I’m Sam van Schaik, based at the British Library, working for the International Dunhuang Project, where I am currently involved in a 3-year project on the Tibetan Chan tradition. Previous research projects include a 5-year project on Tibetan paleography and a 3-year project on the earliest Tibetan tantric manuscripts. I also occasionally lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
My PhD in Religious Studies was awarded in 2000 by the Department of Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester. The dissertation, on the Dzogchen works of the 18th-century writer Jigmé Lingpa, was published as Approaching the Great Perfection in 2004.
Since then I have been working with the Tibetan manuscript collections from Central Asia. My research has focused mainly on the contemplative tradition of the Great Perfection, the tantric ritual system and its social contexts, and the development of mythical narratives of imperial Tibet. I’ve also written on the intersection between orality and literacy, and on the creation and development of the Tibetan writing system. Tibet: A History, a narrative history of Tibet, was published by Yale University Press in 2011.
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Manuscripts and Travellers: The Sino-Tibetan Documents of a Tenth-century Buddhist Pilgrim (with Imre Galambos). Berlin: de Gruyter, 2012.
- Indian edition: Tibet: A History. New Delhi: Amaryllis, 2012.
- Paperback UK and USA edition, 2013.
“Dating Early Tibetan Manuscripts: A Paleographical Method.” Scribes, Texts and Rituals in Early Tibet and Dunhuang, edited by Brandon Dotson, Kazushi Iwao and Tsuguhito Takeuchi. Weisbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013. 119-135.
“Witnesses for Tibetan Craftsmanship: Bringing Together Paper Analysis, Palaeography and Codicology in the Examination of the Earliest Tibetan Manuscripts” (with Agnieszka Helman-Wazny). Archaeometry (2012). DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.2012.00687.x
“The Origin of the Headless Style (dbu med) in Tibet.” Medieval Tibeto-Burman Languages IV, edited by Nathan Hill. Leiden: Brill, 2012. 411-446.
“A New Look at the Invention of the Tibetan Script.” Old Tibetan Documents Monograph Series, vol.III, edited by Yoshiro Imaeda, Matthew Kapstein and Tsuguhito Takeuchi. Tokyo: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, 2011. 45–96.
“The Stone Maitreya of Leh: The Rediscovery and Recovery of an Early Tibetan Monument” (with André Alexander). Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 21.4 (2011): 421–439.
“The Limits of Transgression: The Samaya Vows of Mahāyoga” in Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang, eds. Matthew T. Kapstein and Sam van Schaik. Leiden: EJ Brill, 2010. 61-83.
“The Prayer, the Priest and the Tsenpo: An Early Buddhist Narrative from Dunhuang” (with Lewis Doney) in the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 30.1–2 (2007 ): 175–217.
“Fragments of the Testament of Ba from Dunhuang” (with Kazushi Iwao) in the Journal of the American Oriental Society 128.3 (2008): 477-488.
“The Sweet Sage and the Four Yogas: A Lost Mahāyoga Treatise from Dunhuang” in Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 4 (2008): 1-67. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5564
“A Definition of Mahāyoga: Sources from the Dunhuang Manuscripts.” Tantric Studies 1 (2008): 45-88.
“Oral Teachings and Written Texts: Transmission and Transformation in Dunhuang” in Contributions to the Cultural History of Early Tibet, ed. Matthew T. Kapstein & Brandon Dotson. Leiden: EJ Brill, 2007. 183–208.
“Beyond Anonymity: Palaeographic Analyses of the Dunhuang Manuscripts” (with Tom Davis and Jacob Dalton) in Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 3 (2007). http://www.thlib.org?tid=T3106
“The Tibetan Avalokitesvara Cult in the Tenth Century: Evidence from the Dunhuang Manuscripts” in Tibetan Buddhist Literature and Praxis (Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS, 2003, Volume 4), ed. Ronald M. Davidson and Christian Wedemeyer. Leiden: EJ Brill, 2006. 55–72.
“The Early Days of the Great Perfection” in Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 27/1 (2004): 165–206.
“Where Chan and Tantra Meet: Buddhist Syncretism in Dunhuang” (with Jacob Dalton) in Susan Whitfield (ed), The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith. London: British Library Press, 2004. 61–71.
“Lighting the Lamp: the Structure of the Bsam gtan mig sgron” (with Jacob Dalton) in Acta Orientalia 64 (2003): 153–175.
“Tibetan Dunhuang Manuscripts in China” in The Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 65.1 (2002): 129–139.
“The Resolution of the Simultaneous and Gradual Approaches to the Great Perfection in the Klong chen snying thig” in Religion and Secular Culture in Tibet (Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000), ed. Henk Blezer. Leiden: EJ Brill, 2002: 309–320.
“A Catalogue of the First Volume of The Waddell Manuscript rNying ma rgyud ‘bum” in The Tibet Journal 25.1 (2000): 27–50