The Center for Asian Studies is excited to announce that CU Boulder students who are interested in learning about the Tibet and Himalayan region are now able to pursue a certificate in Tibetan and Himalayan studies. Culturally and ethnically Tibetan areas constitute ¼ of the land area of the People’s Republic of China -- roughly the size of Western Europe -- as well as the country of Bhutan and parts of north India, Nepal, and Pakistan. As a focus of tension between the two Asian superpowers of India and China, this region is geopolitically crucial. The region is known as “the Third Pole'' and home to the headwaters of seven of Asia’s major rivers. It is a hotspot for global climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services. 

CU Boulder is a leading center of research, teaching, and scholarship on Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, as well as environmental sciences, including climatology, hydrology, ecology, and geology.  Expertise on the region includes strong faculty leadership in the departments of Anthropology, Geography, and Religious Studies and the Tibet Himalaya Initiative (THI), a multidisciplinary hub for research, teaching, and public engagement on Tibet and the greater Himalaya region housed within the Center for Asian Studies. The town of Boulder, CO itself is a significant location in the history and spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.

Certificate Curriculum:

The certificate of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies requires 18 credit hours of coursework, of which 3 credit hours would be an introductory class, ASIA 1700: Introduction to Tibetan Civilization or ANTH 1105: Exploring a non-Western Culture: Tibet.  Students must complete 9 out of 18 hours at the upper division level, with a minimum of 12 credit hours taken on campus.  Students are welcome to use up to 6 transfer credit hours for either upper or lower division courses, including in language study and study abroad, and to petition for other electives to count for upper division credits. 

Spring 2023 Courses:

Students who are interested in the certificate should consider taking one or both of these upcoming spring 2023 courses:

ANTH 1105 Exploring a Non-Western Culture: Tibet: What is Tibet? Who are the Tibetans? This course will provide students with an in-depth anthropological introduction to Tibet and the Tibetan people. We will cover topics ranging from religion to politics, gender to human rights, guerrilla war against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to the everyday lives of Tibetan peoples in the Himalayas. In addition to providing students with knowledge about Tibet, this class will also provide a brief introduction to cultural anthropology that will prepare students for future coursework in anthropology. 

ASIA 1700 Introduction to Tibetan Civilization: Explores the dynamic history of Tibet from its early empire to the present. Offers interdisciplinary perspectives on Tibetan civilization, including arts and literature, religion and politics, society and culture. Topics include the role of Buddhism in Tibetan society from its early establishment up through the rule of Dalai Lamas, forms of myths and rituals to create a Tibetan past and sense of shared identity, the adaptation of Indic literary models, sectarian tensions and ecumenical projects, and modern identity, art and literature.

ASIA 4600 Encounters: Tibet, the Himalayas, and the West: Provides a history of European knowledge about Tibet in the early medieval period, followed by the historical accounts of various European missionaries, travelers, and merchants to Tibet from the medieval to the early modern period. Critiques the construction of the myth of Shangri-la in the West the complex relationship and representation of Tibet and the Tibetans in the West. Formerly offered as a special topics course. Recommended prerequisite: ASIA 1700.

ASIA 4700 Tibetan Literature and Culture: This course focuses on Tibetan literary writings, mostly secular, from the 12th to the 20th century. Students will read English translations of primary Tibetan texts (and secondary works) selected from a wide variety of genres such as history, literary, poetry, biography, guidebooks, maxims, and fiction. The course will familiarize students with the cultural, intellectual, and historical movements that contributed to the development of Tibetan literary tradition. Formerly offered as a special topics course. Recommended prerequisite: ASIA 1700.

RLST 4250: Buddhist Literature in Tibet: Tibet has a vast literary heritage in which Buddhist texts hold a prominent place. In creating this literature, Tibetan authors adopted a number of Buddhist models from India and also integrated Buddhist concerns into indigenous Tibetan oral styles. This course takes a thematic approach to the study of Buddhist literature in Tibet, and this semester we will pay special attention to the interplay between literary style and doctrinal content in several genres: songs of experience (nyams mgur), advice literature (zhal gdams), and tantric liturgies (sgrub thabs). Throughout the course, we think critically about rhetorical strategies, genre conventions, and ways of reading Buddhist literature in Tibet.

 Language courses:

Students interested in Tibet and Himalaya Studies have the opportunity to pursue study in four languages that are spoken in the region: Tibetan (TBTN), Nepali (NEPL), Hindi/Urdu (HIND), and Mandarin (CHIN). 

If you are interested in pursuing this certificate or have any questions you can reach out to Asian Studies program director Dr. Lauren Collins ( or teaching assistant professor Dr. Tenzin Tsepak (

Preserving culture by learning an endangered language