The Tibetans have, without a doubt, one of the most impressive translation histories of any people in the world. Starting in the 8th century and continuing for some 900 years, they translated the entire Indian Buddhist canon, a body of work consisting of more than 4,500 texts and some 73 million words. Not only was the translation enterprise vast, but the texts themselves were exceptionally difficult and required immense skill and knowledge.
Despite the great scope and historical importance of this translation activity, little research by scholars has been carried out regarding Tibet’s historical translators. The focus of this project was to bring to light the lives and work of the hundreds of individuals who translated the texts that comprise the Tibetan Buddhist canon. Who were they, what was their training and background, and what strategies did they use? For more details on the project, please see the project area. For a sample of writings based on this research regarding the lotsawa (Tibet’s historical translators), please see the “Research Materials” area of this site.