Critical methods in Tibetan medical histories

J Asian Stud. 2007 May;66(2):363-87. doi: 10.1017/s0021911807000563.


This paper addresses the development of scholastic medical traditions in Tibet through an extension of lists of physicians. I consider the debates that such lists and their accompanying narratives engender for Tibetan historians and reflect on the contributions they make to the identity of the medical tradition. By examining the structure and content of classificatory methods in medical histories, I argue that temporally organized lists document the place of medicine across time, geographically organized lists document the reach of medical knowledge across space, and thematically organized lists document the intertwining of medical knowledge and skill with other aspects of intellectual and civil life. In making these lists, medical historians paint a portrait of the Tibetan medical tradition that evokes connections to Buddhism and the strength and cosmopolitanism of the imperial period. Medical histories thus emphasize a picture of Tibet in the broader context of Asia- a Tibet whose empire lives on culturally or intellectually, if not militarily.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Archives* / history
  • Asia, Central
  • Historiography
  • History of Medicine
  • History, 15th Century
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, Medieval
  • Manuscripts, Medical as Topic* / history
  • Medicine, Tibetan Traditional / history*
  • Medicine, Tibetan Traditional / statistics & numerical data
  • Medicine, Tibetan Traditional / trends
  • Physicians / classification
  • Physicians / history*
  • Physicians / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Physicians / trends
  • Tibet