Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter


Tibetan Studies Internet Newsletter

Vol. 1, #1

October 15, 1998


Published by The Center for Research on Tibet 

Case Western Reserve University

Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

Melvyn C. Goldstein, Director

Compiled and Edited by Melvyn C. Goldstein


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I. Editor's Comments

II. Research News

1. New research on the making of Xikang province

2. New research on Tibetan language textbooks in China

3. The Nyingma Tantric Research Archives Project

4. Dynamic continuity?  The establishment and development of 

Tibetan monastic institutions for higher education in India

III. Guest Essay: Daniel Miller. Tibetan pastoralism: Hard times 

on the plateau

IV. Dissertations 

1. The metaphysical view of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon 


2. Religious Authority and Pastoral Care in Tibetan Buddhism: The 

Ritual Hierarchies of Lingshed Monastery

3. Le Roi et le Moine

V. Cooperation requests


I. Editor's Comments.


	It is my pleasure to welcome you to the first issue of TSIN! 

Over the past decade I have felt the need for a mechanism to exchange 

academic information in the field of Tibetan Studies, and hope this 

tentative first step will facilitate such an interchange. The first 

issue includes news of research projects, new dissertations and a guest 

essay, but future issues may also add other areas of interest to readers 

such as reviews of books, films, and exhibits, and information about 

conferences, development projects, new publications and the like. To a 

large extent, the content of future issues will depend on you the readers 

and I hope that you will take an active part in this enterprise by sending 

in items for inclusion either about your own work or about other projects

in your universities or institutes. Similarly, since I would like to use 

TSIN to highlight important research issues in the field, I want to invite 

any of you who have a topic you want to discuss or present to your 

colleagues to contact me about writing a guest essay. Regarding these, I 

should add that TSIN will also publish readers' comments and responses to 

such essays, and I encourage you all to send me your views.  Finally, if 

there are any other topics you would like to see included in future TSIN 

issues, please do not hesitate to send me your ideas. If TSIN is to succeed 

it will have to meet the felt need of those involved in Tibetan Studies 

and development, and to accomplish this, you, the readership, will have 

to advise me of your needs and interests. Apropos this, note that Volume 

I, issue # 2, will be published on January 15, 1999. 



II. Research News

1. New research on the making of Xikang province

Lawrence Epstein and Peng Wenbin

University of Washington


	We have begun to undertake a major long-term research project 

on the history and development of Xikang Province.  The idea of establishing 

eastern Tibet (Khams) and other "ethnic minority" areas as Xikang Province 

first arose around the turn of this century as a response to a number of 

forces:  the perceived threat of colonial penetration of China, regional 

ambitions by local and imperial officials, and political chaos in the 

Tibetan frontier areas.  In a sense, "Xikang" was an area peripheral to 

two centers, China and Tibet, neither of which had the power, resources 

or ambition to incorporate it fully, and the unsettled and shifting 

political status of the region remained a key area of contention between 

them (and remains so to this day).


	In this project, we hope to explore how this frontier area, in the 

transitional period from the traditional to the national modern Chinese 

state, was made central to both the Chinese and Tibetan nation-building 

projects during particular historical moments from the turn of the century 

to the 1950s. We discuss the divergent interests of the parties to its 

creation, as part of the strategy to stabilize and control the southwest 

to integrate it firmly in to China and turn the "frontier" into a national 

base during the Anti-Japanese War.  In particular, we discuss the copious 

ethnographic and other studies which began in earnest in the 1930s under 

the patronage of regional officials, which sought to define and explore 

the area, and the role this scholarly interest played in the creation of 

this short-lived province.


	As frontier and national crisis deepened, frontier studies of 

contemporary China developed rapidly.  The late 19th century as well as 

the period of the 1930s-1940s witnessed two booming periods of frontier 

research, the second of which was especially productive. During these 

literally thousands of scholarly books and articles were produced. This 

scholarship, which has been largely ignored by Western scholars, discuss 

a variety of topics, from the poorly known history and ethnography of 

Khams to technical studies in geology and geography, etc.  These include 

works by key Tibetan figures and bureaus working in China at the time, 

such as members of the Panchen Lama's Office and the Mongol-Tibetan Affairs 

Commission.  Moreover these studies also chart changing the intellectual 

discourses and political air throughout these periods. Additionally, the 

recent boom in the production of local histories and personal memoirs in 

the PRC and Tibet has added new source materials for an understanding of 

the "Xikang period."  We hope eventually to have access also to original 

documents both in Chinese and Tibetan in various archives in the PRC.

	We would like to invite any scholars interested in this topic or 

working along similar lines to share their thoughts with us.  We will 

certainly do the same.


