Turrell V. Wylie

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Terry Wylie
Turrell Wylie.png
Wylie circa 1950
Born Ellwyn Turrell Wylie
August 20, 1927
Durango, Colorado, United States
Died August 25, 1984 (aged 57)
Seattle, Washington, United States
Resting place Durango, Colorado
Nationality American
Other names Tashi Samphel /Tibetan= Bkra-shis bSam-'phel (In 1960, this name was given to him by The 14th Dalai Lama)
Education University of Washington (B.A., Ph.D.)

Turrell Verl "Terry" Wylie (August 20, 1927 – August 25, 1984) was an American scholar, Tibetologist, sinologist, and professor, known as one of the 20th century's leading scholars of Tibet. He was for many years professor of Tibetan Studies at the University of Washington and its first chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature. Wylie founded the Tibetan Studies program at the University of Washington, the first such program in the United States. His romanization system for rendering the Tibetan language, known as Wylie transliteration, is the main system used for transcribing Tibetan in academic and historical contexts.

Life and career[edit]

He was born in Durango, Colorado on August 20, 1927 as Ellwyn Turrell Wylie.[1]

He attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate student, where he graduated with a B.A. degree.[2] Wylie then continued on at Washington as a graduate student, receiving a Ph.D. in Chinese in 1958 with a dissertation entitled "The Geography of Tibet According to the 'Dzam-gling-rgyas-bshad".

In 1960, following the People's Liberation Army takeover of Tibet, Wylie invited Sakya Dagchen Rinpoche, one of the main hierarchs of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, along with his family and his tutor, the Tibetan lama and scholar, and wife's uncle Dezhung Rinpoche, to Seattle where they settled.

Amongst students of Tibetan, Wylie is best known for the system of Tibetan transliteration described in his article A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription (1959). This has subsequently become the almost universally adopted scheme for accurately representing the orthography of Tibetan in the Latin script, and is commonly known as Wylie transliteration.

Wylie died of cancer on August 25, 1984 in Seattle, Washington. Upon his death, the 14th Dalai Lama remarked, "Dr. Wylie's strong and genuine feelings for the Tibetan people and their just cause will long remain deeply appreciated. In the death of Dr. Wylie we have lost a true friend and a distinguished scholar of Tibetan studies."[3]At the memorial service on 9 October 1984, Jigmie Yuthok speaking on behalf of the Seattle Tibetan Community said, "As a scholar in the truest sense of the word, whose life-long research in the histories of Tibet and China led him to discern fact from fiction, he stood up for the truth of Tibet's independent status and spoke out at every opportunity even in the face of overwhelming opposition from numerous vested interest groups. He was not the one to compromise anything for the Truth. To the Tibetans here in particular, he was a great teacher, a mentor, a patron, and an affectionate brother whose kindness and generosity had nurtured the first batch of Tibetans that he brought to Seattle in 1960 to grow into a thriving little community it is today."[4]

Publications (selection)[edit]


  • (1950) A Tibetan religious geography of Nepal (Serie Orientale Roma XLII), Rome, Istituto per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente
  • Tibetan Vowels
    (1957) A Place Name Index to George N. Roerich's translation of the Blue Annals (Serie Orientale Roma XV), Rome, Istituto per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente
  • (1975) Tibet’s role in Inner Asia. Bloomington, Ind., Indiana University, Asian Studies Research Institute


  • (1959) A Standard System of Tibetan Transcription. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Vol. 22) p. 261-267
  • Added image of Tibetan consonants
    (1959) Dating the Tibetan Geography 'Dzam-gling-rgyas-bshad through its description of the western hemisphere. Central Asiatic Journal (vol. IV-4), p. 300-311
  • The Tibetan Tradition of Geography. Bulletin of Tibetology, p. 17-26


  1. ^ Social Security Application
  2. ^ Miller (1986), p. 150.
  3. ^ Reflections on Tibetan Culture: Essays in Memory of Turrell V. Wylie. ed. Lawrence Epstein & Richard F. Sherburne. Edwin Mellen Pr: 1990 ISBN 0-88946-064-7 pg x
  4. ^ Miller, Roy Andrew (May 1985). "Asian Languages and Literature Newsletter" (PDF). University of Washington. pp. 5–7. Retrieved 25 April 2017. 
Works cited
  • Miller, Roy Andrew (1986). "Turrell V. Wylie (1927-1984)". Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. 9 (1): 150–155. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 

External links[edit]