About the Project

The Gyu-cha website presents various types of rgyu-cha རྒྱུ་ཆ་ – the Tibetan word for “materials”, “raw materials” or “stuff” –  that illustrate some elements of Tibetan culture and history during the years from the late 1940s onwards. These materials consist of selected texts, films and images, with summaries or translations in English wherever possible. They are designed to help the work of students, scholars and members of the public who are interested in modern Tibet.

Most of these materials are hard to find, especially in translation.  We chose them so as give glimpses of the very wide range of issues and aspects that make up modern Tibetan culture and recent history. As a result, many of the items here are not necessarily familiar to foreign students of modern Tibet and point to issues not covered in textbooks about this period.

The best printed source for primary materials about Tibetan culture and history in English translation, especially for the periods before the 1950s, is Sources of Tibetan Tradition (edited by Kurtis Schaeffer, Matthew Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, Columbia, 2013).

For selected readings on Tibetan history, a good place to start is The Tibetan History Reader (edited by Gray Tuttle and  Kurtis Schaeffer, Columbia, 2013), and The History of Tibet (edited by Alex McKay, Routledge, 2003). The leading studies of Tibetan history in the 20th century are Melvyn Goldstein’s 3-volume History of Modern Tibet (California, 1991-2013) and Tsering Shakya’s The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947 (Columbia, 1999).

We welcome suggestions for other materials and translations that could be included in the website. If you have suggestions, please write to us at moderntibet@gmail.com.


The website was created and designed by a team of students and faculty working with the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia, part of the Columbia’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. The project was funded and supported by the Helen Clay Frick Foundation, a generous private donor, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and Columbia University’s faculty research stipends.

We would like to thank the writers, publishers and translators who gave permission for us to include their work, and to thank all those who helped with the website. Some of the contributors include:

Robert Barnett

Robert Barnett founded and directed the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University. His books include Tibetan Modernities: Notes from the Field (with Ronald Schwartz, 2008), Lhasa: Streets with Memories (2006) and A Poisoned Arrow: The Secret Petition of the 10th Panchen Lama (1997).  From 2000 to 2006 he ran the annual Summer Program for foreign students at Tibet University in Lhasa, as well as running training projects in Tibet on ecotourism, teaching and oral tradition.

Nolan Bensen

Nolan Bensen is a PhD student in Columbia’s East Asian Languages & Cultures program whose studies focus on Chinese history during the early Ming period. He has researched the early Ming government’s presence in Southeast Asia, comparing Ming and Byzantine court eunuchs, and many other topics. Some of his writings can be read here. Nolan earned his BA in Political Science and Chinese Language & Literature at New College of Florida. In his spare time, he enjoys curating Star Trek nights and looking at Central Park.

Gresham Fedora

Gresham did his M.A. in Chinese history at Columbia University. His research interests include the interplay between migration, development, and policy spanning from the Qing Dynasty to present, particularly as these three topics influence the local cultures of the autonomous regions in western China. Gresham loves languages and has been learning them since a young age and it was, in fact, the importance of Chinese to his role in this project that sparked his interest in it.

Tsering Namgyal Khortsa

Tsering Namgyal, who helped originate the concept for this site, is a journalist, novelist and writer. He was born in India and studied in Taiwan, and his most recent publications include The Tibetan Suitcase: A Novel and a biography of the 17th Karmapa.

We also want to thank the many other contributors, translators, and interns who worked on the Gyu-cha website, including Julia Wu, Matthew Akester, Paul Hackett, Dhondup Tashi Rekjong,  Jiang Lingbo, Emily Yu, Gu Yang, Roberta Barnett, Yan Keying, and Tan Beibei, as well as others whose names couldn’t be included here.