 Larry Epstein

 Department of Anthropology, Box 353100

 University of Washington

 Seattle, WA 98195

 Phones:  543-5240 (office); 632-8542 (home)

 Fax: 543-3285



2. New research on Tibetan language education in China

Tibetan-Medium education in China: The development of textbook  resources

Matthew Kapstein

U. of Chicago

	In the past two decades education authorities in the five provinces 

of China with significant Tibetan populations have to some extent coordinated 

efforts to produce modern textbook resources for use in Tibetan-language 

classes at the primary and middle school levels. I have begun to collect 

texts, teachers manuals and review manuals  for all subjects in which 

Tibetan materials are available, but with special reference to "modern" 

topics at the junior and senior high schools levels. These include materials 

on algebra, geometry, biology, chemistry, physics, political science, and 

Chinese and World History. I am particularly interested in the development 

of new lexical resources to express ideas and concepts previously unknown 

in Tibet.  I have also begun to gather some information on the actual use 

of such materials in schools; e.g. actual use of the high school texts 

just referred to seems limited to Qinghai and possibly Gansu and some 

parts of Sichuan. But the study of actual practice in the schools is not 

my primary aim. I would, however, be very interested in corresponding with 

others who are more concerned with educational practice, and would be happy 

to share the information I have gathered with such researchers as I write 

my work  up.

Matthew Kapstein

The University of Chicago



3. New Research on the Nyingma Tantric tradition

David Germano

U. Virginia

Nyingma Tantra Research Archives

	In 1994, Professor David Germano initiated the Nyingma Tantra 

Research Archives at the University of Virginia.  The Archives are an 

electronic and collaborative project designed to facilitate the 

reproduction, analysis, translation, and interpretation of one of 

the most important religious canons of Tibetan Buddhism, namely The 

Collected Tantras of the Nyingma (rNying ma'i rgyud 'bum).  The project 

is technologically innovative, utilizing Standard Generalized Markup 

Language (SGML) and Unicode-compliant Tibetan language fonts to insure 

ease of access via the Internet, enhanced search and analysis 

capability, and complete cross-platform compatibility.

Background: The Collected Tantras of the Nyingma

	Tibetan Buddhist literature incorporates influences from India, 

China, Central Asia and indigenous shamanic traditions to create a 

remarkable syncretic religious tradition that includes systematic 

philosophical discourses on logic, ritual systems, and visionary 

practices, mythological narratives, historical literature, and poetic 

works.  The Collected Tantras of the Nyingma is one of the most 

crucial, but least studied, collections of pre-fifteenth century 

translations and indigenous compositions in Tibetan Buddhism.  It 

contains vital materials not only for understanding the nature of 

early Tibetan Buddhism, but also for reconstructing the nature of 

Buddhism in India and Central Asia during the eighth to tenth 


	This collection currently exists in at least six variant 

editions.  Although there is a basic core set of texts, there are 

considerable variations from edition to edition, even with respect 

to their contents.  Moreover, individual texts may be found in other 

smaller collections or on their own.  All together, The Collected 

Tantras of the Ancients contains more than a thousand unique texts 

that are not found in any other Tibetan scriptural collection.  Many 

of the texts are translations into the Tibetan language, and are 

attributed to a wide variety of Chinese, Indian and Central Asian 

authors.  The majority of the texts, however, are most likely indigenous 

Tibetan compositions. 


	Until now, only one of these editions, the Tingkyay (gting 

skyes), has even been indexed (in a Japanese publication by E. 

Kaneko); other editions remain totally unindexed, much less analyzed.  

Moreover, until now only limited scholarship on these texts has 

emerged in contemporary academic circles, few critical editions of 

even the individual texts have been published, and the historical 

relationships between the various editions have yet to be adequately 

analyzed.  For these reasons, research into these texts represents an 

important and relatively underdeveloped field of Tibetan and Buddhist 

studies.  Although Canonical Studies has recently emerged as a central 

topic in Tibetan Studies, research to date has largely focused on 

analysis of the two normative collections of translations of texts: 

the bKa' 'gyur, attributed to various Buddhas, and the bsTan 'gyur, 

attributed to miscellaneous Indian authors.  Despite its crucial 

importance, however, The Collected Tantras of the Nyingma has previously 

been largely overlooked within this developing field of research.  The 

Nyingma Tantra Research Archives is a significant attempt to redress 

this situation.

The Nyingma Tantra Archives Project: Technical and Scholarly Goals

	The Nyingma Tantra Archives Project has several ambitious goals.  

