“A distant view of a snowy range…has a strange power of moving all poets and persons of imagination,” wrote Douglas Freshfield in his 1903 memoir, Round Kangchenjunga. The British mountaineer was describing his vision of the 8586-meter Mt. Kangchenjunga from the hill-station of Darjeeling. Kangchenjunga is the third highest mountain in the world and has..
This paper explores how practices of healing or information about medicine operate in the Gesar epic. I begin with a discussion of a few relevant examples from commonly known Gesar episodes, proposing that beyond being of significant interest in themselves, these stories may be rich sources for questioning how the category of ‘medicine’ may be..
A digital project with a collection of essays, art historical resources, textual databases, mapping, and architectural modeling, this website is a pilot project for an approach to visualizing the movement of people and things around culturally significant places. It is the product of a phase of research by a group of scholars, architects, and web..
2014. གླིང་སྒྲུང་ལས་བྱིང་བའི་བོད་པའི་གསོ་རིག་སྐོར་གླེང་པ། Gling sgrung las byung ba’i bod pa’i gso rig skor gleng pa (Tibetan Medicine in the Gesar Epic), published by Qinghai Nationalities University Gesar Research Institute Press (China) in 2014. Chopa Dondrup is primary editor; I am collaborator and producer. 226 pages plus 2 DVDs.
This essay addresses the transmission of medical knowledge in Tibet spanning a period of roughly six hundred years. I begin with an overview of several of the major traditions of Tibetan medicine during this period, emphasizing both how intertwined they are with each other and how connected they are to contemporaneous Buddhist traditions. I then..
This film documents a Buddhist ritual practice conducted in the home of the filmmaker’s family in an Eastern Tibetan region of China. The practice involves creating elaborate decorated sculptures out of dough, which are known in Tibetan as torma. In this film, these are offered as food for non-human spirits who may otherwise harm people or animals of the household. Enticing harmful spirits away from the house, monks and lay participants work together to create good fortune for the family in the coming year.
In this film, Buddhist monks prepare for a ritual in which they ask a deity for luck and prosperity. The ritual is performed in the filmmaker’s village in Eastern Tibet. The film offers a rare study of one of the most important tasks in preparing a Tibetan ritual, the making of torma, elaborate sculptures made from dough and decorated with colored butter. Depicting a variety of kinds of torma, from those that are used to expel harmful spirits to those that are made to be homes for deities, the film shows the integration of these objects into a family’s life.
This film documents traditional food collection, production and consumption practices in the filmmaker’s remote Tibetan village.
This essay proposes that many Tibetan rituals are shaped by a language of creating, giving and eating food. Drawing on a range of pre-modern texts and observation of a week-long Accomplishing Medicine (sman sgrub) ritual based on those texts, we explore ritualized food interactions from a narrative perspective. Through the creation, offering, and consumption of food, ritual participants, including Buddhas, deities and other unseen beings, create and maintain variant identities and relationships with each other. Using a ritual tradition that crosses religious and medical domains in Tibet, we examine how food and eating honors, constructs and maintains an appropriate and spatio-temporally situated community order with a gastronomic contract familiar to all participants.
This essay considers the relationship between eating and maintaining health or curing illness, as seen in Tibetan pre-modern texts. In particular, it focuses on selected “ritually” enhanced food practices that are aimed at treating illness and improving one’s psycho-physical health and power. It begins with a look at practices that model hunger as an illness for both humans and non-humans, observing a resulting blurring of boundaries between food and medicine. The essay proposes continuity along a range of “culinary” practices, focusing in particular on “ritual cake” (gtor ma) offerings and “nectar” (bdud rtsi) recipes involving creation of pills and healing foods. The essay posits a “culinary aesthetics” of healing and personal enhancement and introduces speculation about Tibetan understandings of food as medicine that may shape our understanding of the relationship between medical and religious thinking and practice in Tibet.