་མཇུག་སྐྱོང་ཡོང་བ་དང་། ཚོགས་དོད་གླ་རིན་འབུལ་ཕྱོགས་ལམ་སྟོན་ཡོང་གི་རེད།

སྔོན་རྩིས་བརྒྱབ་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་ཚོགས་དོད་དམ་དེབ་སྐྱེལ་གྱི་གླ་རིན་ནི་ཅེག་སྒོར་༥༨༠༠(ཡུ་སྒོར་༢༣༠)ཡིན། དེའི་ཁོངས་སུ་ཚོགས་འདུ་ཧྲིལ་པོའི་རིང་གི་ཉིན་གུང་བཞེས་ལག་གི་དོད་ཀྱང་ཚུད་ཡོད། དེབ་སྐྱེལ་གྱི་གླ་རིན་དེའི་ཐོག །དོ་བདག་སོ་སོའི་འགྲིམ་འགྲུལ་དང་། བཞུགས་གནས་གོ་སྒྲིག དེ་བཞིན་མགྲོན་ཁང་གི་གླ་རིན་རྣམས་ཚོགས་ཞུགས་པ་རང་ངོས་ནས་ཐུགས་འགན་བཞེས་དགོས་པ་ཡིན། ང་ཚོས་བགྲོ་གླེང་འཚོགས་ཡུལ་གྱི་ཉེ་འཁྲིས་སུ་ཡོད་པའི་བཞུགས་གནས་མགྲོན་ཁང་ཁག་གི་ཐོ་གཞུང་ཞིག་ལོགས་སུ་མཁོ་སྤྲོད་གསལ་བསྒྲགས་ཞུ་ངེས་ཡིན། ཐོ་གཞུང་དེ་ཉིད་པ་རག་གི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་དྲ་བྱང་ཐོག་ཏུའང་འཇོག་གི་རེད།

དཔལ་འབྱོར་གྱི་འཁོས་བབ་ཞན་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་པ་དང་བོད་ནས་ཕེབས་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་པ་རྣམས་གདམ་གཞིར་བཟུང་ནས་ཚོགས་དོད་མཐུན་འབྱོར་གྱི་གྲངས་ཚད་ཉུང་ངུ་ཞིག་ཀྱང་གྲ་སྒྲིག་ཡོད། ཡུལ་སྐོར་དང་གཞན་ཡང་རིག་གཞུང་འཁྲབ་སྟོན་ཡང་གོ་སྒྲིག་བྱ་ངེས་ཡིན་ཡང་དེའི་གླ་རིན་འཕར་མ་འབུལ་དགོས། རིག་གཞུང་འཁྲབ་སྟོན་གྱི་སྐོར་དེ་རྗེས་སུ་གསལ་བསྒྲགས་ཞུ་ངེས་ཡིན།

བགྲོ་གླེང་འཚོགས་ཡུལ་གཙོ་བོ་ནི་ཆར་ལེ་སི་གཙུག་ལག་སློབ་གྲྭ་ཆེན་མོའི་རིག་གནས་སློབ་གཉེར་སྡེ་ཚན་གྱི་གཞུང་ལས་ཐོག་ཁང་གཙོ་བོ་(ཡ་ནཿཔ་ལ་ཁྷཿཐང་། ༢ པ་རག ༡)དེ་ཡིན།

 ད་ལྟའི་ནད་ཡམས་ཀྱི་གནས་སྟངས་ལ་གཞིགས་ན་འཚོགས་ཡུལ་དང་འགྲིམ་འགྲུལ་ལ་འབྲེལ་བ་ཡོད་པའི་འགྱུར་བ་དང་དཀའ་ངལ་ཁག་གཅིག་འཕྲད་སྲིད་པར་ཤེས་ཚོར་ཡོང་གི་འདུག་པས། ང་ཚོས་གནས་སྟངས་ལ་ལ་བབས་ལྟ་བྱས་ཏེ་འགྲིམ་འགྲུལ་ལ་ཉེ་བར་མཁོ་བ་གནས་ཚུལ་འཕར་མའི་ཐོ་གཞུང་སྐབས་མཚམས་སོ་སོར་པ་རག་གི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་དྲ་བྱང་ཐོག་ཏུ་ཁ་གསབ་བྱ་བར་འབད་རྩོལ་ཞུ་ངེས་ཡིན། དེ་ལྟར་ནའང་གནས་ཚུལ་འདིའི་སྐོར་རང་རང་དང་འབྲེལ་བའི་དབང་འཛིན་མི་སྣའི་བརྒྱུད་ནས་ངེས་བརྟན་བཟོ་དགོས་པའི་འགན་འཁྲི་དེ་ཚོགས་ཞུགས་པ་རང་ཉིད་ལ་ཡོད།

