Tibetan Medicine among the Buddhist Dards of Ladakh.

Author:Van Beek, Martijn
Position:Book review
 
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Tibetan Medicine among the Buddhist Dards of Ladakh. By Stephan Kloos. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie and Buddhismuskunde, vol. 57. Vienna: ARBEITSKREIS FUR TIBETISCHE UND BUDDHISTISCHE STUDIEN UNIVERSITAT WIEN, 2004. Pp. 183, tables. [euro] 17.50.

Since 1974, when the Ladakh region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir again became accessible to foreign visitors, a large number of studies have been published on the history, society, and culture of the populations of the region. The overwhelming preponderance of scholarly interest has focused on the Buddhist communities of central Ladakh and, to a lesser extent, Zangskar. At least some of the selectivity of attention can be attributed to the fact that large parts of the region became accessible to foreign researchers only later, in the early 1990s. Indeed, most areas in proximity to the (disputed) borders with China and Pakistan remain off-limits except with rarely granted special permits.

Stephan Kloos' book is based on his MA thesis and four months of field research in 2001. The research included a total of thirty-eight days spent in the village of Hanu Gongma and a two-week trek following a practitioner of Tibetan medicine during collection of medicinal plants in the mountains of Zangskar. The research was conducted under the auspices of the NGO Nomad SRI, which had initiated a project aimed at strengthening indigenous medicine in Ladakh. The Buddhist communities of the Da-Harm region, according to Kloos, are the only ethnically non-Tibetan communities where the Tibetan system of medicine is practiced traditionally. The focus of the study is on documenting and assessing the social role of the am chi (em chi), the practitioner of Tibetan medicine, in the Hanu area, and how this is shaped by structural, regional, and local factors. The book contains a chapter outlining the history of am chi medicine in Hanu based largely on local memory, and provides a geneaology of the main lineages of practitioners, as well as short biographies of the am chi practicing at the time of the research. One of the final chapters describes the social role of the am chi in Hanu: as a rule, am chi are held in high esteem, as reflected by their high position at the head of the seating order, unless monks are present. Kloos shows how the social...

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