The Texts

This database lists Tibetan historical documents from the time of the late empire up to the sixteenth century, which are legal or relevant to law in some way. It contains extracts and translations, as well as lists of references.  

The historical texts all concern law in some way. Many are chos ’byung, which recount the history of Buddhism in India, Tibet, and surrounding countries. There are also testaments and other historical works. Some of the most relevant scholarly references are also noted, although these are not intended to be comprehensive.

The Mirror of the Two Laws (Khrims gnyis gsal ba’i me long) is a treatise on law, which contains guidelines for judges and mediators. It was created in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries. It is elsewhere referred to as the zhal lce bco lnga. Later zhal lce texts are not included on this website.

This website does not include other legal documents, such as edicts, diplomatic texts, and records of legal arrangements. Listed here is a summary of some of the documents from this period and their sources.

The website also does not include monastic rules, otherwise known as bca’ yig. Listed here is a short summary of some of those that date from this period.

Note on transliteration, translation, and references

Titles of documents are listed in English, Tibetan, and/or Sanskrit, as relevant. Tibetan titles are Romanised in Wylie, while Sanskrit titles and names are Romanised in the standard form of Sanskrit Romanisation. Tibetan historical figures and the names of places and monasteries are often transcribed into a form that reflects modern pronunciation. The Wylie transliteration is provided in brackets the first time the name is mentioned in each document.

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

The 'library cave' refers to the cave in Dunhuang (Gansu province, China), in which most of the ancient documents available to us today were originally found. 

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

'BDRC' (formerly TBRC) refers to the Buddhist Digital Resource Center archive, located at

Dictionary references: occasionally a footnote refers to a translation offered by one of the sources on the translation tool of the Tibetan and Himalayan Library:   

Fernanda Pirie and Charles Manson compiled and created this database and are responsible for the translations. They are grateful to Hamsa Rajan for her patient assistance with preparing the documents.

Readers are invited to send comments and corrections to