THL Toolbox > Reference > Biographies

Manual for Biographical Encyclopedia Entries

Contributor(s): THL Staff.


This document provides a template for use in creating biographical studies of individuals. The "metadata" section simply identifies basic data about the author of the biographical study. For quick sketches, one can simply fill out the basic data in the "essentials" section, provide a "1-3 line summary", and finally provide a "biographical sketch" that is at least a paragraph in length, but can be considerably longer. If one wants to provide further analytical data, one can utilize all or part of the fields detailed under "full data fields".

Any field can have an added "note" (mchan) used to include any comments one wants to make about the field.

This scheme is currently under discussion and we are creating a technological implementation in XML it. Interested contributors should contact us at

A new proto-standard is being created by a group of archivists, librarians, scholars and technologists for dealing with biographical data in XML, including data on corporate entities (institutions, organizations and the like). It also includes the facilities to chart timelines of events relating to a given person or institution. See its documentation for further details. See in particular the tag library (first link) and the examples, especially Rostovzeff to get a partial sense of what is possible. THL is presently experimenting with this for possible use in creating and archiving biographical and organizational data.

In the meantime, you can view a description of the fields we are considering. If you want to begin to structure biographical data, just use this as a guideline and it should be relatively straightforward to structure your work subsequently into our final form. We will be soon creating more structured templates for data to be provisionally organized.

There is an outdated Word template here, but only the WIKI is up to date. Thus the following Word template is only to suggest how you might structure a Word template for use: external link: Biography Template. This does contain Tibetan language equivalents for fields in the biographical template, though they are in a non-Unicode font and need to be converted.

General principles


Sources should be cited parenthetically as relevant, so that the sources of your data are clear. In doing so, provide an abbreviation for the source, and specify page and line number (shog grangs dang yig phreng/). The full bibliographical citations should be provided under "sources"; or if you are doing other work you can also keep a separate document with bibliographical citations of all sources that you have drawn upon along with corresponding abbreviations. Each can also have a “note”, which allows you to specify any information you would like about the source – such as whether the information in that source is inside a citation, and therefore originally part of a second source. (E.g., A statement within the BA that says something like "According to X he wrote that text, but according to Y someone else did").

Write out full bibliographical citations for all texts referred to within your analysis. In addition, this can be used to refer to primary and secondary literature that refers to the person in question. For sources cited within your analysis, provide a numerical ID or abbreviation to use to cite the sources; citation should also include page and line reference (following the format 4.5-5.6 meaning from the fifth line of the fourth page to the sixth line of the fifth page). The format for bibliographical citation:

The format for bibliographical citation:

  • Title:
  • Author:
  • Language:
  • Publisher location:
  • Publisher:
  • Publication year:
  • Composition year:
  • Edition (par gzhi):
  • ID/Abbreviation:

When analyzing a given text where you are documenting multiple citations of a given person’s name, use the following table to list out all the individual citations.

Tibetan passageSource IDVolume/page/lineTranslationPage/lineSummary


Uncertainty indication: always indicate what you know matter how rough or uncertain you are using THL conventions to be indicated.

Calendar used: always record the date in whatever format/calendar the source specifies, regardless of whether you can or cannot convert it into an international date format.

  • International (spyi lo'i lo zla tshes grangs/)
  • Tibetan (bod lo'i lo zla tshes grangs/)

Days of the week: indicate day of week if known (Monday, etc.).

Format: format day of week-DD-MM-YYYY. All of these need to be multiple to reflect alternative dates in the sources. Traditional Tibetan lunar dates with international years but lunar months/dates are to be given in the format of DD-MM-YYYY.


Use the THL place ID from gazetteer to indicate places. There is the place element, and you can make the authority list the gazetteer, and then the key specifies the element within it. Then you can allow users to click to the gazetteer.

Essential Template

This is a very simple template suited for preparing biographical entries of an abbreviated nature along with related template for recording multiple citations of a person within a text you are analyzing.

Wylie name 
Name etymology 
Naming history 
Person type 
Summary (1 paragraph) 
Longer description 
Birth date (Tibetan) 
Birth date (international) 
Birth place (Tibetan) 
Death date 
Death date (international) 
Death place 
Spheres of activity 
References (reference, page/line, passage) 

Detailed Template



Names and titles (ming dang mgo sa)

Name (ming gzhan dag/):

Etymology: indicate the syllables of the names with hyphens, and then render intelligibly in English.