བཀའ་འདྲི་ཞུ་དགོས་པ་གང་ཞིག་མཆིས་ཚེ་ ༢༠༢༢ ལོར་པ་རག་གི་རྒྱལ་སྤྱིའི་བོད་རིག་པའི་ཞིབ་འཇུག་ཚོགས་པའི་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་གློག་འཕྲིན་ཁ་བྱང་བརྒྱུད་ནས་ང་ཚོར་འབྲེལ་བ་གནང་རོགས།


16th IATS Seminar 2022 – Call for Submissions

Dear Colleagues,

We are now inviting interested scholars to submit their proposals for the 16th IATS Seminar, which will be held in Prague, Czech Republic, Prague (3–9 July 2022) and hosted by the Faculty of Arts, Charles University and the Oriental Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The registration program is now open. You can submit a panel proposal or an individual paper. The deadline for submission is September 15, 2021.

The registration is hosted by Conftool and is available in English and Tibetan. To submit a proposal, please:

  1. create an account in Conftool here;
  2. submit your proposal (if necessary, instructions in English and Tibetan are available on the Prague IATS 2022 website).

Please use English or Tibetan to fill out the submission form.

You will receive information about the acceptance of your proposal by January 31, 2022.
You will then be asked to complete the final registration of participation and transfer the conference fee payment.

The anticipated registration fee for the Seminar is 5800 CZK (ca. 230 EUR). The registration fee includes lunches throughout the conference. IATS attendees will be responsible for their own transportation, arrangement of accommodation, and accommodation costs, in addition to the registration fee. We will provide a list of available lodging options close to the venue in a separate announcement. The list will also be available on the Prague IATS website.

A small number of fellowships will be available, with preference given to scholars from Tibetan areas and to financially disadvantaged scholars. Sightseeing and further cultural programs will also be available but at additional cost. The cultural offers will be announced later.

The principal venue for the Seminar will be the main building of the Faculty of Arts of Charles University (nám. Jana Palacha 2, Prague 1).

With regard to the current pandemic situation, we are aware that there may be certain difficulties and changes connected to travel and the venue. We will follow the situation and try to maintain an updated list of additional travel requirements on the Prague IATS 2022 website. However, the attendees are responsible to confirm this information with the respective authorities.

For any inquiries please contact us via the Prague IATS 2022 e-mail.

See you in Prague!

Helga Uebach (1940-2021)

Helga Uebach, who is well known in Tibetan Studies for having dedicated most of her academic career to the Wörterbuch der tibetischen Schriftsprache and for her contributions to Old Tibetan studies, passed away on 8 February 2021. The quiet voice of my esteemed colleague and predecessor in the dictionary project fell silent at the age of 80 years.

Helga Uebach was born on 19 July 1940, in Munich, went to school in a place nearby called Attenkirchen and took her final exams of the gymnasium (secondary school) in 1959. One year later, she started studying Indology and Tibetology under Helmut Hoffmann and Mongolian Studies under Herbert Franke who both influenced her scientific career.

As a student of Helmut Hoffmann, Professor for Indology and Iranian Studies at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, she was the first scientific employee who joined the dictionary project already in 1964. Three years before her dissertation she started to work in the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, in the Kommission für zentralasiatische Studien that Hoffmann founded together with Erich Haenisch, Professor of East Asian Culture and Language Studies in 1954. After she retired in 2005 from her full-time profession, she still assisted the dictionary project with specific questions, particularly those related to Old Tibetan.

