Meeting Halfway: The Tibetan Encounter with European Science Through Qing Court 1644-1911

Meeting Halfway: The Tibetan Encounter with European Science Through the Qing Courts, 1644–1911

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Tibetan Globe

This globe with place names written in Tibetan is said to have been made by a monk at Labrang in the 1920s. It still stands in the museum at Labrang Monastery. Photo: Lobsang Yongdan, 2010.

My research interest is in the ways that Tibetan scholars at the imperial Qing courts (1642–1911) translated and transmitted European science (astronomical, geographical, and medical works) into Tibetan, and the impact of this transmission on Tibetan intellectual traditions. At the MPIWG, my research will focus on the introduction of the Pythagorean theorem by a lama of the Qing court known as Akya Lobzang Tenpé Gyaltsen (1708–1768) and its impact on the history of Tibetan mathematics. By using methods such as the history of science, I wish to analyze the kinds of knowledge systems in which these Tibetan authors operated; how they addressed the issues and tensions that arose between traditional forms of knowledge and the new scientific knowledge; and, finally, how other people responded to these kinds of revolutionary yet controversial works from the early eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. My research project will primarily entail an analytical study of Tibetan intellectual history. I intend to examine the circumstances of this crucial encounter and its impact on Tibetan astronomical, geographical, and medical knowledge systems. This research arises out of my PhD studies; in effect, it is an extension of my doctoral research.