Type (rigs)

  • Primary Name (ming gtso bo/): For monks this will typically be their ordination names. It will not always be easy to determine the main name, but we need to gradually develop a set of conventions for ascertaining the main name, and then be consistent even though the conventions will retain a certain degree of arbitrariness. Two principles are operative in determining the standard name – one is economy (i.e. minimize expense put into establishing standard names so find the most convenient names – such as Who’s who, biographical encyclopedias, any other reference resources, since such things are things that scholar’s are most likely to have access to), and one is the most likely name to be recognized by people coming into the resource. So in this sense its not a name as such, but rather a header since you have constructed it – you start with a name and then you build on it. For example with Western names you rotate – put surname first and then comma; so it is altered for certain purposes. Usually in the handbook you prioritize the reference resources so this, if it has the name, is the one that should be used as standard, and the rest are then alternative names. This has to be strictly followed, or you will have all sorts of variation.
  • Variant Orthography:
  • Primary Title:
  • Personal Name:
  • Birth names:
  • Nicknames:
  • Epithets:
  • Family Name:
  • First Ordination Name:
  • Secret Initiatory Name:
  • Bodhisattva Vow Name:
  • Final Ordination Name:
  • Reversal:
  • Sanskrit:
  • Grammatical:
  • Pen Name:
  • Chinese Name:
  • Corporate Name:
  • Unknown:
  • Title (mgo sa): for example incarnational titles, principal political posts, etc. This partially overlaps with “occupation”.
    • Treasure Finder (gter ston):
    • dmag spyi
    • phog dpon
    • sku srung sde dpon
    • rtsis phon
    • mkhan po
    • dge bshes

Occasion name given (ming ster ba'i skabs): These names should also be marked in terms of the date and occasion of when they were given. We will also need note fields in some cases to discuss details as to particular names as relevant.

  • Occasion type:
  • Tibetan date (bod tshes/):
  • International date (spyi tshes/):

Types (rigs)

Sentient being type (sems can rigs mi 'dra/): can be multiple and include subtypes (dbye ba/). If more than one level is given for an item, you don't have to beyond the first level.

  • human
    • historical/mythological
    • religious
      • monk
      • ngakpa (sngags pa)
    • scholar
    • politician
  • transcendent deity
    • Buddha
    • Bodhisattva
  • spirit
    • btsan
    • chos skyong
    • klu
    • yul lha

Gender (pho mo/):

  • male (mo)
  • female (pho)
  • neuter (ma ning)
  • unknown
  • not applicable

Ethnicity (mi rigs): for now just write out what you know, separating each level of ethnicity with a colon. Possibilities:

  • bod pa: khams
  • bod: dbus
  • bod: dbus: lha sa
  • bod: gtsang
  • bod:a mdo
  • bod: go logs
  • bod:mnga' ris
  • rgya nag:
  • rgya dkar:
  • bal yul:


  • dmag spyi
  • phog dpon
  • sku srung sde dpon
  • rtsis dpon
  • rtse phyag
  • bla phyag
  • sde dpon
  • mgron gnyer chen po
  • drung yig chen po
  • tshong spyi khyab
  • hor spyi khyab
  • sgar dpon
  • smar khams the ji
  • bsher dpang
  • zhol pa
  • mi dpon
  • sbrag spyi
  • 'bru spogs*
  • chibs dpon chen po
  • mkhan mgron*
  • bka' drung
  • rtsis pa
  • shing gnyer pa
  • rtsam sher pa*
  • rtswa gnyer pa
  • gzim 'gag pa
  • bka' shag zhol pa*
  • rdzong dpon
  • mkhan po
  • sbrag spyi las tshan pa
  • so nam do dam pa
  • gzhis sdod pa
  • mda' dpon
  • dga' ldan Khri
  • sde srid
  • sku bcar bla sman
  • dpon slob
  • da lai bla ma
  • spyi khyab mkhan po
  • yongs 'dzin of da lai bla ma
  • skyabs dbyings
  • srid skyong las tshab
  • rgyal po
  • bka' blon
  • bka' blon bla ma
  • bka' tshab

Birth and death ('khrungs 'das)

Birth International date ('khrungs dus/ _spyi 'o'i lo zla tshes grangs/):

Birth Tibetan date ('khrungs dus/ _spyi lo'i lo zla tshes grangs/):

Death date ('das dus/ _spyi 'o'i lo zla tshes grangs/):

Death date Tibetan ('khrungs dus/ _spyi lo'i lo zla tshes grangs/):

Places & Institutions (yul)

Birth place ('khrung yul/):

Death place ('das yul/):

Principal sphere(s) of activity (spyod yul/): places visited, dates.

