Category Archives: Publications

Book release / Marching into View : The Tibetan Army in Historic Photographs 1895 – 1959

The book Marching into View: The Tibetan Army in Historic Photographs 1895–1959 (Potsdam, edition-tethys: wissenschaft/science vol. 5, 209 p.) by Alice Travers was released on July 1st 2022.

The launch took place during the eponymous photo exhibition held in Prague during the 16th IATS.

It is now available for download on the French open access academic repository HAL:


This volume seeks to shed light on one of Tibet’s little-studied secular features: its military institutions prior to 1959. It uses archival photographs, an underused historical source, to discover aspects of the Tibetan army history that scarcely appear in the written sources, such as its material culture (soldiers’ clothes and uniforms, insignia, military flags and banners, music band).

It focuses on the army of the Lhasa-based government known as the Ganden Phodrang, during the reigns of the 13th (1895-1933) and 14th Dalai lamas (1950-1959) and during the intervening period of regency (1933-1950). The Tibetan army, created to defend its Buddhist government, was mainly composed of two types of troops serving as a tax or corvée duty: a corps of permanent or regular troops (tenmag), whose first appearance dates to the 18th century; regional militia (yulmag), who guarded the borders and were summoned to serve alongside the Lhasa government’s regular troops when needed.

Assembled here for the first time are 168 photographs of Tibetan militia and regular soldiers, drawn from twenty-six museums, public and private archives in Europe, North America and Asia, and taken by thirty-five different photographers. This produces a variety of visual discourses on the Tibetan army that is rarely seen with other topics and helps to reposition the Tibetan army at the centre of the enquiry, as seen under a number of spotlights.

The volume shows how the Tibetan soldiers (both militia and regular troops) became progressively more visible in photographs during this period of time and how the various changes in the material culture and external appearance of the regular troops mirror the evolution of Tibet’s internal and international politics.

You can get the book on Garuda Books.

Table of contents



Chapter 1. Camouflaged: looking for Tibetan soldiers and militia in early photographs (1890–1913)

Chapter 2. A new visual identity: the modernisation of the Tibetan army under British influence (1913–1938)

Chapter 3. The re-Tibetanisation of the Ganden Phodrang army (1939–1950)

Chapter 4. Towards Sinicisation: the aftermaths of the 17-Point Agreement (1951–1959)

Chapter 5. The lion and the vajra: the history of Tibetan military flags through film and photography

Chapter 6. “God Save the Queen” in Tibet: the military bands of the Ganden Phodrang army

Conclusion. Lessons about the history of the Tibetan army from archival photographs and films



Defence and Offence: Armour and Weapons in Tibetan Culture

Co-edited by Federica Venturi and Alice Travers, the collective volume Defence and Offence: Armour and Weapons in Tibetan Culture is now available in open access on the website of the editor, Annali di Ca’ Foscari.

Federica Venturi and Alice Travers  (eds), Defence and Offence: Armour and Weapons in Tibetan Culture, Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale 2, December 2021,  325 p.


This special issue of Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale gathers scholars from various disciplines (history, art history, philology, Mongol studies and arms and armour specialists), in order to spur dialogue on the development and history of Tibetan weapons, and add new avenues of research on this topic, in the footsteps of the pioneering 2006 exhibition Warriors of the Himalaya (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Initially based on a workshop entitled Defence and Offence: Armour and Weapons in Tibetan Culture, organised in 2019 in Paris in the framework of the ERC-funded project The Tibetan Army of the Dalai Lamas, 1642-1959, this monographic issue starts from the observation that the theory of the ‘military revolution’, which for more than half a century has stimulated a reassessment of pre-modern and early modern European history, is still completely untested in the field of Tibetan studies. In particular, the impact of firearms innovation on the evolution of society has not been made for Tibet. The issue endeavours to build the ‘first missing link’ that would allow further analysis on this topic, by proposing five studies documenting the great diversity of weapon technology (and their corresponding terminology) that were used in Tibet, from the bow and arrow in the 7th century to the machine gun in the 20th century, by way of the famous Tibetan matchlock. Based on a great diversity of sources (material, visual and textual, such as archival, historiographical, biographical and autobiographical), the five chapters, authored by Donald La Rocca, Petra Maurer, Tashi Tsering Josayma, Federica Venturi and Alice Travers (with an additional preface by Johan Elverskog) answer, from a variety of perspectives and chronological angles, the following questions: which weapons did the Tibetan use, where did they come from, when were they used, in which circumstances, and what influence did they have on Tibetan society and history?

