22 Oct 2017



An Eighteenth Century Italian Missionary in Ladakh
I’m just back from Italy where I took part in a conference on Ippolito Desideri (1684-1734), a Jesuit priest who travelled through Ladakh on his way to Lhasa in 1715.

The conference took place in Pistoia, Desideri’s home town, which is in Tuscany, close to Florence. The photograph shows the town as seen from the bell tower next to its cathedral. 

Here is a link to the conference programme:

The convenor was Enzo Gualtiero Bargiacchi, who is also from Pistoia. The image here shows Enzo at the opening session with the mayor of Pistoia, Alessandro Tomasi, on his left; and Maria Stella Rasetti, the director of Biblioteca San Giorgo on his right. Enzo worked tremendously hard to arrange the conference, and I hope that he is delighted with the success of a long-held ambition.

Desideri was a voluminous writer in both Italian and Tibetan. His Italian writings have recently been translated into English by Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling. See: http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/mission-tibet/praise.  Even more recently, Donald Lopez and Thupten Jinpa have published extracts from Desideri’s Tibetan works: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674659704 .



Donald Lopez (shown here) spoke about the translation at the conference, and Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling sent video presentations with new information about Desideri’s Tibetan adventures drawing on a hitherto unexamined text – his account book.

Other  Italian and international scholars spoke about Desideri’s Jesuit background, his geographical discoveries, and his engagement with Buddhism. My own contribution was a discussion of his journey through Ladakh where he had his first encounter with Tibetan Buddhism, but depended heavily on assistance from Kashmiri Muslim guides. 

The conference proceedings will be published in the Buddhist-Christian Studies journal from the University of Hawaii in 2018.

John Bray

17 Sep 2017

Spiti conference proceedings
Last year the first international conference on Spiti took place at Oxford University. The proceedings ofthe conference have now been published online, and they are available online by the Revue d’Études Tibétaines:
http://www.digitalhimalaya.com/collections/journals/ret/index.php?selection=0

There is an obvious overlap between Ladakh Studies and Spiti studies, and several of the contributors are IALS members.

I congratulate the editors, Yannick Laurent and David Pritzker, and - now as in the past - I hope that there will be many opportunities for inter-regional cooperation and exchange.

John Bray


27 Jul 2017

IALS Workshop at the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies, 21-23 August 2017

This is to announce the next IALS workshop on "Research in Ladakh" will be held at CIBS from 21-23 August from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. If any senior members of IALS are in Ladakh or expected to be in Ladakh around that time and wish to share research methodology related knowledge to help the research students, students of Shastri, Acharya and final year of graduation, please let me know so that I can prepare the programme accordingly. My email sonamleh2@gmail.com Thanks

Sonam Wangchok

2 Jun 2017

Ladakh (including Kargil) and other borderlands

In recent years there has been wide ranging academic discussion about the significance of borderlands in South and South-east Asia.  Here are two pieces of news that may be of interest to Ladakh scholars.

The first concerns a 2013 publication:

David N. Gellner (ed.). Borderland Lives in Northern South Asia. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

This is an edited collection which includes a chapter by IALS member Radhika Gupta on “Allegiance and Alienation: Border Dynamics in Kargil”. 

Other chapters look at Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Nepal, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and West Bengal.

The entire book is now available online, and is free to download. See:


Secondly, the Asian Borderlands Research Network is organising a conference in Kyrgyzstan in August 2018. The theme is “Ruins, Revivals and Resources”, and the organisers pose the question:

How are borderlands in Asia creating alternative spaces for heritages, self-definition and the extraction of resources? How can these cases serve to rethink social theories of various kinds?


They have issued a call for panels and papers by a deadline of October 2017. For more details see: www.asianborderlands.net.

John Bray

20 May 2017

Heinrich August Jäschke: 200th anniversary

The year 2017 marks the second birth centenary of Heinrich August Jäschke, whose Tibetan-English Dictionary (1881) is still widely used to this day.  This is an anniversary that ought to be noted by all Tibetanists and devotees of Ladakh Studies. 
H.A. Jäschke (Bechler 1930: 65)
Jäschke was born on 17 May 1817 in Herrnhut, the headquarters of the Moravian Church, which is better known in Germany as the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine. His surname indicates his descent from Protestant refugees who had migrated from Moravia, now part of the Czech Republic, a century earlier. Jäschke was a child of the Moravian church, which is known for its wide-ranging missionary activity, through and through.
 
Herrnhut, May 2011. Photo: John Bray
Jäschke spent the first part of his adult life as a teacher of Latin and Greek at the Moravian school (Pädagogium) in Niesky, some 25 miles north of Herrnhut. However, in 1856, when he was already in his late 30s, he was called to a new post as Superintendent of a new Moravian mission in Kyelang, northern India. Kyelang lies in Lahul, on what used to be an important trade and pilgrimage route between India and Tibet. Jäschke was selected for his linguistic skills and, from the outset, one of his main tasks was to be the translation of the Christian scriptures into Tibetan.

He spent the summer of 1857 in Stok, near Leh in Ladakh, totally immersed in his linguistic studies. His host was Sonam Stobgyas, a former monk from Hemis monastery who later became one of the first Ladakhi Christian converts. Jäschke then spent the next 11 years in Kyelang, apart from an extended stay in Darjeeling in 1865, before returning to Germany in 1868.

Although Jäschke’s own travels were limited, he took every opportunity to engage with travellers from all parts of the wider Himalayan region and Tibet. Among many others, these included Lobsang Chospel (bLo bzang chos ’phel), a monk trained in Central Tibet who stayed in Kyelang from 1865 to 1868.