The initial aim is to index comprehensively each individual edition of 

The Collected Tantras of the Nyingma, and create a master cross-referenced 

index.  The second major goal is to create digital images of the original 

manuscripts along with electronic editions that can then be searched and 

reformatted using Unicode Tibetan script fonts.  The third aim is to utilize 

these different electronic editions systematically to create critical 

editions.  This will allow scholars to determine the historical relationships 

between the various editions, and will yield valuable insight into their 

historical development. The fourth aim is to solicit translations of each 

text, which will eventually result in the entire collection being translated 

into modern European languages.  Each text will have associated with it a 

research archive of translations, digitized images of the original 

manuscript, editions of the original Tibetan, analytical summaries, text 

critical analysis, relevant iconographic images, and so on.  This research 

is based on the indexes and will be directly linked to them through SGML.  

To facilitate this, a refereed electronic journal is being launched that 

will provide an important academic forum for publication of relevant 


	Another essential goal is to create an interlinked set of electronic 

controls and coordinating mechanisms for the networked management of such 

a complex collaborative project.  This will open the project to the wider 

scholarly community with automated procedures for handling the different 

types of data in ways that minimize administrative labor, automate record 

keeping, and facilitate efficient exchange.  In this way scholars in any 

country will be able not only to access these materials, but to contribute 

her own translations, analyses, etc., to the evolving database with no 


	The use of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) will greatly 

enhance scholars' ability to search and analyze a vast amount of textual 

material.  In addition to enabling a wide range of sophisticated operations, 

it will create a multimedia environment for the display of indexes, 

cross-references, texts, translations, and analyses that will be Unicode-

compliant and Internet-accessible.  In short, the use of SGML in this 

project will maximize the functionality of these materials as research 

aids and insure their continued usefulness well into the future.

Participants and the Interdisciplinary Nature of the Project

	In 1997, Dr. Robert Mayer of the University of Kent at Canterbury has 

joined the project as its co-director with a special responsibility for 

coordinating related scholarly activities in Europe.  Dr. Mayer has published 

a detailed text-critical study on an important text from The Collected 

Tantras of the Ancients which has been well received in the US and Europe.  

His expertise in stemmatic analysis in particular is an important 

contribution to the project.  The project's editorial board overall will 

consist of major European and North American scholars in the field, which 

is currently in the process of being restructured.

	The project will draw upon a team of scholars whose diverse 

expertise includes philology, history, history of religions, anthropology, 

philosophy, Buddhology, art history, ritual studies, and literary studies.  

This diversity is essential since the project aims to investigate the 

many issues the study of such a canon raises. 

	In addition, there are a number of advanced doctoral students 

at the University of Virginia with specialized research interests in 

The Collected Tantras of the Ancients who have been working on the 

project and form a ready made specialized team of assistants.  Hence, 

the University is ideally suited as the project's home, and offers 

specialized support for the project's many labor-intensive tasks.  

Furthermore, the University's Alderman Library has been collecting all 

editions of The Collected Tantras of the Nyingma to supplement its 

outstanding collection. Combined with individual private manuscript 

collections, this makes the University home to what is perhaps the most 

comprehensive collection of editions of The Collected Tantras of the 

Ancients anywhere.  Finally, The Nyingma Tantras Research Archives are 

housed in the Institute for the Advanced Technology in the Humanities 

(IATH) at the University of Virginia, one of the leading institutes in 

introducing advanced computing technologies into humanities projects.  

The project is scheduled to be fully open to the public by the summer 

of 1999. 

David Germano

Department of Religious Studies

U. of Virginia

Charlottesville, VA 22903



4. Tibetan monasteries in India

Dynamic continuity? The establishment and development of Tibetan monastic 

institutions for higher education in India

Axel K. Strom

University of Oslo

	This work is a comparative study of different Tibetan monastic 

institutions for higher education in India, with a special focus on the 

"new" Sera monastery in southern Karnataka.


	When monastic high schools or "universities" were first 

reestablished in India, they were very small, and it took a long time 

until their educational systems were reinstituted. Today, four decades 

after the exodus from Tibet, many of these institutions have resumed 

their function as educational centers for the entire Tibetan cultural 

area, and the majority of their students are "newcomers" (sargyorpa) from 

Tibet. As the numbers of inmates in the `new\xB4 monasteries are beginning to 

approach those of the original monasteries in Tibet before 1959, and a far 

higher percentage than before are students (pechawa), it is evident that 

these universities still are very important institutions in Tibetan society.  


