Tibetan fonts#

Tibetan fonts are difficult to produce due to the unlimited number of possible glyphs. While there are only a well defined set of ‘standard’ Tibetan syllables, there exists many extensions because of Sanskrit transliterations (e.g. mantras), Chinese transliterations, and Dzongkha shortcuts. Due to all of those extensions, it is virtually impossible to generate a ‘complete’ Tibetan font by providing all possible glyphs.

Microsoft had develop a system that could dynamically render new glyph variants, but the resulting Himalaya font doesn’t work on non-Windows platforms and lacks the esthetics of preconceived glyphs.

So Tibetan fonts either look artificial or are incomplete…

For more information about the history and development of the Tibetan scripts, see History of Tibetan script.

Using fonts with an open license is important#

If you are working on Tibetan projects that involve Sanskrit stacks (mantras), Chinese transliterations or Dzongkha shortcuts, then there will be the situation that a given font doesn’t correctly render a stack that is needed. In such a situation, it is possible to extend a given font by providing additional glyphs for such a special case. See Tibetan font creation for details.

If the font you are using is not under a free license, then you won’t be able to distribute any changes that you have made to a font to add needed glyphs.

Recommendation#

The Noto and Babelstone families of fonts are currently under activate development, so updates, improvements and bug-fixes are more likely.

Overview of freely available Unicode Tibetan fonts#

The following list contains a number of fonts with good coverage of the most common glyphs and open licenses.

Font name

Sample

Glyphs

Comment

Tibetan Machine Uni

Tibetan Machine Uni

5110

Version 1.901 2007 (beta for v 2.00), one of the first Unicode fonts

DDC Uchen

DDC Uchen

3193

Version 1.000 preliminary, Chris Fynn’s font

Jomolhari

Jomolhari

3333

Version 1.000, Chris Fynn’s font

Babelstone Tibetan

Babelstone Tibetan

4019

Version 10.008 April 21, 2022, extended version of Jomolhari

Babelstone Tibetan Slim

Babelstone Tibetan Slim

4019

Version 10.008 April 21, 2022, extended version of Jomolhari, slim

Noto Serif Tibetan

Noto Serif Tibetan

1891

Google’s Noto font, with many different weights. Linked Release version 2.001 (2022) has bugs, see comment1 for a solution.

Noto Sans Tibetan

Noto Sans Tibetan

1296

Subset based on outdated version of Google’s Serif Tibetan, do not use.

Text samples2#

Longer text samples, created with Scribus.

Samples

Tibetan Machine Uni

DDC Uchen

Jomolhari

Babelstone Tibetan

Noto Serif Tibetan

Qomolangma Tibetan Unicode Fonts#

These fonts are free for non-commercial use only.

Download the Qomolangma collection here. (at Yalasoo font page)

Uchen fonts#

Font name

Sample

Glyphs

Comment

Qomolangma-Subtitle

Qomolangma-Subtitle

1561

Version 1.00, 2013, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Title

Qomolangma-Title

1561

Version 1.00, 2013, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Uchen Sarchen

Qomolangma-Uchen Sarchen

1563

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Uchen Sarchung

Qomolangma-Uchen Sarchung

1563

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Uchen Suring

Qomolangma-Uchen Suring

1564

Version 2.00, 2009, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Uchen Sutung

Qomolangma-Uchen Sutung

1477

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Artistic variations#

Font name

Sample

Glyphs

Comment

Qomolangma-Art

Qomolangma-Art

1562

Version 1.00 June 18, 2014, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Dunhang

Qomolangma-Dunhang

1562

Version 1.00, 2015, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Woodblock

Qomolangma-Woodblock

1561

Version 2.00, 2014, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Cursive variants#

See Tibetan calligraphy.

Font name

Sample

Glyphs

Comment

Qomolangma-Betsu

Qomolangma-Betsu

1404

dbu med script (Umê) used for scriptures. Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Drutsa

Qomolangma-Drutsa

1415

dbu med script (Umê) used for documents. Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Chuyig

Qomolangma-Chuyig

1655

Version 2.00, 2009, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Tsumachu

Qomolangma-Tsumachu

1526

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Tsutong

Qomolangma-Tsutong

1562

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Edict

Qomolangma-Edict

1562

Version 1.00, 2013, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Qomolangma-Tsuring

Qomolangma-Tsuring

1562

Version 2.00, 2008, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab

Mongolian, 'phags-pa (Tibetan variant)#

Qomolangma-horyig

../_images/Font_Qomolangma_Horyig.jpg

Qomolangma-horyig

A vertical 'phags pa script that uses Tibetan letters. 1562 glyphs. Version 1.00, 2013, China Tibetology Research Center, Tashi Tsering and Wangdra Gyab
Note: this font encodes 'phags pa incorrectly on the Unicode-pages of Tibetan (0x0f00), whereas 'phags pa has it’s own Unicode page at 0xA840. Due to the use of the Tibetan page, horyig must be manually turned 90°.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/35/Liu_Yigong_1324.jpg
A 'phags pa inscriptions on an Italian tombstone of the 14th century.34

See also: 'Phags-pa Wikipedia

OS-specific fonts#

Remarks and History#

For more information about the history and development of the Tibetan scripts, see History of Tibetan script.

Chris Fynn was one of the first Unicode font pioneers. His fonts Jomolhari and DDC Uchen, available with free Open SIL licenses, where the basis of many developments.

The Babelstone Project by Andrew West has continued the work on Jomolhari and updated the font to newer Unicode standards and extended the glyph coverage.

The Tibetan & Himalayan Library at Virginia University had bought the rights on the proprietary Tibetan Machine font with help of the Trace Foundation and made it freely available as one of the first Unicode fonts.

Google’s Noto font family provides Tibetan support and free support for virtually every language on earth for a large number of platforms.

The Qomolangma font project at Yalasoo, created with support by the Central Tibetan Relief Committee, CTRC.

Pre-Unicode fonts#

Old digital Tibetan files often use ancient pre-Unicode fonts. The following list contains the most frequent types. All of those fonts use their own proprietary encoding, check Conversion of old Tibetan text for information on how to convert old documents to modern Unicode.

  • TibetanMachine (free download: pktc.org) and TibetanCaligraphic, TibetanClassic, DzongkhaCaligraphic (commercial fonts: www.pktc.org)

  • TibetanMachineWeb (free download: www.pktc.org)

  • Tibetan Modern A (free download: virginia.edu.)

  • Robillard (Ltibetan, etc) (free download: UDP website).

  • Sambhota including Dedris, Eedris, Esama/b/c, Sama/b/c, Samw (was a free download if only used to view ACIP documents, otherwise commercial license required, see updated at: nitartha.net.)

  • TIBETBT (free download via THDL

  • fonts derived from the “P.R.C. National Standard for Tibetan (Extension A)” (aka “Set A”). For a documentation see Chris Fynn’s website: Tibetan Extension A. Chris Fynn’s Jomolhari supports this standard.

  • TCRC Bod-Yig, TCRC Youtsoweb, TCRC Youtso (free download: www.tchrd.org

External sources#


1

Current (2022-06) release-version of Noto Serif Tibetan, version 2.001, renders the glyph དྡྷི incorrectly. A fix is available at noto development repository. See discussion at bug report.

2

Sample text by Nāgārjuna taken from Lotsawa House

3

(Jesus on the Silk Road by Dale A. Johnson p.73)

4

Mongol elements in Western medieval art