Eminent Tibetan scholar Narkyid Ngawang Thondup passes away at 88

Narkyid Ngawang Thondup in a photo taken in McLeod Ganj, India, on 4 October 2013.

Narkyid Ngawang Thondup in a photo taken in McLeod Ganj, India, on 4 October 2013. File photo/Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

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ON THE WEB, 14 February 2017

Noted Tibetan politician, writer, and scholar Narkyid Ngawang Thondup passed away in Delhi on Monday evening after a short illness. He was 88.

Confirming the news, Narkyid’s younger brother Sonam Topgyal said that he had been suffering from pneumonia.

Narkyid served in the Lhasa government and was involved in the Tibetan Uprising at Norbulingka on 10 March 1959.

After coming into exile he held many positions in the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Private Office of the Dalai Lama, and Central Tibetan Administration. In later years he taught at universities in Japan and the US.

Between 1984 and 2004 Narkyid was the official biographer of the 14th Dalai Lama, and from 2005 onwards he was a consultant for Tibetan language and literature in the Private Office of the Dalai Lama.

Other noted accomplishments

Known as “Father of the Tibetan Typewriter”, in 1948 Narkyid developed a Remington Rand typewriter for typing Tibetan script at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamshala. The typewriter was finally manufactured in 1976 by Remington Rand in Kolkata, India.

In Tibet Narkyid was a student of the renowned Tibetan scholar Gedun Choephel. He wrote many books and articles on Tibetan language and culture, including one on Gedun Choephel’s theory of the origin of Tibetan writing.

He pursued advanced studies in Tibetan history, literature, and linguistics, and in Buddhist religion and philosophy, in Tibet, India, and the US.

A bio of Narkyid Ngawang Thondup

Narkyid was born in Tsethang, Central Tibet, on 17 January 1929.

From 1942 to 1948 Narkyid attended a school in Lhasa at the Potala College (Tsé Lobdra) and graduated. He was then appointed a member of the secretariat of the Tibetan Government.

Between 1952 and 1957, he studied at the Peking Minority School, where he also taught Tibetan, and participated in the Tibetan translation of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Between 1957 and 1958, he served as an elected member of the Governmental Committee for Reforms in Tibet.

He was involved in the Tibetan uprising on 10 March 1959 at Norbulingka in Lhasa, Tibet.

Later in 1959, he joined the Tibetan government in exile in India, and was appointed member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He worked on Chinese documents, and translated (with Taring Dzasak) the Universal Declaration of Human rights into Tibetan.

From 1960 he was secretary-general of the first Tibetan parliament in exile for two years, and then was secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for eight years.

During this period, he worked with Foreign Minister Liushar Thubten Tharpa and his assistant Rinchen Sandutsang on the Constitution of Tibet.

In 1971, he assisted Tsepon WD Shakabpa in the compilation of his book Political History of Tibet (in Tibetan).

From 1979 to 1980, he obtained an MA in Linguistics and Anthropology from the University of Western Michigan. Between 1976 and 1978, he attended intensive training in English. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from the same university.

Narkyid was also a professor at the University of Western Michigan, US, and at the University of Tokyo, Japan.

Opinion piece by Narkyid Ngawang Thondup on Tibet Sun: "Centenary of the Simla Agreement: What should we do?"
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