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The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia Paperback – March 28, 1993

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"[The] author has succeeded in his task, thanks to his sound method of analysis and to his command of the languages of the relevant texts: Tibetan, Chinese, Arab, Turkic. Particularly the thorough and felicitous utilization of the Arab sources is one of the most pleasant features of the book."--Luciano Petech, Central Asiatic Journal

"A most impressive work by an excellent scholar."--Richard N. Frye, International Journal of Middle East Studies

"An absorbing and highly original narrative of imperial rivalries that is of particular interest to comparative historians."--Choice

From the Back Cover

This richly detailed narrative history of the Tibetan Empire in Central Asia from about A.D. 600 to 866 depicts the struggles of the great Tibetan, Turkic, Arab, and Chinese powers for dominance over the Silk Road lands that connected Europe and East Asia. Challenging the commonly held belief that East and West were largely isolated from each other until the discovery of sea routes to India and China, the book emphasizes the importance of overland contacts in the Early Middle Ages and elucidates Tibet's role in the conflict over Central Asia.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 8, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691024693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691024691
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,912,089 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I found this book to be indispensible to serious students of Central Asian history as well as readily accessible to the casual novice interested in the history of Tibet. It formed the basis of my own studies on the origins of the Tibetan people as well as assisting me in placing their weavings in a Central Asian context, rather than the more popular Buddhist/Chinese perspective. Well written and easily understood with essentially interesting footnotes, anyone truly interested in further understanding the origins of the Tibetan people, their current religion and myths needs have this relatively brief tome in their library. An excellent piece of research and an easy read.
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Format: Paperback
Beckwith covers the early history of Tibet for
those of us who do not read Chinese, Khotanese
Saka, and other fun languages. Places the
Tibetans in the constellation of national
empire-builders. Well-written and exhaustively
footnoted, this is not a coffee-table book, yet
is accessible to the non-specialist. Should be
of interest to political and military historians
of the milieu, as well as to Arabists, Central
Asianists, and Sinologists.

However, suitably rewritten and with many color
photos this would make a fine coffee-table book
indeed.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia" goes well-and-good into military and alliance history of Central Asia with central concern to Tibet. So, the text is true to its title. Remarked upon are interactions with a number of more local Central Asian tribal groups, but the main players covered are Arabic, Turkish, Chinese and Tibetan. I find this detailed presentation especially interesting due to lack of the usual central focus on Bonpo and Vajrayana cultural and religious topics. Those topics are, of course, major ones for general Tibetan study. But, even if one is more interested in such cultural and religious topics, this work may help ground and round-out such interests. It greatly helps that the author, Christopher Beckwith, is literate in all four of the above language types -- so one is getting precise, reliable and original translilation and interpetation of the relevant historical source texts -- in the most direct way possible nowadays.

By the way, the author is able to show that the origins of Bodish [Tibetan-like] dialects are somewhat complex -- with early Indoeuropean and even possible Germanic inputs -- as this reader already suspected due to some central Tibetan terms that look Indoeuropean or Germanic. The author does remark upon strong Bodish relations to Burmese-type languages -- as one would expect. But, most importantly, it seems Bodish dialects are NOT as close to Chinese-type languages as commonly reckoned. Due to ongoing interaction and later expansion of Chinese-folks with Bodish-folks, including Tibetans, the Bodish dialects eventually have an outer layer of Chinese-type input.

So, despite the seemingly specialized topics of this work -- it is directly relevant to the controversy about whether originally "Tibet" is actually a part of "China" or not.
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Format: Paperback
A serious student with a certain background in Tibetan and Chinese history may find this book useful -- perhaps even indispensible. For everyone else, it may prove impenetrable. The two maps are almost totally worthless, and the text assumes a basic familiarity with place names and non-Tibetan figures that is inconsistent with a general survey. My background is in the Near East and Central Asia; where Beckwith referred to place names in those areas, I understood him well, but when discussing Tibet or China, I did not.

The same is true of facts concerning contemporary empires. The Abassid revolution, for example, is mentioned only in passing, without any kind of discussion on its effect on Tibet and Central Asia. Obviously an in-depth discussion of the Abbassids is not necessarily appropriate for a monograph on Tibet, but Beckwith's greatest strength (his focus on Tibet's neighbors to explain events in Tibet) makes it a virtual necessity for this book.

This book is a political and military history. If you want details on Tibetan religion, culture, or literature, you will not find them here. Rather, we have a catalogue of battles, a desciption of waxing and waning influence in the Central Asian power struggles. I concede I may be asking the impossible -- not being a specialist, I don't know if such information even exists. Of course, Beckwith could have so stated.

The book starts and ends abruptly. The formation of the empire is disposed of with a few paragraphs. The disintigration of the empire is noted simply, with no discussion whatsoever of the decline that led to it, or the reasons that the once-mighty empire was irrevocably broken.

The book contains what should have been a helpful table of contemporary rulers.
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