	The institutions have clearly undergone significant changes in the 

process of adaptation to their new environment, but the degree of change 

varies considerably. Among the most "traditional" or least altered are 

the Gelugpa institutions, whereas the Nyingma and Sakya high schools are 

organized in a relatively "modern" way. I have therefore chosen to do a 

comparative study of institutions which differ in terms of sectarian 

affiliation, administration, location, recruitment etc. My aim is to 

assess the extent to which, in what way and why, the different institutions 

and their educational systems are being transformed and adapted to the 

present situation. The main focus is on how the institutions work as 

social organizations and on the constitution and maintenance of institutional 

culture. On the basis of the study of internal dynamics, I will attempt to 

elicit the relevant cognitive and social contexts within which the 

respective institutions may be understood; in other words to identify the 

factors and agents of continuity as well as those of change.

	I have approached these issues through the study of the structure 

and administration of the institutions,  the background, knowledge and 

attitudes of their residents, the relationship and interaction between 

the generations and other identifiable social groups within the institutions, 

and the ways in which students are socialized into and made to identify 

with their institution. The main method of research has been  individual, 

extensive interviews and conversations.

	With this study, I hope to be able to contribute to the 

understanding of contemporary Tibetan monastic life and the present 

role of monastic institutions in Tibetan society. In a wider perspective, 

the study may shed light on problems arising in times of crisis, when 

a society or social group has to adapt itself to a radically different 

social and natural environment. Thereby, it might hopefully also 

contribute to the general understanding of processes of social and 

cultural change. 

Axel K. Strom

Research Fellow

Institute and Museum of Anthropology

University of Oslo

P.O. box 1091, Blindern

N-0317 Oslo




III. Guest Essay: Daniel Miller. Tibetan pastoralism: Hard times on the 


 	The winter of 1997-1998 was one of the worst in recent history 

across much of the nomadic pastoral area of western china. Unusually 

heavy snowfall m late September was followed by severe cold weather 

which prevented the snow from melting. Additional storms deposited more 

snow and by late October grass reserved for winter grazing was buried under

a meter of snow. Yaks, sheep, goats and horses were unable to reach any 

forage and started to die in large numbers.

	By early April 1998, it was estimated that the Tibetan Autonomous 

Region (TAR) had lost over 3 million head of livestock. Nagchu (Naqu) 

Prefecture in the north and Ali Prefecture in the west were especially 

hard hit and parts of Shigatse  (Rikaze), Lhoka (Shannan), and Chamdo 

(Changdu) Prefectures and Lhasa Municipality were also affected by the 

heavy snow storms. Parts of Qinghai Province's south west were also hit 



	Losses in Nagchu Prefecture in the TAR alone were estimated at 

1.03 million animals or about 15% of the Prefecture's total livestock 

population. Almost all areas of the prefecture were affected by the 

severe snowstorms but the counties of Amdo (Anduo), Nyerong (Nierong), 

Lhari (Jiali), Sog Dzong (Sue Xian) and Nagchu suffered particularly heavy 

losses. In Nyerong County as a whole some 30% of the livestock died, and 

some townships within the county lost as many as 70%. A number of townships

in Nagchu County lost 50% of their domestic animals and three townships 

in Lhari County lost 40%.


	It is estimated that economic losses from livestock deaths alone 

may reach CNY 1 billion (USD 125 million) in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

	Tibetan nomads, dependent almost solely on livestock for a 

livelihood, suffered greatly as a result of the heavy snowfalls. Because 

the snow came so early, many nomads were unable to sell animals they had 

planned to market in the fall of 1997, or even to barter livestock for 

barley grain they require. Many families fed whatever grain they had for 

themselves to their livestock to try to save the animals from dying. Thousands 

of nomad families, who lost most of their animals, are now facing dire 

poverty. Last year, before the snowstorms began, it was estimated that 

20% of Nagchu Prefecture's 340,000 nomadic population (about 50,000 households) 

were considered to be living in poverty (See box). Now, as a result of the

livestock losses experienced over the winter, it is estimated that about 

40% of the nomad population in Nagchu Prefecture will be facing poverty. 

Many other nomad families, although still technically above the poverty 

line, will have their livelihoods reduced.


	Although the winter is over, the effect of last winter's livestock 

losses will reverberate for years to come. The government has begun restocking 

programs but resources are insufficient to replace all the livestock lost. 

It will take considerable time for nomads to build their herds up again 

to the levels they were at in 1997, and in the meantime thousands of 

families with fewer animals will face great difficulties in meeting their 

basic needs.


	Many government agencies and various NGOs provided emergency relief 

assistance to nomads affected by the snowstorms and now wish to assist Tibetan 

nomads with restocking and pastoral development. This article offers background 

information about Tibetan nomadic pastoral production and outlines some of the 

issues and challenges surrounding restocking and pastoral development programs.

Security through diversity

 	Tibetan nomadic pastoral production systems vary widely across the 

Tibetan plateau. Nomads usually raise a mix of different animal species. 

