During the 7th Century AD Songstem Gampo [སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ་] (569-649AD), the 33rd king of the Yarlung Dynasty of southern Tibet and the first Emperor of Tibet, sent Thonmi Sambhota, one of his ministers, to India to gather information on Buddhism. The minister then reputedly devised a script for Tibetan based on the Devanagari model and also wrote a grammar of Tibetan based on Sanskrit grammars.
The new Tibetan alphabet was used to write Tibetan translations of Buddhists texts. The first Sanskrit-Tibetan dictionary, Mahavyutpatti, appeared in the 9th century. Wood block printing, introduced from China, was used in Tibet from an early date and is still used in a few monasteries.
Tibetan literature is mainly concerned with Buddhist themes and includes works translated from Sanskrit and Chinese and original Tibetan works. There are also literary works about the Bon religion, a pre-Buddhist religion indigenous to Tibet. The most unusual genre of Tibetan literature is that of gter-ma (གཏེར་མ་) or 'rediscovered' texts - reputedly the work of ancient masters which have been hidden in remote caves for many centuries.
Tibetan (བོད་སྐད), a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by about 6 million people in China (Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan), India, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh and Nepal. In Mongolia Tibetan is considered the Classical language of Buddhism and was widely taught until quite recently.
Before 1949-50, Tibet comprised of three provinces: Amdo, now split between the Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan provinces; Kham, now largely incorporated into the provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai, and U-Tsang, which, together with western Kham, is now known as the Tibet Autonomous Region, which was created in 1965.
Dzongkha (Bhutanese) (རྫོང་ཁ), which is spoken by about 130,000 people in Bhutan, where it is the national language, and also in Nepal and India. It is a South Tibetic language closely related to Sikkimese.
Ladakhi (ལ་དྭགས་སྐད་), a Tibetic language spoken by about 112,000 people mainly in the Leh district of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India.
Sikkimese (འབྲས་ལྗོངས་སྐད་), a Southern Tibetic language spoken by about 70,300 people in Sikkim. It is closely related to Dzongkha and less closely related to Tibetan.
Tshangla (ཆང་ལོ་), a Tibetic language spoken mainly in Bhutan, and also in India and Tibet by about 160,000 people.
The form of the alphabet shown below, known as u-chen (དབུ་ཅན་) is used for printing. Cursive versions of the alphabet, such as the gyuk yig or 'flowing script' (རྒྱུག་ཡིག་) are used for informal writing.
This table includes the standard consonant combinations used for native Tibetan words. It does not include other combinations found in common loan words or the thousands of combinations used for translitterating Sanskrit words in religious texts.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
These are the Tibetan letters used to write Sanskrit. Some of them are not used in Tibetan.
Information about the Tibetan language and alphabet
Online Tibetan lessons
Nitartha international - Tibetan software and online dictionary
Languages and dialects of Tibet
The Tibetan language Institute - teaches Tibetan in Hamilton, Montana, USA
PechaMaker - a tool for creation of Tibetan Pecha
Tibetan fonts and software
ATTU - ANSI Tibetan to Unicode font convertor
Tibetan & Himalayan Digital Library (THDL)
Tibetan Government in Exile's Official Web Site (includes information on Tibetan language and culture): http://www.tibet.net
Khagyun: Stories from the Tibetan Diaspora
Information about Tibetan medicine, buddhism and calligraphy (in French and English)
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