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The Shang Shung Institute exists for the preservation of Tibetan culture and to translate Tibetan books into Western languages. Through the Shang Shung Institute we are trying to do something to maintain the survival of Tibetan culture and understanding. Shang Shung, the name of the Institute, reflects the source of Tibetan culture and history - it was known as a great empire throughout the Orient and the study of Shang Shung is extremely important if we are to understand the great antiquity, the unique nature and the universal importance of Tibetan culture, past and present.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
founder of the Shang Shung Institute

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
© Photo: Alex Siedlecki, 1988


The extraordinary culture of Tibet has been transmitted from generation to generation for more than 3000 years and is one of the great treasures of human civilisation. Today there is a real danger that this unique treasure may be lost. Therefore, the Shang Shung Institute promotes the knowledge of Tibetan culture in all of its aspects; religious, philosophical, artistic, historical and social in order to safeguard it and contribute to its preservation.

One of the main activities of the Institute is the work of translating original Tibetan texts into the major Western languages. The Institute also organises courses, study seminars, conferences and exhibitions. It coordinates the publication of numerous books and texts, maintains a modern multimedia documentation centre, and offers study grants to worthy young Tibetans.

The central office of the International Shang Shung Institute is at Merigar West in Italy, with other offices in Austria, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina and the United States. Over the years the Institute has collaborated with several universities, foundations and museums, and contributed to increasing people’s interest in Tibetan culture all over the world. The Institute is active in four main areas: Archives and Multimedia; Culture and Events; Traditional Tibetan Medicine; Studies and Research on Tibetan Language.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

The International Shang Shung Institute was founded in 1989 by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and inaugurated in 1990 by H.H. the Dalai Lama. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature at the University of Naples L’Orientale from 1962 to 1992, has dedicated his academic career to research into Tibetan culture. He has published numerous works, particularly on the origins of Tibetan culture and the ancient kingdom of Shang Shung. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is also a well known teacher of Dzogchen and is the founder and head of the International Dzogchen Community.

Born in Derge, eastern Tibet in 1938 and recognised as a Tulku (a reincarnation) at an early age, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is among the last generation of Tibetans to have been fully educated in Tibet. He spent the 1940's and 1950's at the famous Sakyapa monastic college Derge Gonchen engaged in an in-depth study of Buddhist scriptures including logic, philosophy and medicine. He also received many Tantric and Dzogchen transmissions and teachings from many of the leading masters of the day. He completed his studies at Derge Gonchen whilst still in his teens. By the end of the 1950s he had already acquired a notable reputation for his knowledge of Tibetan culture and Buddhism.

In 1960, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was invited to do research in Italy by Professor Giuseppe Tucci. Tucci was a leading Tibetologist and founder of ISMEO (Instituto per L'Africa e L'Oriente), one of the major Institutes of Asian Studies in Italy. Subsequently, from 1962 until 1992, as Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Studies, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu taught and carried out research at the University of Naples L’Orientale.

Here he focused his research on the early history of Tibet and the origins of Tibetan culture. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is the author of many influential and profound works on Tibetan history and culture, a number of which have been translated into English: The Light of Kailash, Necklace of Gzi, Journey Among the Tibetan Nomads and Drung Deu Bon. These works reveal his commitment and determination to keep the extraordinary cultural heritage of Tibet alive and fully accessible. He has also written numerous works on Dzogchen.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has also founded a non-profit organization called A.S.I.A. (Association for International Solidarity in Asia), which operates in Tibet and China and is dedicated to serving the Tibetan people in the areas of education, health, training, disaster relief and sustainable economic development.

Shang Shung: The Source of Tibetan Culture

Image © Kim Bannister,

The ancient kingdom of Shang Shung once occupied a large area including Western and Northern Tibet with Mount Kailash at its centre. The study of Shang Shung is important if we are to understand the unique nature and the universal importance of Tibetan culture, past and present.

Many of the traditions of Shang Shung have been transmitted across the centuries by both oral and literary means. Knowledge of Tibetan culture, influenced by the Indo-Buddhist tradition which was introduced into Tibet between the 7th and 11th centuries, is traditionally classified into five major fields or sciences: arts and crafts, medicine, linguistics and poetry, logic and "inner knowledge" which refers to the study of Buddhism and meditation. The Shang Shung Institute uses these five fields of knowledge as the basis for its areas of study and activity.

I hope and pray that all Tibetans and those who are interested in the future of Tibet and its culture, will help in whatever way they can to ensure the continuing survival of the authentic Tibetan tradition.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

Image © Kim Bannister,

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