Each has its own specific characteristics and adaptations to the environment, 

and raising yaks, sheep, goats, and horses together maximizes the use of 

rangeland vegetation. Different species graze on different plants and, 

when herded together on the same range, make more efficient use of rangeland 

vegetation than a single species. Different animals also have varied uses and 

provide diversified products for home consumption or sale. Maintaining diverse 

herd compositions is also a strategy employed by nomads to minimize the risk 

of losses from disease or harsh winters, since a mix of different species 

provides some insurance that not all animals will be lost and herds can 

be rebuilt again.

	The refinement that nomads attained in devising herd compositions 

is illustrated by one nomad area in northwest Ngamring (Angren) County of 

Shigatse Prefecture. There, sheep comprised 45% of all livestock numbers, 

goats made up 40%, yaks made up 14%, and horses were 1%. Such herd composition 

requires complex strategies for managing livestock, as each species has its 

own specific grazing and production-related characteristics.

	Tibetan pastoral herd design system is not haphazard or irrational, 

but demonstrates sophisticated adaptive responses by nomads to the environment 

in which they live and the resources available to them. The, proportion of 

different livestock species raised varies across the Plateau generally 

according to rangeland factors and the suitability of the landscape for different 

animals. Herd compositions within a geographic area can also vary with the skills, 

preferences and availability of labor of the nomads. For example, in Shuanghu 

County of Nagchu Prefecture in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, yaks only make 

up 4% of total livestock numbers; whereas in Lhari County, about 400 km to the 

least in Nagchu Prefecture, yaks comprise 53% of livestock. These differences 

can largely be explained by differences in vegetation between the two areas. 

In Shuanghu, it is drier and the dominant alpine steppe vegetation is more 

suited to sheep and goats, but in Lhari there is more annual precipitation 

and vegetation is dominated by alpine meadow which is more conducive to 

raising yaks. In the very north-eastern part of the Tibetan plateau, in 

Marthang (Hongyan) County of Sichuan Province, yaks are even more important 

in the pastoral economy. In Marthang, yaks comprise over 85% of all livestock 


Yaks equal wealth

	Yaks are one of the most important domestic animals in most of the 

pastoral area on the Tibetan plateau. Nomads place so much value on the yak 

that many refer to them as 'nor', which also means 'precious gem' or, more 

generally, 'wealth'. The yak, in many ways, defines nomadic pastoralism 

across most of-the plateau. Yaks provide milk and milk products, meat, 

hair, wool and hides. They are also used as draught animals and for riding.

Yak dung is an important source of fuel in an area where firewood is not 

available. The yak makes life possible for people in one of the world's harshest 

environments. There is little doubt that the presence of wild yaks, and 

their later domestication, was the single most important factor in the 

adaptation of civilization on the Tibetan plateau.


	China has a yak population of some 13 million, which is about 90% 

of all the yaks in the world. There are around 4.7 million yaks in Qinghai 

Province, four million in Tibet, four million in Sichuan, 900,000 in Gansu, 

230,000 in Xinjiang, and 50 thousand in Yunnan.

	Numbers of animals that nomads raise vary considerably across the 

Tibetan plateau depending on herd composition.  In Shuanghu and Nyima 

(Jima) Counties in Nagchu Prefecture in the TAR, an average income nomad 

family keeps about 250 sheep, 100 goats, 15 yaks and two horses. In Nagchu 

County, a typical nomad family of five or six people would have 60-80 sheep 

and composition. In Shuanghu and Nyima (Jima) Counties in Nagchu Prefecture 

in the TAR, an average income nomad family keeps about 250 sheep, 100 goats, 

15 yaks and two horses. In Nagchu County, a typical nomad family of five or 

six people would have 60-80 sheep and goats, 30-35 yaks and two horses. A rich

family in Nagchu County may have perhaps 200-300 sheep and goats and 100 

yaks. In Marthang County of north-west Sichuan Province, a typical nomad 

family would have 100 yaks, five horses and only a few sheep or none at all.

Of these 100 yaks only 30-40 would be adult, milking female yaks. In one 

nomad region of Ngamring County, Shigatse Prefecture, the richest nomad 

family had 286 sheep, 250 goats, 77 yaks and eight horses.

	Almost all animals are owned by individual nomad families, which

has been the case since the 'household responsibility system' was implemented 

in the early 1980s. Each family is responsible for its own livestock 

production and the marketing of livestock products.

	Until recently rangeland has remained the property of the state 

and nomads generally use the rangelands communally, often in groups that 

reflect the previous communal structure. In some cases, livestock grazing 

by the nomads now mirrors the traditional management structure that existed 

prior to collectivization.

	Livestock subsists almost entirely on grazing on the rangelands 

year round. Some hay is made to feed weak animals and horses in the winter 

and spring but, for the most part, animals acquire all their forage from grazing.

