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Collection Tibetan Oral History Archive Project

About this Collection

The Tibetan Oral History and Archive Project (TOHAP) is a digital archive of oral history interviews with accompanying written transcripts (translated into English) documenting the social and political history of modern Tibet. It includes a large collection of interviews from common folk, monks, and Tibetan and Chinese officials speaking about their lives and modern Tibetan society and history.

Note: A detailed glossary is available to explain Tibetan terms that appear in the transcripts.

These interviews were collected by Professor Melvyn C. Goldstein and his assistants during a series of research projects on modern Tibet history and society that were funded by the National Geographic Society (1980-81), National Endowment for the Humanities (RO-20261-82, RO-20886-85, RO-21860-89, RO-22251-91, RO-22754-94) and during a large Tibetan Oral History Project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities (RZ-20585-00, RZ-50326-05, RZ-50845-08). Professor Goldstein is the John Reynolds Harkness Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Center for Research on Tibet at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

A collage of images showing Professor Goldstein and his students conducting interviews in Tibet.

Knowledge of the social and political history of Tibet during the second half of the Twentieth Century has been limited by the absence of the voices of everyday Tibetans and officials from the traditional Tibetan government. The Tibetan Oral History and Archive Project was undertaken by Professor Melvyn C. Goldstein, Director, Center for Research on Tibet (Case Western Reserve University) to collect and preserve these voices and with it a record of the diversity of life as it was lived in Tibet in the traditional and socialist eras.

The ensuing Oral History Archive consists of the original recordings in Tibetan and the English transcripts of the interviews of almost 700 Tibetans (and a few Chinese) living in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and in exile in India and the West about their lives and modern history. This archive, the largest of its type in the world, contains three collections: the Common Folk Oral History collection, the Political Collection and the Drepung Monastery Collection. The entire collection is being published in a series of installments over the next few years.

The Common Folk Collection consists of recorded interviews in Tibet and India with over 600 Tibetans from all strata about their lives during the traditional society and the socialist period through the Cultural Revolution.

The Political Collection consists of recorded interviews with former Tibetan government officials who played important roles in Tibet's history. The topics discussed include historical events in both the traditional and socialist periods.

The Drepung Monastery Collection consists of recorded interviews on monastic social and economic life with roughly 100 monks who were members of Drepung monastery in the traditional era. Drepung monastery is located 5 miles outside of Lhasa and was Tibet 's largest monastery, housing about 10,000 monks in 1959 at the end of the traditional era.

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