Digital Tibetan turns stylish with New Qomolangma fonts





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BEIJING  |   2016-01-08 14:13:38


Digital Tibetan

turns stylish with

new Qomolangma fonts


By Cheng Yunjie



With the release of the brand new Qomolangma Tibetan fonts

by the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), the iPhone

is no longer the only option for Tibetans who wish to have

a smartphone that can display their language. Tibetan-speaking

users can download the fonts from the Internet and personalize

their smartphones by choosing their favorite fonts from 17

typefaces. Previously, the only Tibetan words offered was Uchan,

the regular script.



With the release of the brand new Qomolangma Tibetan fonts by the China Tibetology Research Center (CTRC), the iPhone is no longer the only option for Tibetans who wish to have a smartphone that can display their language.

Tibetan-speaking users can download the fonts from the Internet and personalize their smartphones by choosing their favorite fonts from 17 typefaces. Previously, the only Tibetan words offered was Uchan, the regular script.

Norgye, director of the Information Center of the Minzu Publishing House, which released the new fonts in mid-November, said this technical advancement achieved by Tibetan researchers over the course of eight years has turned digital Tibetan stylish.





“It’s like having only one set of clothing for a long time. Suddenly, you can dress up and pick whatever you want from the closet for different occasions. Such change is very perceivable and exhilarating to end users,” said Norgye.

With the design of at least eight fonts based on the handwriting of famous Tibetan calligraphers, the Qomolangma fonts have also revealed the essence of Tibetan calligraphy.

Professor Lu Yajun with the Tibetology Institute of Northwest University for Nationalities called the breakthrough a difficult one, as the handwriting rules of Tibetan vary extensively.

For example, sometimes the stroke of one vowel can extend over several words and that was very difficult to create in digital media, he said.

“Compared to the previous, stiff Tibetan fonts available, the new Qomolangma fonts are more flexible. With stretched strokes, they often remind me of shadowboxing,” said Lu.

Having studied Tibetan culture for decades, Lu said he was very impressed by Tibetans’ passion for calligraphy. Traditionally, Tibetan children practice handwriting with a bamboo pen on a sand-covered plank to improve their writing skills before moving to paper. A Tibetan idiom even likens a good author with poor handwriting to a warrior with a broken arm.

To quench the public thirst for stylish Tibetan fonts in the digital world, CTRC launched the project in 2007 using government funds.

An expert panel was organized to decide the style of each font so that the Qomolangma fonts could meet the aesthetic preference of Tibetans in different regions, according to Tashi Tsering, a CTRC researcher who led the project.







 Tashi Tsering



Apart from being artistic, the new Qomolangma fonts also bear a strong historical flavor and can meet the different needs of publishing houses.

The most eye-catching and priceless fonts include the Qomolangma-Dunhuang, which is based on Tibetan works collected in the Dunhuang Grottoes in Gansu, the oldest Tibetan works on paper, the Qomolangma-Woodblock based on the scripture of Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, the Qomolangma-Edict based on ancient imperial edicts and historical documents and the Qomolangma-Horyig based on historical stamps and documents.

To Tashi Tsering’ s surprise, the Horyig font previously reserved for the seals of imperial families and prestigious living Buddhas has been particularly welcomed by users, as it allows publishing house to test the vertical layout for the first time while giving Tibetans a chance to have their own seals.

“Horyig fonts are not easy to recognize and are barely used now. Growing interest might revive the use of the dying font,” said Tashi Tsering.





When Tashi Tsering was studying at Tsinghua University in 1985, IBM had just began manufacturing personal computer.

“When I first saw Chinese characters pop up on the screen, I started to dream big. I wished one day Tibetan could also be typed and I thought I could be the one to stand out and give it a try,” he recalled.

In the following years, he studied computer technology at Tsinghua and used his spare time to study Tibetan at Minzu University of China.

After joining the CTRC upon graduation, Tashi Tsering devoted himself fully to the development of information technology concerning Tibetan language.

Over the past 30 years, he not only participated in the development of GB13000 and ISO 10646, the Chinese and international computer encoding standards for Tibetan, but also invented the Himalaya Tibetan font for Microsoft and compiled the Tibetan-Chinese-English Information Technology Dictionary.

Based on international encoding standards and OpenType technology, the New Qomolangma fonts adapt to the operation systems of Windows, Macintosh, Android and Linux, and thus are highly compatible with different computers and smartphones.

As previous fonts were developed according to self-defined coding standards, they would appear as gibberish on other operating systems, making Tibetan database construction very inefficient.

Professor Lu Yajun said more and more technicians realized the only way Tibetans could embrace information technology was to follow internationally recognized standards.

“The spread of the Qomolangma fonts will definitely speed up the process,” he said.

In the past few weeks, Tashi Tsering has received warm feedback from users, including mobile phone producers seeking authorization to pre-install a certain font into their products and publishing houses soliciting help in processing complicated Tibetan words.

Professor Dordram, vice president of Gansu Normal University of Nationalities in Hezuo, Gansu Province, said many Tibetans in pastoral and farming areas wish to use iPhones but cannot afford it.

“Now the situation is different, people could buy less expensive cellphones and install Tibetan fonts themselves. More Tibetans can benefit from digital technology,” said he.

To download the fonts for free, users can log on to A copybook of the Qomolangma fonts was also published by the China Tibetology Publishing House.






 * All photos on this webpage provided by Tashi Tsering
















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