The Texts

This database lists Tibetan historical documents from the late empire up to the fifteenth century that are legal or relevant to law in some way. it contains extracts and translations of relevant sections, as well as lists of scholarly references. 

The early texts have been selected on the basis that they contain ideas relating to the ideologies developed during the post-imperial period. Included here are summaries and extracts.

The histories are mostly long texts, often known as chos ʼbyung, which generally deal with the history of Buddhism in India, Tibet, and surrounding countries. Included here are summaries and translations of passages that deal directly with law.

The diplomatic documents listed here are those in which legal arrangements are set out. They mostly record property or taxation arrangements or the settlement of disputes. Included here are short descriptions and source references.

The monastic rules are otherwise known as bca’ yig. Included here are short descriptions and source references.

The Mirror of the Two Laws (Khrims gnyis gsal ba’i me long) is a document containing guidelines for judges and mediators, created in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries. It is sometimes referred to as the zhal lce bco lnga. A transliteration and translation are included here. The subsequent zhal lce texts are not included on this site.

The documents in this section provide a brief introduction to each text, followed by a note on primary and secondary sources. These are not intended to be comprehensive and for further information on Tibetan historical texts, see Dan Martin’s Tibetan Histories, Serindia Publications, 1997.

An outline of each text is provided, followed by a selection of Tibetan extracts, accompanied by an English translation. The Tibetan extracts are based on published sources with minor editing and are not intended to be critical editions.

Tibetan names and titles are romanized in Wylie but well-known Tibetan figures, places, and monasteries are generally transcribed according to modern pronunciation.

'PT' refers to the Pelliot tibétain collection of Dunhuang manuscripts held in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. 

'IOL' refers to the manuscripts held at the British Library. 

The 'library cave' at Dunhuang is the cave discovered in Dunhuang (Gansu province, China) by Aurel Stein, in which most of the early Tibetan documents available to us today were originally found.

 'TBRC' refers to the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center archive, found at