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(For a treatment of these languages, see Altaic languages and Sino-Tibetan languages.) This article will deal with Tibetan and Mongolian literatures from their inception to the 20th century and with Turkic literature from its inception to the 11th centuries, when the Muslim invasion introduced a period of Islāmic culture.Subsequent Turkic literature and Central Asian literatures written in Arabic and Persian are treated in the article arts, Islāmic.Thus, once the literary language and the various types of script have been mastered, the reader has immediate access to all literature of the 7th to the 20th centuries, though changes in style and vocabulary have left many obscurities in the earliest works.Since there is no modern style of writing, the 20th-century colloquial language can be written only in the traditional medium (as though, for example, one had to write modern Italian with Latin spellings and grammatical forms); the Tibetans themselves compose even personal letters in a conventional literary style.(For literature in Chinese, see the article Chinese literature.) Turkish runes.” They relate in epic and forceful language the origins of the Turks, their golden age, their subjugation by the Chinese, and their liberation by Bilge Kagan.The polished style suggests considerable earlier development of the language.
The followers of the earliest Buddhist traditions to enter Tibet (the Rnying-ma-pa, or “Old Order”) also committed their teachings to writing; and, conversely, these are interspersed with pre-Buddhist traditions.
This work grew through the centuries, assimilating whatever material pleased the fancy of the bards.
After the craft of printing from incised wood blocks was introduced from China, possibly in the 14th century, certain monasteries became famous printing houses.
There are considerable collections in some European libraries—London, Paris, and Rome—but few translations are available, because of the small number of scholars of Tibet.
Despite the phonetic changes in the spoken dialects since the Tibetans have never changed their system of writing.