At the same time he studied a wide variety of written texts. These included: the 'Dzangs blun, a collection of legends of Buddha; the Vaiḍūrya dkar po, an astrological and astronomical work compiled by Desi Sangye Gyatso (sDe srid Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho, 1653-1705);  a version of the La dvags rgyal rabs (the Ladakhi royal chronicle); and the biography and songs of the famous Tibetan Buddhist master Milarepa.

The Kyelang mission house in the 19th century (with thanks to Hugh Rayner)
In Kyelang, Jäschke produced a range of school books, evangelistic texts, draft Bible translations and a Romanized and English Tibetan Dictionary, all of which were copied out by hand, and published on the mission’s lithographic press. Back in Germany, he worked on his 671-page Handwörterbuch der Tibetischen Sprache (1871), which was likewise copied out by hand for lithographic printing. This was the direct predecessor of his Tibetan-English Dictionary, published in London in 1881. 
A sample extract from the 1871 Handwörterbuch der Tibetischen Sprache
The 1881 English version of the dictionary is Jäschke’s best-known work: every page reflects years of painstaking research with careful notations as to literary sources and regional variations.

At the same time Jäschke worked on revisions of his Tibetan New Testament, and these were eventually published by the British and Foreign Bible Society in Berlin in 1883 and 1885. The printed version is notable not only for the translation but also for the carefully selected Tibetan font cast by the Berlin firm Th. Unger (see illustration).

The first page of the Gospel of St John, 1881.

By the early 1880s Jäschke was already in poor health, and this made the task of correcting the proofs of the New Testament both slow and laborious. He passed away in Herrnhut in September 1883. His tombstone in the nearby Moravian graveyard is marked with a text from his Bible translation, Matthew 25: 23.

 John Bray

Select bibliography

Jäschke’s works

Jäschke, Heinrich August. 1871. Handwörterbuch der Tibetischen Sprache. Gnadau: Unitäts-buchhandlung.

______.1881. A Tibetan-English Dictionary with Special Reference to the Prevailing Dialects. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

______. 1883. Tibetan Grammar. London: Trubner & Co.

____. (trans). 1883. Four Gospels. Tibetan. Berlin: British & Foreign Bible Society.

____. (trans). 1885. Acts to Revelation. Tibetan.Berlin: British & Foreign Bible Society. [Revelation was translated by Jäschke’s pupil and successor, F.A. Redslob].

Secondary sources

Bechler, Theodor. 1930. Heinrich August Jäschke, der geniale Sprachforscher der Mission der Brüdergemeine im westlichen Himalaya. Herrnhuter Missionsstudien No. 25. Herrnhut: Verlag der Missionsbuchhandlung.

Bray, John. 1983. “Heinrich August Jaeschke. Pioneer Tibetan Scholar.” Tibet Journal 8, No.3, pp. 50-55.

______. 1990. “A History of Tibetan Bible Translations”. In Wissenschaftsgeschichte und gegenwärtige Forschungen in Nordwest-Indien, pp. 66-79. Edited by Gudrun Meier and Lydia Icke-Schwalbe. Dresden: Museum für Völkerkunde. Available on www.ladakhstudies.org.

______. 1991. “Language, Tradition and the Tibetan Bible”. Tibet Journal 16, No. 4, pp. 28-58. Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives.

______. 2008.  “Missionaries, Officials and the Making of the Dictionary of Bhotanta, or Boutan Language.”  Zentralasiatische Studien 37, pp. 33-75.

______. 2015. “A Himalayan Encounter: Lama Lobsang Chospel and Heinrich August Jäschke”. Tibet Journal 40, Nos 1 & 2, pp. 151-158.


Forthcoming. “Heinrich August Jäschke (1817-1883): Translating the Christian scriptures into Tibetan”. Paper presented at the Seventh International Csoma de Kőrös Symposium on Buddhist Transcreations in Tibetan Literature and Art, New Delhi, September 2014.

16 Mar 2017

5th ICSD Conference, Rome 2017

Ladies and Gents, please see the following announcement and paper call from our dedicated member and friend, Vladimiro Pelliciardi, convenor of the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rome. This will be of interest to any of our members undertaking development research in Ladakh.

Dear Friends, on the behalf of the International Steering Committee I am very pleased to announce the 5th International Conference on Sustainable Development, 6-7 September 2017 in Rome.

ICSD 201will be an excellent opportunity to present your projects and discuss the latest results in the field of Sustainability Science. The general aim of the conference is to promote international collaboration in Sustainability Science and related disciplines.

In the previous conferences (2014, 2015 and 2016four papers regarding Ladakh were presented and published or reported on the European Journal of Sustainable Development. Moreover, several other scientists from India were present. Thus the Conference is a good opportunity for other scientists and for researchers from Ladakh to present their works. 

The Call for Papers abstract submission regular deadline is 10 March 2017 and late submission deadline (more costly) is 10 June 2017. Please look at the webpage for further details.

http://www.ecsdev.org/index.php/conference
ICSD 2017 Conference, Rome, Italy Conference Objective and Philosophical Framework The International Conference on Sustainable Development is inspired ...
The ICSD 2017 is organized by the European Center of Sustainable Development. It will will be held at the Roma Eventi, Piazza della Pilotta, 4 Rome, from Friday 6 to Saturday 7 September, 2017.

You can re-post this announcement wherever you like. 

All the best,

Vladimiro (IALS member)

26 Jan 2017

Our 2017 Conference venue, in winter

One of our conference secretaries, Rafal Beszterda, has just visited the 18th IALS Conference venue in Bedlewo, Poland. He sent this wintry image of the Bedlewo Palace. The snow should be long gone by early May 2017, but we thought you might like to see the venue in its winter coat. For more conference details visit the IALS conference webpage and the official conference website.