Increasingly, nomads are fencing rangeland to reserve pastures for winter 

and spring grazing, and planting artificial pasture either for winter-spring 

grazing or for hay making.

	Nomads maintain milking and non-milking herds of yaks, sheep, and 

goats. Across most of the western TAR sheep and goats are more common than 

yaks, and both sheep and goats are milked in the summer. Sheep in the 

eastern TAR and in Tibetan nomad areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu are 

usually not milked. Female yaks usually have their first calf when they are 

four years old and have only one calf every other year, although the yak 

cow is still milked in the second summer. Where forage conditions are better, 

yaks will calve every year. Male yaks are usually slaughtered for meat at 

four years of age. Yaks are generally thought to typify Tibetan nomadic 

production but in much of the western TAR, sheep and goats are more important 

economically. For example, in the Phala nomad area of north-western Ngamring 

County, Shigatse Prefecture, sheep contributed 60% of total income derived 

from livestock for one large nomad family even though they comprised only 28% of 

the family's livestock biomass, or Sheep Equivalent Units. Goats, which made 

up about 21% of livestock biomass, contributed about 35% of total livestock 

income. Yaks only accounted for about 5% of total livestock income, yet they 

comprised about 46% of total livestock biomass in the nomad's herd. Sheep and 

goats require more care and attention than yaks but can deliver handsome 

economic returns where it is practical to raise them. Since they generally give

birth every year, unlike yaks which usually calve every other year, sheep 

and point to remember when restocking is being considered for nomads who lost 

animals as a result of severe winters

Disasters are natural

	It should be stressed that nomads have been herding livestock on the 

Tibetan plateau for thousands of years. For millennia, Tibetan nomads and their 

livestock have dealt with snowstorms and severe winters in the highly dynamic 

ecosystem that exists on the Tibetan plateau. Pastoralism in these conditions 

has always been a high-risk enterprise.  Nomads learned to cope with the 

uncertainties of the environment by adopting a number of flexible production 

strategies that minimized risk and made optimal use of the resources available 

to them.

	Heavy snowfalls, such as those of last winter, should be viewed as 

natural events of the Tibetan plateau environment, not as disasters. In fact, 

snowstorms probably serve a very important natural regulatory mechanism in 

the grazing land ecosystem. Periodic heavy falls reduce the number of 

livestock and wild ungulates grazing on the rangelands, thereby enabling the 

grasses to recover. Unlike severe droughts in semi-arid pastoral areas, heavy 

snowfalls do not negatively affect the vegetation. In fact, heavy snowfalls can 

actually lead to improved grass growth the following spring due to increased 

water infiltration into the soil. So, rather than disasters, heavy snowfalls 

should be seen as a part of the ecology of the Tibetan landscape. Nomads 

survived severe snowstorms in the past, when there were no PLA trucks to 

transport relief supplies, and they will survive winters in the future as well.

	Yet many government officials believe that in severe winters of recent 

years livestock were lost because nomads are backward and do not practice 

modern, scientific animal husbandry methods. The structure of nomads' herds 

is often thought to be irrational and uneconomic, with too few breeding females 

and too many unproductive animals. Many officials also believe that the 

traditional migratory grazing practiced by nomads is an improper use of the 

grassland. Since grazing is usually communal, officials argue that there is 

no incentive for individual nomads to manage the grasslands or invest in improvement.

	As a result, many officials say that nomads keep too many unproductive 

animals just as status symbols, and that traditional nomadic grazing systems do 

not allow for management of the grasslands which are overgrazed and degrading. 

In addition, since the nomads are not settled, officials often mention that it 

is difficult to provide them with social services such as education and health 

care. Many officials insist that for development to be achieved in Tibetan 

pastoral areas the nomads must be settled, houses and barns must replace the 

traditional yak hat tents, rangeland must be divided, fenced and given to nomads 

on long-term contracts, livestock numbers need to be limited, artificial pasture 

needs to be grown, and herds need to be restructured. It is widely believed that 

such changes would help prevent large livestock losses during snow disasters, 

improve rangeland management, increase productivity and raise overall living 


Settling down

	Ten years ago the government began programs to settle nomads and divide 

rangeland between individual households in Tibetan areas near Qinghai Lake, 

in Qinghai Province,. Starting in the traditional winter grazing lands, each 

nomad family was allocated an area of rangeland on a long-term contract in 

what was essentially a privatization of the previously communally managed 

grassland. Land allocation was based on the supposed carrying capacity of the 

rangeland and the number of livestock each family had. The construction of 

houses for nomads, sheds for livestock, fencing, and development of artificial 

pasture was  also  heavily  subsidized.  This program, deemed a success by 

officials, was later expanded to privatize grazing lands used throughout the 

year, not just the winter pastures.

