Tibetan Calligraphy

Tibetan is one of the oldest Sino-Tibetan languages to be recorded, with tibetan inscriptions dating from the 7th-8th centuries, with the origins of the script being a bit obscure due to Tibetan Buddists saying it was created in Northeastern India, whereas the Bon Po religious tradition says that it came from Iranian or Central Asian origins. However, no matter how it came into Tibet, the script’s structure clearly suggests that its ultimate ancestor is the Brahmi script of India

The term Tibetan Calligraphy refers to the Calligraphy traditions used to write the language, and as in other cultures Nobles, High Lamas and people of high rank were expected to have a high level of Calligraphic abilities

The Tibetan alphabet has two forms the printed form known as Uchen script and the cursive hand form known as Umeh  script, with the script being written using a reed pen instead of a brush, with an Eastern Asian influence being visibly apparent. With the calligraphy form being more free flowing, and given the religious nature of the Tibetan culture many of the traditions are taken from religious texts due to most scribes having a monastic background.


This script has heavy horizontal lines with tapering vertical lines and is the most common form used in writing the Tibetan alphabet, due to its exceptional clarity it also appears in printed form.



When handwritten it is the most basic form and must be mastered before moving on to other styles


High Uchen

High Uchen is an honorific script style originating in the 15th-16th century in central Tibet. This script form was mostly used for illuminated title pages of manuscripts. It has a particular refined elegance that sets it apart from the regular classical Uchen style of calligraphy.






This script is more cursive and can be seen in day to day use. The main difference between Umeh and Uchen is that there are no horizontal lines on top of the letters.


Tsugring Umeh Script variation


Tsugring translates as ‘long limb’ this describes the long slender height of this script style. As most Tibetan script styles, except for Uchen, Tsugring belongs to the ‘headless’ class of styles called Umeh.


Tsugtung Umeh Script variation



Tsugtung is similar to Tsugring in style with the main difference being that the letter height is shortend.


Tsugmakhug Umeh Script variation



This is sub script style that sits between Tsugtung and Khyug variations. It is less formal in appearance, with a more rounded letter form and shorter vowel signs.


Khyug Umeh script variation



Khyug is known as the quick writing style, used for swiftness needed for normal handwriting. Its cursive form with vowel signs that stand up freely yet joined up to the main body of text, means that a separation of a different colour is not easily possible.


How to write theTibetan Alphabet