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The Palace Museum's research in Tibetan Buddhism began in the late 1980s, and, with many years of scholarly achievements, has drawn the attention of Chinese and international researchers. In the twenty-first century, research development has rapidly increased, and since 2005, the Palace Museum has been establishing cooperative efforts with many Chinese and overseas research institutions, which have participated in fieldwork, data collation, international conferences, and other projects. This laid the foundation for what has become the Institute of Tibetan Buddhist Heritage.
The institute was originally established in October of 2009 as a research center with offices located in the restored Hall of Rectitude (Zhongzheng dian) courtyard—a Qing dynasty Tibetan Buddhist shrine complex in the Forbidden City. The institute’s facilities include exhibition space, a resource library, and multipurpose room. Two exhibitions entitled "Tibetan Buddhist Relics in the Forbidden City" were held in 2011 and 2013 and received overwhelming praise from a range of experts. The institute has also amassed a large collection of resources on Tibetan Buddhist artifacts for convenient access and research by Chinese scholars.
In addition to enriching essential services, building cooperative efforts with Chinese and international organizations has been a crucial aspect of the center's development. Partners include the Capital Normal University Institute for Sino-Tibetan Art; Renmin University School of Chinese Classics; Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology; Center for Tibetan Studies at Sichuan University, Department of Archaeology; Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute; Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of California, Berkeley; École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris; National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan; and the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Furthermore, nineteen esteemed Chinese and international guest fellows participate in the institute's scholarly pursuits.
The institute has recently completed surveys of ruins with Buddhist art in northwest China with the Capital Normal University Institute for Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Art as well as data collection and research on murals at the Shalu Monastery (Xialu si, in Xigaze, Tibet). Cooperative programs also include a five-year survey of Tibetan Buddhism and ethnic cultural heritage in Sichuan's Tibetan areas with the Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute. The fourth (2009) and fifth (2012) "International Symposium on Tibetan Buddhist Archaeology and Art" were jointly organized with the Capital Normal University Institute for Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Art. In 2010, the Chinese translation of The Garland of Perfection Yoga (Jiujing yujia man) began with the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan.
Additionally, the center has received overwhelming support by foreign scholars and academic institutions. Swiss guest fellow Ulrich von Schroeder gifted the institute with a collection of his writings on Himalayan Buddhist art history. Tudeng Nima Rinpoche provided the Ancestral Legacy Series (Xianzhe yishu), Light of Wisdom and Compassion (Zhibei zhi guang), Collected Works of Kadampa (Gadang wenji), Collected Works of Buton Rinchen Drup (Budun wenji), and Collected Works of Jonang Taranatha (Juenang duoluonata wenji) for the collection. The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center—with the largest database of Tibetan literature—generously gave the institute two accounts to access their online materials and allowed texts to be downloaded and shared with scholars and research organizations in China.
The institute seeks to maintain an open scholarly atmosphere of mutual sharing, establish clear, long-term academic goals to advance the Palace Museum's cooperation and exchange with related Chinese and international organizations, train talented researchers, and rigorously elevate the level of independent scholarship and standing in the field.