Indiana University Bloomington
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The Tibetan Empire


This course focuses on the first fully historical, well recorded period of Tibetan history, during the Early Middle Ages, when the Tibetans dominated the Tibetan Plateau and a large part of Eurasia beyond. It includes the prehistory of Tibet, beginning with the spread of the Central Eurasian Culture Complex to the Tibetan Plateau along with the Iranization of most of Central Eurasia; the Tibetans in Antiquity and in the pre-imperial period; formation and early expansion of the Tibetan Empire across the Tibetan Plateau and into the neighboring regions; the socio-political-economic structure of the empire, early religious beliefs, and the introduction of Buddhism; the wars over Central Asia, pitting the Tibetans and Western Turks against the Arabs and Chinese; the growing conflict with T’ang China, then at its cultural and political height; the Sogdians and the revolutions and rebellions of the mid-eighth century across Eurasia; the spread of Buddhism in the later Tibetan Empire; art, architecture, literature, and the Old Tibetan language; the climatic-economic disaster from around 820 on and the collapse of the early medieval empires; what really happened to Buddhism when the Tibetan Empire fell; the aftermath of the collapse; development of a new Tibetan civilization, and the earliest purely Tibetan schools of Buddhism, in the Tibetan frontier regions.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia


Department of Central Eurasian Studies