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China and India File Rival Claims Over Tibetan Medicine

Discussion in 'Education & Research' started by sangos, Jul 27, 2017.

  1. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    • Tibet in 1950. India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1959. Three years later, the two countries fought a border war. Now they are in a standoffover an area disputed by China and Bhutan, the Himalayan kingdom whose claim is supported by India.

      The two countries’ latest struggle is over which one will be able to formally tie the ancient practice of Tibetan medicine to its national patrimony. The prize: international cachet and the possibility of significant commercial rewards.

      In March, China filed paperwork asking the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to recognize medicinal bathing, one of many practices of sowa rigpa, the Tibetan name for this type of medicine, as part of its “intangible cultural heritage.” Unesco’s website indicates that the request will be considered next year. India filed its own bid — for the entire sowa rigpa tradition — around the same time.

      “If China is applying, of course India can also apply,” said Geshe Ngawang Samten, the vice chancellor of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India. “This is Indian culture as well.”

      Tibetans who live in exile and Western anthropologists who study Tibetan medicine said that it was difficult to predict what tangible effects Unesco recognition might have on the field.
      Recognition could be beneficial, they said, if it led to greater access to medical care for rural Tibetans, recruitment of more Tibetan medical practitioners for high-level advisory roles or laws to regulate the production of pharmaceuticals.

    The worry, however, is that Unesco recognition could lift the industry’s commercial development without addressing some of its underlying problems, such as the watering-down of traditional medicinal formulas and the over-harvesting of medicinal ingredients in the wild.

    The founding text of Tibetan medicine is “for the whole world to enjoy,” said Tashi Tsering Phuri, the director of the Tibetan Medical and Astro-Science Institute in Dharamsala, the Indian city that serves as the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and the residence of the Dalai Lama. “It should not be a bone of contention between two big nations.”

    Sowa rigpa is practiced in China, India and neighboring countries including Bhutan, Mongolia and Nepal. The name is often translated into English as “the science of healing,” and the present form of the discipline’s founding text, “The Four Tantras,” is attributed by many Western scholars to a 12th-century Tibetan physician, with antecedents stretching to the eighth century or earlier.

    Photo
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    The Dalai Lama at a celebration for the Tibetan Medical and Astro-Science Institute in Dharamsala, India, in 2016. CreditTsering Topgyal/Associated Press
    As late as the early 1990s, there was no discernible competition between China and India to claim Tibetan medicine as cultural patrimony, Western scholars say. But about 20 years ago, they say, people began to recognize its potential commercial value.

    Stephan Kloos, a medical anthropologist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, said his preliminary calculations suggested that the industry’s value could be approaching $1 billion. Even non-Tibetans in India were beginning to see sowa rigpa as a business opportunity, he said.

    But this same economic potential concerns experts who say the industry, which has traditionally relied on the gathering of wild plants and animals in mountainous areas, is not really built for large economies of scale.

    Sienna Radha Craig, an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College and an expert on Tibetan medicine, said one possibility was that Unesco recognition could stimulate the industry’s growth without the proper environmental safeguards. In India, China and Nepal, the effort to expand the industry far outstrips “serious cultivation and conservation,” Ms. Craig said, adding, “At a certain point that becomes completely untenable.”

    In 2010, India officially recognized sowa rigpa as an Indian medicinal system. India notes on a government website that while “there are various schools of thought about the origin of this medical tradition,” most of its theory and practice is similar to that of ayurveda, an Indian tradition that India says first came to Tibet in the third century.

    Western scholars say there are clear historical links between ayurvedic and Tibetan medical traditions. But India’s recent application for Unesco recognition prompted ripostes from Chinese experts.


    In April, the state-run newspaper Global Times quoted Qin Yongzhang, an ethnologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying, “The truth is that Tibetan medicine not only originated but has developed in China.”

    China’s recent Unesco application said that Tibetan hot-spring and herbal-bath therapies — known as lum medicinal bathing — were “developed by the Tibetan people” and are popular across much of western China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region.

    A Unesco designation would raise awareness of the bathing tradition “among the Chinese population, while encouraging dialogue on health and respect for nature among different ethnic groups,” the application said.

    Photo
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    Traditional Tibetan herbal medicine being packed at a clinic in Dharamsala to be sent to patients by courier.CreditPrakash Singh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
    Robert Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, said that because China “forcibly” owned most of the Tibetan Plateau, an area that he said had many mineral springs, its Unesco application made some sense.

    “But to claim that somehow China has been the origin of the tradition is, frankly, just silly,” Mr. Thurman wrote in an email.

    A woman who answered the phone at the office of China’s Unesco commission, who would not give her name, said that the government was working on its Unesco paperwork and that all related information was confidential.

    Unesco said it could not comment on files it was processing. A spokesman in Bangkok, Noel Boivin, said in an email that the agency encouraged multinational intangible cultural heritage nominations.

    In interviews, two prominent Tibetans took a mixed view of the Unesco process and said Tibetans had no easy options to safeguard their cultural heritage.

