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Card Game for Tibetan language invented at HCTS

May 27, 2019

Helen Koch, student of the course Colloquial Tibetan, taught at the HCTS by Dr. Camille Simon, invented the card game “The lineage of Thönmi”. The innovative and playful approach towards language learning will be one of the many highlights at the Tibetan Culture Day that will take place on June 1, 2019.

Since 2010, the HCTS Professorship for Buddhist Studies has offered courses of both classical and colloquial Tibetan in equal measure every semester. The teaching was first made possible under the auspices of the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe”, which funded a fulltime lecturer position in Tibetan language. The positione is now, at the HCTS, filled by Dr. Camille Simon, who specializes on Tibetan linguistics and language contacts. Within the classroom, Dr. Simon not only initiates students from across the university into a distant world of Tibetan language and culture, but also encourages them to engage with the tradition in creative ways.

It is in such an inspiring atmosphere that a new invention has come into being. Helen Koch, a master student of Anthropology, designed a card game to learn and have fun with Tibetan letters. This game, named "The lineage of Thönmi", was tested and used in the Colloquial Tibetan class in the winter semester 2018/19. The name of the game goes back to the legendary inventor of the Tibetan alphabet. According to the Tibetan tradition, Thönmi Sambotha was active in the middle of the 7th century AD. During the rise of the Tibetan empire, he was sent to India by the Tibetan emperor (tsenpo), together with six companions, in order to create a writing system for the Tibetan language. After seven long years and a perilous return journey, Thönmi Sambotha invented the Tibetan alphabet, allegedly in the Phabonka monastery.

The card game will be officially released on the upcoming Tibetan Culture Day on June 1, which will begin with an introduction to this and other, more traditional, Tibetan games. Everybody interested in the card game is cordially invited to join the various events of the Tibetan Culture Day, including talks, games, food tasting, and movie screening.


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