Asian Influences on Tibetan Military History between the 17th and 20th Centuries

The second collective volume of the TibArmy project has come out:

S.G. FitzHerbert and Alice Travers (eds), Asian Influences on Tibetan Military History between the 17th and 20th Centuries, Special Issue of the Revue d’Etudes Tibetaines, n°53, mars 2020, 367 p.

Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines

Numéro cinquante-trois – Mars 2020


 Asian Influences on Tibetan Military History between the 17th and 20th Centuries


Edited by

S.G. FitzHerbert and Alice Travers


§  Full text    (9.6 MB) 

§  Cover, contents    (89 kb, pp. i-iv) 

§  Acknowledgements    (60 kb, p. 5)

§  Notes on Transcription and Transliteration of Terms in Asian Languages    (52 kb, p. 6)

§  Introduction: The Ganden Phodrang’s Military Institutions and Culture between the 17th and the 20th Centuries, at a Crossroads of Influences    (1.1 MB, pp. 7-28)
    author: Solomon George FitzHerbert and Alice Travers 

§  Mongol and Tibetan Armies on the Trans-Himalayan Fronts in the Second Half of the 17th Century, with a Focus on the Autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama    (484 kb, pp. 29-55)
    author: Federica Venturi 

§  The Zunghar Conquest of Central Tibet and its Influence on Tibetan Military Institutions in the 18th Century    (491 kb, pp. 56-113)
    author: Hosung Shim 

§  Tibetan and Qing Troops in the Gorkha Wars (1788–1792) as Presented in Chinese Sources: A Paradigm Shift in Military Culture    (695 kb, pp. 114-146)
    author: Ulrich Theobald 

§  Meritocracy in the Tibetan Army after the 1793 Manchu Reforms: The Career of General Zurkhang Sichö Tseten    (481 kb, pp. 147-177)
    author: Alice Travers 

§  The Geluk Gesar: Guandi, the Chinese God of War, in Tibetan Buddhism from the 18th to 20th Centuries    (1.5 MB, pp. 178-266)
    author: Solomon George FitzHerbert 

§  A Visual Representation of the Qing Political and Military Presence in Mid-19th Century Tibet    (1.7 MB, pp. 267-302)
    author: Diana Lange 

§  Zhang Yintang’s Military Reforms in 1906–1907 and their aftermath—The Introduction of Militarism in Tibet    (660 kb, pp. 303-340)
    author: Ryosuke Kobayashi 

§  Japanese Visitors to Tibet in the Early 20th Century and their Impact on Tibetan Military Affairs—with a Focus on Yasujirō Yajima    (582 kb, pp. 341-364)
    author: Yasuko Komoto 

§  List of Authors    (104 kb, pp. 365-367)

 The printed version of this volume is now available for sale. The publisher is Vajra Publications.

Buddhism and the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period (1642-1959)

The first collective volume of the TibArmy project has been published as a special issue of the Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie (EFEO, Paris) in July 2019.  It is now available in open access on Persée.

Alice Travers and Federica Venturi (eds), Buddhism and the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang period (1642-1959), Special issue of the Cahiers d’Extrême Asie, EFEO, vol. 27, 2018.

Table of content:

Alice TRAVERS & Federica VENTURI
À nos lecteurs / To Our Readers
Note on Transliteration and Transcription of Tibetan Terms
Alice TRAVERS & Federica VENTURI
Le bouddhisme comme fin et moyens de l’armée du Ganden Phodrang : une introduction aux relations des sphères bouddhique et militaire au Tibet (1642-1959)
Buddhism, Both the Means and the End of the Ganden Phodrang Army: An Introduction to Buddhism vis-à-vis the Military in Tibet (1642–1959)
Federica VENTURI: To Protect and to Serve: The Military in Tibet as Described by the Fifth Dalai Lama
Solomon G. FITZHERBERT: Rituals as War Propaganda in the Establishment of the Tibetan Ganden Phodrang State in the Mid-17th Century
Marlene ERSCHBAMER: Tibetan Troops Fighting the “Enemy of Buddhist Doctrine” (bstan dgra): The Invasions of the Gorkhas as Witnessed by Two Tibetan Masters of the Barawa (’Ba’ ra ba) Tradition
KOBAYASHI Ryōsuke 小林亮介: Militarisation of Dargyé Monastery: Contested Borders on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier during the Early Twentieth Century
Stacey VAN VLEET: Strength, Defence, and Victory in Battle: Tibetan Medical Institutions and the Ganden Phodrang Army, 1897–1938
Alice TRAVERS: Monk Officials as Military Officers in the Tibetan Ganden Phodrang Army (1895–1959)


It is also possible to get the volume on the publisher’s website: