No other compound in Tibetan medical pharmacology seems to be as fascinating, controversial, and enigmatic as tsotel (btso thal, lit. 'cooked ash'), the processed mercury sulphide ash that provides the base material of many of the popular Tibetan 'precious pills' (rin chen ril bu). The compound contains--apart from numerous herbs and other ingredients--eight metals and eight rock components. Tsotel practices, which can be traced back to the thirteenth century in Tibet, are considered the pinnacle of Tibetan pharmacology. The commercial value of tsotel gives it a strong economic and social life of its own. This paper analyses the social life of tsotel from an anthropological perspective and sketches key aspects of tsotel's biography, which in one way or the other are linked to medical, political, and religious perceptions of mercury: tsotel events with their political and institutional agendas; the value of tsotel as a medical, religious, and political commodity; safety and toxicity debates; and tsotel's religious and political efficacy. I argue that the social life of tsotel is increasingly linked to perceptions of toxicity and safety because of its chief ingredient, mercury, being contested in a globalised arena of tightened international regulations as well as the recent attention given to heavy metal toxicity issues in Asian medicines. Also, several fundamental misconceptions of the substance of mercury itself, its processed form of mercury sulphide, and of the contamination of herbal ingredients with heavy metals will be highlighted. Examples are based on ethnographic fieldwork with Tibetan medical practitioners and pharmacologists in India and Nepal.
This chapter sets out two arguments. My argument in relation to the ﬁ rst issue is that while there are subtle aspects in Tibetan medical concepts of the body, we need to be careful in talking about a separate entity of a ‘subtle body’ as such. My second argument is more preliminary in nature and suggests that Tibetan medical ‘circulatory systems’ or ‘circulatory channels’ do not necessarily move in circulation in the Western sense of the term, and therefore such terms, both in themselves or as translations of Tibetan medical terms, should be used more cautiously.
The article reviews the book "Tibetan Medicine in the Contemporary World: Global Politics of Medical Knowledge and Practice," edited by Laurent Pordié.
Tibetan precious pills are frequently attributed with a variety of efficacies, from “magical” powers, prevention of poisoning and infectious diseases, protection from harmful spirits and exposure to diseases while travelling, to rejuvenating and
Tibetan medicine 1 is part of the medical syncretism found among communities living in the Darjeeling Hills, an area nestling the foothills of the Indian Himalayas of West Bengal. The multi-ethnic societies, comprised of people who have mostly migrated to this region since British colonial times, present an eclectic mix of the neighbouring societies of Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet, and lowland Bengal. This paper presents ethnographic examples from my doctoral fieldwork (2004–2006), carried out in the two major urban centres of the Hills, Kalimpong (altitude 4,200 ft.) and Darjeeling (altitude 7,000 ft.). In the course of this paper I analyse how Tibetans make their treatment choices between varieties of available healing modalities. How do they go about finding the suitable medical and/or ritual practitioner to treat their illness within the array of pluralistic medical practices available in the Hills? The ethnographic examples show that Tibetans freely choose between biomedicine, 3 Tibetan 1 By 'Tibetan medicine' here I mean the institutionalised versions of the otherwise largely heterogeneous body of Tibetan medical knowledge practised at the Men-Tsee-Khang and Chakpori medical clinics in India.
This thesis explores Tibetan ideas regarding the life-span and the various life-forces that influence longevity. It presents a substantial body of ethnographic data from seventeen months of fieldwork among Tibetans in the Darjeeiing Hills, West Bengal, India (between June, 2004 and May, 2006), an area where I lived for long periods of time since 1992. The thesis supplements this ethnographic material with translations from two Tibetan medical texts (twelfth and seventeenth century CE) and a selection of astrological tables and divinatory texts that are used by Tibetans in this region today.
Comprehensive survey of the music of ethnic Tibetans, together with briefer accounts of smaller groups of the Xizang Zizhiqu/Tibet Autonomous region: Monpa, Lhoba, and Sherpa. Tibetan terminology is given in Hanyu Pinyin; a glossary matches terms to their equivalents in common-use and Wylie transcriptions of Tibetan.
The article focuses on a research visit to the Traditional Mongolian Centre of Liver Diseases (TMCLD) in Ulaanbaatar in September 2000 and covers the history and current practice of the TMCLD and the place of spiritual healing and pharmacology in Mongolian medicine. The author, a medical anthropologist, analyzes the innovations and changes that traditional Mongolian medicine has undergone over the past 10 years. The center's interrelationships with tradition and modernity, played out on the stage of medical health care, seemed unique compared to other healing traditions, the author had come across in Asia.
Gerke, B. 2012 (2013). 'Treating the Aged' and 'Maintaining Health': Locating bcud len practices in the Four Medical Tantras. JIABS Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 35 (1-2):329-362.
Bcud len (pronounced chulen) or 'essence extraction' practices have been described in classical Tibetan medical and religious texts as an element of rejuvenation therapies and preventive anti-ageing methods. These practices include the ingestion of bcud len pills taken as a dietary supplement or as a substitute for food during meditation and fasting retreats. This paper discusses how ideas of bcud len are interpreted by Men-Tsee-Khang-trained Tibetan doctors in India as 'health tonics' and 'dietary supplements.' What underlies contemporary Tibetan medical ideas of an 'essence extraction' in relation to Tibetan rejuvenation therapies and pharmacological manufacturing practices of such 'tonics'? I argue that not all bcud len are 'essence extractions' and that what constitutes an 'essence' receives various interpretations by contemporary Tibetan doctors. Ethnographic examples presented are based on postdoctoral fieldwork in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India (2009-2010).