Mapping Tibetan Monasteries

A Digital Humanities Project on Inner Asian Monasticism


Religious Affiliations of Monasteries in Tibet

This interactive map provides a database of 2,777 monasteries in Tibet. By pinning each monastery in different colors according to their religious affiliations, this map shows the diversity of Tibetan religious traditions and the spatial distributions of various religious affiliations. 

Except for very few sporadic data, this map does not include Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia. In terms of Mongolian monasteries, the GIS project of “Documentation of Mongolian Monasteries” provides informative resources.


Development of Tibetan Monasteries, 700-2013 A.D.

This dynamic map below demonstrates the long-term development of monasteries in Tibet from 700 A.D. to 2013. The red color shows the density of the clusters of monasteries. This map with a timeline bar demonstrates significant historical development of monasticism on the Tibetan plateau in many aspects. After the eighteenth century, monasteries in western Amdo grew substantial growth, whereas those in eastern Amdo gradually declined. This development was closely related to the rise of the Khoshut Mongols in Kokonor. (Kung, 2015, 2018) Furthermore, this map also clearly shows that there were significant clusters of monasteries in western Kham, which is a region that has been overlooked by previous scholars and therefore deserves further research.


Kung, Ling-Wei. “The Transformation of the Qing’s Geopolitics: Power Transitions between Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in Amdo, 1644–1795.” Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines,  45 (2018): 110-144.

Kung, Ling-Wei. “The Development of Tibetan Monasteries in Amdo and the Mongolian Factors during Ming-Qing Dynasties: Study on Tibetan Monks in The Manchu-Mongolian Routine Memorials of Lifanyuan” (洮岷藏傳佛寺入清之興衰及其背後的蒙古因素──以《內閣大庫檔》與《理藩院滿蒙文題本》為核心). Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 中央研究院歷史語言研究所集刊 86.4 (2015): 855-910.


Livestock of Amdo Monasteries in the 1950s

Between 1956 and 1958, the People’s Republic of China organized a series of social and historical investigations on the Tibetan society known as Zangzu shehui lishi diaocha (藏族社会历史调查). These investigations conducted by the Chinese Communist Party preserved statistical records of Amdo monasteries’ livestock during that period. By cleaning up and inputting these statistical records of livestock, the map below shows Amdo monasteries’ socio-economic scale in the late 1950s.



This group project entitled “Mapping Monasteries in Tibet” was accomplished by Ling-Wei Kung, Valentina Strokopytova, Norzang, Bart Qian, Yuchen Zhao, Tongtong Zhu, and Xiaoze Xu in the class of “Tibetan Local History” in Fall 2015 under the supervision of Dr. Gray Tuttle at Columbia University. The original data were from the Buddhist Digital Resource Center. In recognition of their efforts to bridge the gap between Tibetan studies and digital humanities, this research group was invited to present this group project in Data Science Day hosted by the Data Science Institute at Columbia University on April 6, 2016.