	This program is now being rapidly extended throughout Qinghai Province 

and into the Tibetan nomadic areas of Gansu and Sichuan Provinces. Due to the 

high cost involved in fencing, the TAR is not yet allocating grazing land to 

individual nomad households. Instead, land is being allocated to nomad 

groups. But even in the TAR, official policies promote the settling of the 

nomads, construction of houses and barns, fencing of pastures and the growing 

of artificial pasture.

	Misconceptions abound regarding nomads, nomadic pastoralism and 

pastoral development on the Tibetan plateau. Sifting fallacies from facts 

is often confounded by the lack of good data on nomadic pastoral production 

systems and the often political and donor driven push to alleviate poverty 

among poor nomads. In addition, there is   now  increasing clamor to assist 

with disaster prevention  in  nomad  areas  that  experienced  large livestock 

losses last year, as if it is already ordained that snow disasters will strike 

again in the same areas.

	Given the generally poor regard that livestock development  now  has 

throughout much  of the developing world, it may be easier for NGOs to obtain 

funding to  support Tibetan nomads and pastoral development in Tibet if projects 

are presented as disaster prevention. As a range and livestock specialist, 

however, I have trouble with calling what needs to be done to assist nomads 

'disaster prevention'. Nevertheless, it is still possible to separate out 

some of the realities and myths regarding nomadic pastoral production on the 

Tibetan plateau.

 	The very existence of nomads on the Tibetan plateau - undoubtedly the 

world's harshest pastoral area - is itself proof of the rationality and 

efficacy of many aspects of traditional practice.  Over centuries, Tibetan 

nomads acquired complex knowledge and understanding of the environment in 

which they lived and upon which their lives depended.


	The fact that numerous pastoral groups continue to thrive bears witness 

to their extraordinary knowledge and animal   husbandry   skills.   Unfortunately, 

pastoral development policies on the Tibetan plateau, as in much of the pastoral 

world, often maintain that nomads are 'backward' and that their traditional nomadic

practices need to be 'improved'. Nomads, however, should be considered as experts 

even though they may be illiterate. Many old Tibetan nomads have probably 

already forgotten more about rangelands and yaks than many young range ecologists 

and animal nutritionists will ever learn in college.

	The traditional nomadic herd structure also illustrates expertise in 

animal husbandry and in managing grazing land. In a nomad area in the 

north-west of Shigatse Prefecture, around 60% of the adult sheep and goats 

are females. Adult male sheep and goats make up about 30% of the flock, which 

at first may seem like a high percentage, but a significant portion of the 

nomads' income is derived from sheep wool and goat cashmere harvested from 

adult males and from the sale of adult male animals for meat. The traditional 

nomadic pastoral system also required pack yaks to move nomads' supplies between 

different pastures. A nomad family, therefore, had to have a number of pack yaks 

in its herd in order to survive. Unfortunately, the utility and economic 

viability existing herd structures are still very much unappreciated and 

policies for restructuring herds to contain a higher percentage of breeding 

females rarely acknowledge the reasons for the existing herd structure. Too 

often, policies for Tibetan nomadic areas are made by officials who do not know 

which end of a yak gets up first.

	Pastoral systems are designed around the movement factors such as past 

use, snowfall and rainfall, growth stage of the grass, and the condition of 

animals. Tibetan nomads do not move randomly across the landscape, their 

movements are well prescribed by complex social organizations and are 

highly regulated.

Degraded rangeland

	Much of the rangeland in the agricultural valleys of central Tibet is 

heavily overgrazed and degraded, but the situation in many of the nomadic 

pastoral areas is not as bad. Many rangeland areas in Tibet are, in fact, in 

good condition, despite centuries of livestock grazing. There is increasing 

concern  with  rangeland  degradation  in pastoral areas, especially in parts 

of Amdo County in the TAR and in Darlag (Dare) and Machen (Maqin) Counties in 

Qinghai Province  where  'black  beach', or badly degraded rangeland with soil 

exposed, is common. However, the dynamics of the degradation process in these 

black beach areas is still not well understood and the jury is still out on 

whether or not heavy livestock grazing is the real cause of the problem or if 

other factors, Despite  their  extent  and  importance,  rangeland ecosystem 

dynamics on the Tibetan plateau are still poorly understood and good, 

scientific data on ecological processes taking place in the different rangeland

types are limited.  Many questions  concerning how rangeland vegetation functions

and the effect of grazing animals on the pastoral system remain unanswered for 

the most part. The socio-economic dimensions of the Tibetan pastoral production 

systems are also not well known. This lack of information limits the proper 

management and sustainable development of the rangelands.


