This article examines forms of knowledge and medical practice in three generations of Bon medical practitioners in Tibet. A key component of the discussion is the way in which Tibetan medicine, and particularly the two principal texts of the Bon and Buddhist medical tradition, serves as a symbolic marker of social and cultural identity. Based on ethnographic data collected in the Ngari, Kham, and Amdo regions of Tibet, the author assesses continuity and change in notions of identity and forms of practice among Bon medical practitioners as they react to the forces of modernity in post-Imperial China.
Bon Medical Practitioners in Contemporary Tibet: The Continuity of a Tradition
Colin Millard studied social anthropology and wrote his PhD thesis on learning processes in a Tibetan medical school. In recent years he has carried out extensive fieldwork in Nepal, India, and Tibet on Tibetan medicine, Bon medicine, and the healing rituals of Bon nagpa householder priests. His main research interests are medical anthropology, the anthropology of ritual and religion, Asian medicine, Tibetan medicine, Tibetan society and culture, Bon religion and culture, ethnobotany, and the anthropology of South Asia and Himalaya. He is currently an honorary research fellow at Cardiff University and senior research associate in the School for Social and Political Science at Edinburgh University.