Dictionary Series

An Encyclopaedic Tibetan-English Dictionary: volume 1


Published by The Nationalities Publishing House and School of Oriental and African Studies, Beijing and London, 2001

The Enyclopaedic Tibetan-English Dictionary is a translation into English of the celebrated tshig mdzod chen mo, the ?Great Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary,? which instantly became a landmark work of Tibetan scholarship when it was first published in China in the mid-1980s as the fruit of some fifty years of research. The original was not just a Tibetan-Chinese dictionary; definitions were also given in Tibetan, and it included not just Dharma terminology, but also colloquial terms and all kinds of useful words which had never been defined anywhere else. This being so, it immediately became an important resource for all scholars working in every area of Tibetan studies. And it was not long before a project was devised to translate it into English.


The project was managed from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, and enlisted the talents of the incomparably learned Alak Zenkar Rinpoche, who had served as the deputy editor-in-chief for the original Chinese version, and Dr. Gyurme Dorje, a scholar well known for his work in translating Dudjom Rinpoche?s History and Fundamentals of the Nyingma School, and who could work on adding Sanskrit equivalents. The project was overseen by Dr. Tadeusz Skorupski.


The eagerly anticipated result of several years? collaboration between these and many other scholars around the world who were also enlisted to help proved to be something of an anticlimax.


By now, this should have been the best dictionary available. Unlike the Rangjung-Yeshe Dictionary it features precise and carefully edited definitions, and it has none of the obtrusive opining which spoils the Illuminator. Yet only the first of its anticipated three parts has been released?and that is only available through a single retailer outside China. Even within China, where it is printed, it is still hard to find. Worse still, no electronic version is available, so even if all three volumes were to be released and widely distributed, they would lack the convenience of the electronic versions currently available. The first volume alone, covering only ka to nya already makes up an unwieldy 1383 pages!


We can only hope that a way is found to make an electronic version available before too long, or at the very least that the remaining two volumes appear swiftly and more conspicuously than did the the first.