    Of China’s Unesco bid, Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer who lives in Beijing, said it was “a shame to see that Tibetan people are once again represented without our consent.”

    However, she said, “if you do not take advantage of funds and opportunities, Tibetan medicine, together with much of traditional Tibetan culture, will gradually disappear.”

    Dr. Tashi Rabten, a Tibetan physician in Nyack, N.Y., said that the overall effect could be positive, regardless of which country filed the application, but only if the Unesco designation clearly recognized that the tradition belonged to Tibetans — and no one else.

    Mr. Kloos, the medical anthropologist in Vienna, said that countries where sowa rigpa was practiced should work together if their goal was to have it recognized internationally.

    “But politics creep in,” he said, “even though it should really only be about medical considerations.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/world/asia/unesco-tibetan-medicine-india-china.html


     
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  2. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    How, far from Doklam, a second India-China battle of claims is on — over Tibet’s medicine
    In April this year, The Indian Express reported that India had sent Sowa-Rigpa, the Tibetan system of medicine, as its official entry for UNESCO’s prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The problem was Beijing, too, had sent a similar entry, claiming Sowa-Rigpa as its own.


    [​IMG]Commonly known as the Amchi system of medicine, it is believed to have originated in the 3rd century BC, and is one of the world’s oldest and best documented medical traditions. (Representational image)

    As Indian and Chinese troops face off at Doklam on the edge of the Tibetan plateau, their countries are locked in another, lesser known but longer running, argument — this too involves Tibet, but is playing out in a theatre far away.

    In April this year, The Indian Express reported that India had sent Sowa-Rigpa, the Tibetan system of medicine, as its official entry for UNESCO’s prestigious Intangible Cultural Heritage list. The problem was Beijing, too, had sent a similar entry, claiming Sowa-Rigpa as its own.

    Chinese experts attacked India for staking claim to the legacy of ancient Tibetan medicine. “The Tibetan medicine system originated in Tibet and has developed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in northwest and southwest China,” Qin Yongzhang, an ethnologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, was quoted as saying by the state-run Global Times.

    The Indian entry, titled “Sowa-Rigpa, knowledge of healing or science of healing”, was submitted in March. The Chinese dossier, “Lum medicinal bathing of Sowa Rigpa, knowledge and practices concerning life, health and illness prevention and treatment among the Tibetan people in China”, had been submitted a few years earlier.

    Both entries will come up for consideration in the UNESCO list in 2018.

    Qin said India had nominated Sowa-Rigpa to enhance its soft power, gain confidence and benefit financially, but “the truth is that Tibetan medicine not only originated but has developed in China”. Tibetans in exile in India may help in the practice and spread of Sowa-Rigpa, and claim that it has been developed in India, Qin was quoted as saying.

    In its defence, the Ministry of Culture has said India had been preparing the nomination dossier for Sowa-Rigpa “for many years”. Top levels of government had got involved in the attempt to speed up India’s bid ahead of the 2018 session of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, sources said.

    So, what is Sowa-Rigpa?

    Commonly known as the Amchi system of medicine, it is believed to have originated in the 3rd century BC, and is one of the world’s oldest and best documented medical traditions. The heart of the tradition is in Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, but it is also practised in Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Darjeeling, Lahaul & Spiti and Ladakh. Outside India, Sowa-Rigpa is practised in Tibet, Mongolia, Bhutan, parts of China, and Nepal.

    [​IMG]The Indian entry is supported by a detailed letter of recommendation written by Geshe Ngawang Samten, vice-chancellor of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath near Varanasi. “Even though Sowa-Rigpa originated in Tibet, it is a part of the Indian culture since it is being practised here for more than a millennium,” Prof Samten has written. “Also, it has a lot of influences of Ayurveda.”

    China’s dossier, Samten says, apparently calls Sowa Rigpa a “Tibetan-Chinese” medical system. “There is no nomenclature as ‘Tibetan-Chinese’, either it’s Tibetan or it’s Chinese,” he adds. The original Tibetan Institute of Sowa-Rigpa is in Lhasa, Tibet; the government-in-exile “reopened” it in Dharamsala, and teaches courses informally.

    Sowa-Rigpa is under the purview of the AYUSH Ministry. To highlight the Indianness of Sowa-Rigpa, the AYUSH website says, “The majority of theory and practice of Sowa-Rigpa is similar to Ayurveda. The first Ayurvedic influence came to Tibet during 3rd century AD but it became popular only after 7th century with the approach of Buddhism to Tibet. Thereafter, this trend of exportation of Indian medical literature, along with Buddhism and other Indian art and sciences were continued till the early 19th century.”

    http://indianexpress.com/article/ex...of-claims-is-on-over-tibets-medicine-4801759/

     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
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  3. Lion of Rajputana

    Lion of Rajputana Captain FULL MEMBER

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    This is a war we have to fight against China, with a million different facets. The standoff at Doka La and military clashes are just the surface. We have started well, now we must carry on this way.
     

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