Family (khyim tshang/)

Paternal clan (a pha'i rus pa'i ming/): use EAC for clans too and then refer to that Clan ID here.

Maternal clan (a ma'i rus pa'i ming/):

Related individuals:

Relationship type: EAC relations – this EAC entity is related to this EAC entity. You can carry that information in the EAC record, but the problem is that I have mom, dad and child. All related. So we have three relations but if you carry in each description you have 6 things being recorded, but are just reciprocals of each other. So you want to create a table out here that has the relationships and gives directionality – goes this way, that way or both ways (mother of daughter). You want XML but you also want a database out there. So you want to use XML and DB in conjunction with each other – some of information in each location. So you do a lookup in database – am I related to anything, do a lookup and find out that yes this record is related to this record and that record. So you have information on how it is related – mother of, son of, etc. Then you go to teach of those other records, pull out the information you need to display any record you pull ups, so not storing it there but pulling it up at the time of display.

  • Father (a pha)
  • Mother (a ma/)
  • Daugther
  • Son
  • Uncle
  • Sister
  • Brother
  • Aunt
  • Daughter
  • Cousin
  • Grandmother
  • Grandfather
  • Sister-In-Law
  • Brother-In-Law
  • Nephew
  • Niece
  • Granddaughter
  • Grandson
  • Wife
  • Husband
  • Younger Brother
  • Younger Sister
  • Older Sister
  • Maternal Uncle
  • Paternal Uncle
  • Paternal Aunt
  • Spouse
  • Consort
  • Other:________________

Name (ming/): if it looks like the person cited is a one timer, don’t make a EAC record for them and use the relationship feature. Instead put it in the narrative. So is there but you can’t click on record and pull up anything more about them, but that’s because there is nothing to know about them. If you later discover they are more important, you can establish them and do search on the name.

Birth date ('khrungs dus/):

Death date ('das dus/):



  • Main patron
  • Main teacher
  • Main disciple
  • Collaborator
  • Enemy: Conflicts – any enemies, associates, targets. We are often defined by enemies.
  • Deity: the main deities s/he has visions of, calls upon, practices.
  • Vision: visionary encounters with past individuals and deities, and visionary encounters with him by others including AFTER his death. This establishes a non-Western sense of agency where individuals are active agents after death.

Incarnational pedigree

This charts out his/her reincarnations, as relevant. If looking at multiple people with a shared incarnational line, you should draw up a separate list of the incarnational lines this can refer to:

  • Incarnation of
  • Incarnation (yang srid)

Past lives: Pema Ledrel Tsel (pad ma las ‘brel rtsal), others

Future lives: Pema Lingpa (pad ma gling pa), others

Emanations of: such as a saint being described as an emanation of Vimalamitra.

Education (slob sbyong)

Study institutions:

Teaching institutions:


Things studied (doctrines, ritual, literature): include dates and teachers.

Things taught (doctrines, ritual, literature): include dates and teachers.


Occupation: we need a typology of occupations.

  • Commercial:
  • Educational:
  • Government:
  • Religious:

Religious sectarian affilialtion (chos lugs): see our separate THL Tibetan religious sect typology for options.

Institutional base(s): this would specify, for instance, the name of a principle monastic seat, and so forth.

Summary of career activities:


Buildings, sponsored publications, etc.

Writings (rtsom yig)

Bibliographical references to his/her corpus, whether written, translated, edited, revealed, or otherwise. Include dates no matter what, even if you can only specify the date within a rough period.


This section involves a timeline of events in the person's life. One can use THL's event management system, or can simply follow the following format:

DD-MM-YYYYTibetan DateTitle of EventType of EventDescription of EventSource

Short summary of life

This should be no more than three lines and intended to be used for quick reference, search results and the like.

Biographical sketch

This is where we collect miscellaneous scholarly essays ranging from competing overviews of a given person’s entire life, to detailed discussions of a single issue. It also collects translations of relevant primary sources.


This is a repository for translations from single paragraphs to more lengthy passages. Each should refer to a proper bibliographical citation located in the "sources" section.


This is a place where photos, drawings, paintings and so forth of the person can be uploaded.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library