Having been research assistant in 1963 at the Seminar for Indology and Iranian Studies (now the Institute for Indology and Tibetology), she joined the dictionary project in 1964, when the collection of terms has just begun. At the same time, she worked on her dissertation in Indology, completing it in 1967. The subject was an edition and translation of the Nepālamāhātmya, an appendix of the Skandapurāṇa. This text describes the holy places of the Kathmandu valley, including the associated cults from a Śaivite perspective. The work was published in 1970 in a series of the Philosophical Faculty of Munich University (Das Nepālamāhātmya des Skandapurāṇa. Legenden um die hinduistischen Heiligtümer Nepāls, München: Fink Verlag, 1970.) In the same year she obtained a full position as research assistant at the Bavarian Academy.

Some years previously, in 1960, with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation Helmut Hoffmann had invited two Tibetan scholars to Munich to join the dictionary project. One of the two was Jampa Losang Panglung, who also studied Tibetology and Indology at the LMU. After completing his Magister degree in 1976, he joined Helga Uebach at the Wörterbuch der tibetischen Schriftsprache, where they both worked until their retirement. The early years of the dictionary project were laborious, and the project was affected by the tremendous changes caused by the arrival of Tibetan exiles in India. Beginning in the 1970s, Tibetans started publishing large quantities of Tibetan texts. In these pre-computer times, Helga Uebach and Jampa L. Panglung spent their time filling card index file-boxes with handwritten notes on Tibetan terms for the dictionary project.

Apart from these lexicographical studies, Helga Uebach worked predominantly on Tibetan cultural history, with a special focus on the 7th to 9th centuries, the period of the early Tibetan kingdom. Her scholarly interests also included the history of Ladakh and document studies. From the early 1980s these interests, that also provided material for the dictionary, led her and her colleague on several field trips to India and Tibet. In those years, Tibetan Studies were at an early stage, and Tibetan publications were still rare. To collect further material for dictionary project, Helga Uebach photographed inscriptions in Ladakh and Tibet, as well as documents held in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala. However, the increasing volume of Tibetan publications in India that was now possible thanks to technological progress partly overran these efforts to add all this additional material.

One of her major works at this time was a translation of the chronicle by Nelpa Pandita (Helga Uebach: Nel-pa Paṇḍitas Chronik Me-tog phreṅ-ba. Handschrift der Library of Tibetan Works and Archives; tibetischer Text in Faksimile, Transkription und Übersetzung, München: Kommission für Zentralasiatische Studien, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1987 (Studia Tibetica. Quellen und Studien zur tibetischen Lexikographie, 1). She had discovered this historical source, that had long been considered to be lost, in the Library of the Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala while she was photographing all the Tibetan documents in 1982. With this publication, Helga Uebach established the series “Studia Tibetica. Quellen und Studien zur tibetischen Lexikographie” at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Moreover, she translated Rolf A. Stein’s work Tibetan Civilization into German (Die Kultur Tibets, Edition Weber Berlin 1993).

In November 1973, one year before her full employment in the Academy, Helga Uebach and Jampa L. Panglung organised the invitation of the Dalai Lama for his very first visit to Europe. Supported by senator Günter Klinge and Gertraut Klinge, who were both also sponsors of the dictionary project, it was possible to invite the Dalai Lama to Munich, where he met scholars of the Bavarian Academy, politicians as well as Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists.

Helga Uebach with Jampa Panglung and the Dalai Lama (1973)

Helga Uebach and Herbert Franke, with the Dalai Lama (1973)

Just over ten years later, in the summer of 1985, she and Jampa L. Panglung were co-convenors of the fourth seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies in Schloss Hohenkammer, close to Munich. More than 100 participants from 22 countries took part in this event. The results were published in proceedings: Helga Uebach and Jampa L. Panglung (eds): Tibetan Studies. Proceedings of the 4th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Schloss Hohenkammer ‒ Munich 1985, München: Kommission für Zentralasiatische Studien, Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1988 (Studia Tibetica. Quellen und Studien zur tibetischen Lexikographie, 2). She was also the Secretary General of the IATS, a position that she retained for the Munich seminar, as well as for the fifth, that was held in Narita in 1989.

By the time Helga Uebach retired in 2005 she has been working on the Wörterbuch der tibetischen Schriftsprache for forty-one years. In the same year, she published the first fascicle of the dictionary. Until her unexpected death on 8 February 2021, she was still an active figure in Tibetan Studies, and continued regularly to publish articles of exemplary scholarship, mainly in the field of Old Tibetan.

Petra Maurer