Universiteit Leiden

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Berthe Jansen

University lecturer

Dr. B.K. Jansen
+31 71 527 2379

Berthe Jansen is Assistant Professor of Tibetan Studies at Leiden University. She has a PhD in Buddhist Studies from the same university. Jansen has wide academic interests but most have to do with the confluence of religion and society. Her monograph The Monastery Rules: Tibetan Monastic Organization in Pre-modern Tibet came out in 2018 with University of California Press. Jansen had a Dutch government grant (NWO) to research the relationship between Buddhism and law in pre-modern Tibet (2016-2022). She is now the PI of the ERC Starting Grant Project Locating Literature, Lived Religion, and Lives in the Himalayas: The Van Manen Collection (2023-2028). Jansen is also a translator and interpreter of (Buddhist) Tibetan and author of a children's book.

More information about Berthe Jansen

Fields of interest

Tibetan Studies
Buddhist Studies
Social History
Cultural History
Heritage and Museum Studies
Legal History


My current project offers an ambitious study of an important, yet mostly forgotten, collection of Himalayan texts and artifacts collected between 1920 and 1940. It will, for the first time, provide a view of the Van Manen collection through a study of its rare manuscripts, the material objects, undocumented marginal writings, and the unique Tibetan language autobiographies by ordinary Himalayan people commissioned by Van Manen. 
This collection, held in the Leiden University Library, contains a large number of Tibetan and Himalayan texts, collected by Johan van Manen who lived in India. After his death in 1943 a large part of his personal collection became housed at the university, totalling more than 1500 mostly Tibetan texts. He also collected Himalayan artifacts, now stored separately from the texts, in Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden. The texts and artifacts reflect the collector's interest in the lived religion and the lives of Himalayan people. 
The project's goal is the examination of the van Manen Collection as a whole using historical, ethnographic and philological methods, and by employing Digital Humanities methods through which the origins of the texts and artifacts can be traced, mapped, and be made available, linking them to other editions in online databases as well as to local Tibetan archives. 
The main aim is to get an understanding of the proliferation, usage, and presence of religious and ritual literature and artifacts in the greater Darjeeling area in the first half of the 20th century and, by extension, their religious milieus 1). Many of the texts are unica in Tibetan literature ¬– and as they are mostly unstudied, they merit a thorough examination 2). The broader question is how to 'read', and engage with, a multi-media collection curated by one single collector, and how to understand the 'collection formation' process 3). The project results will contribute to the analysis of multi-media collections of non-Western literature and material culture 4).

Grants and awards

• 2022: ERC Starting Grant (1500000 euros, five years)
• 2019: KNAW Early Career Research Award (15000 euros to spend on research, and an artwork)
• 2016: VENI grant, awarded by the NWO (Dutch Ministry for education and re-search) (249.000 over the course of four years)

Curriculum Vitae

• 2015 (Feb.): PhD title conferred Buddhist Studies at Leiden University
• 2010-2014: PhD candidate in the VICI project Buddhism and Social Justice (bud-dhismandsocialjustice.com)
• 2008-2010: MPhil (with distinction) in Tibetan and Himalayan Studies at Oxford University
• 2005-2008: BA in Languages and Cultures of India and Tibet at Leiden University (average grade equivalent to ‘distinction’)

Selected publications

• 2023: “A Preliminary Investigation into Monk-tax: grwa khral/ btsun khral/ ban khral and its Meanings.” In When the Taxman Cometh: Tax, Corvée and Community Ob-ligations in Tibetan Societies. Charles Ramble, Peter Schwieger and Alice Travers, eds. Leiden: Brill: 250-274. 
• 2022: “Buddhist Monastic Constitutional Law and State Constitutional Law: Mutu-al Influences?” In the Proceedings of the Buddhism and Constitutional Law workshop series, Ben Schonthal and Tom Ginsberg, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 124-140. 
• 2022: Tibetan Legal Geography: Situating Legal Texts, Situating Sacred Tibet. Re-vue d’Etudes Tibétaines 64: 265-289. (peer reviewed)
• 2021: “From Sacred commodity to Religio-economic Conundrum: Tracing the Ti-betan term dkor.” IATS 2019 proceedings. Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 57: 162-192.
• 2020: “Ambiguity, Abolishment, and the Abyss: Buddhists' Positions on the Death Sentence in Early Modern Tibet.” Journal of Buddhism, Law and Society 5: 59-87. (peer reviewed)
• 2020. "The Origins of Tibetan Law: Some Notes on Intertextuality and the Recep-tion History of Tibetan Legal Texts." Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines 55: 221–244. (peer reviewed)
• 2020. “Law and Order during the Lhasa Great Prayer Festival.” In: On a Day of a Month of the Fire Bird Year:  Festschrift for Peter Schwieger on the occasion of his 65th birthday. Jeannine Bischoff, Petra Maurer, and Charles Ramble, eds. Lumbini: Lumbini International Research Institute: 415-435.
• 2018. The Monastery Rules: Buddhist Monastic Organization in Pre-modern Tibet. Oak-land: California University Press. (monograph)

University lecturer

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS India en Tibet


  • Freelance tolkwerkzaamheden
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