	In recent decades, nomads across most of the pastoral areas on the 

Tibetan plateau have built houses for themselves and shelters for their 

livestock, usually in the traditional winter-spring pastures where they may 

spend six or seven months of the year. As such, the vast majority of nomads 

are already 'settled' and actually have been for some time, although they have 

continued to graze their livestock in a nomadic manner. The view of many 

officials that nomads still need to be settled is, in many respects, a misnomer, 

unless what the officials have in mind is for nomads to stop their periodic 

movement to different pastures throughout the year and simply graze out of a 

home base every day like dairy farmers in New Zealand do on improved pasture. 

Given the generally poor experience with settling nomads in other parts of the 

world, it will be interesting to watch the process of sedentarization as it 

unfolds on the Tibetan plateau. What effect will the grassland contract system

have on rangeland condition in the future? Will nomads now overgraze pastures 

that they view as their own property! What effect will private rangeland and 

fences have on traditional mechanisms for pooling livestock into group herds 

and group herding?


	With current pastoral development policies on the Tibetan plateau, 

nomadic herders are being transformed into commercial livestock ranchers. 

These developments are improving nomads' living standards, but the longer 

term sustainability of these large subsidized investments in fences, buildings, 

and range improvements needs to be questioned. Fencing and barns are expensive, 

relative to the benefits. Is the huge investment being made in buildings and 

fences really economically sustainable! Fencing is a valuable tool for managing 

livestock use of grazing lands, but by restricting movement of livestock it can 

also lead to overgrazing. Rangeland monitoring programs need to be set up to 

condition where fences are erected.

	Many of the current policies for privatization of grasslands  are  based 

on  the mistaken belief that traditional pastoral systems did not give nomads 

any responsibility for the rangeland and that, therefore, nomads tried to

maximize herd sizes with no regard to carrying capacity. In fact, many 

traditional nomadic systems were often well regulated and, in some areas, quite 

elaborate management systems were in place to periodically reallocate grazing 

depending on rangeland numbers.

Forage development

	What can be done to help nomads that lost many of their animals this 

last winter?  Restocking is a valid option, but consideration needs to be 

given to the type of livestock nomads are supplied with. In many areas, 

yaks will probably be the animal preferred by nomads, but restocking with 

sheep and goats, at least initially to provide a base of production for 

nomads, should not be ruled out. Nomads need to be active participants in 

any decisions made about animals provided for restocking and their knowledge 

of which animals are best suited to local conditions needs to be considered.

	Animal husbandry will continue to be the major type of land use for much 

of the Tibetan plateau. In fact, for many areas, extensive livestock production 

is the only mode of production to support people. The key to improving livestock 

productivity is providing animals with enough forage throughout the year. The 

winter and spring are the main forage 'deficit times and more attention needs 

to be directed towards providing more forage, either in the form of grazing or from 

hay that is made from native grass or artificial pasture. Growing artificial pasture 

for hay is a fairly simple technology that could provide additional feed to 

improve livestock productivity and/or, in the event of heavy snowfall, help 

prevent large livestock losses. Fencing pastures to reserve areas for livestock 

grazing in the winter and spring is another option, but the economics of fencing 

still need to be properly assessed.

	Improved pastoral production in Tibetan nomad areas  requires  that 

ecological principles  regulating rangeland ecosystem functions are linked 

with economic principles governing livestock production and general economic 

development processes. New perspectives on the non-equilibrium dynamic nature 

of  rangeland and  innovative,  pastoral  development paradigms  that  

actively  involve  nomads  in  the development process also suggest new 

possibilities for and fresh approaches to working  with Tibetan nomads. There 

are no simple solutions to addressing pastoral development in the harsh 

environment of the Tibetan plateau and due to the multifaceted dimensions of 

the problems, actions will need to be taken on several levels: at the central 

policy level; at the university and research centered level; at the level of 

range and livestock extension services, and among nomads themselves.

Daniel J, Miller is a rangeland and livestock specialist who has been working 

on the Tibetan plateau since 1988. He previously worked for many years on 

pastoral development programs in Nepal and Bhutan and on large cattle ranches 

in Montana, USA. Mr. Miller is an Honorary Professor in the Grassland  Science 

Department,  Gansu  Agricultural University, Lanzhou, and is currently 

associated with the Institute  of  Land  and  Food  Resources,  University of 

Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.

email: Awee@worldbank.org (list subject as Daniel Miller)


IV. Dissertations 

1. Donatella Rossi, The metaphysical view of the Great Perfection in the 

Tibetan Bon religion,  Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oslo, Dept. of 

Religion and Tibetology, 1998.

	This dissertation examines the metaphysical view of the Great 

Perfection in the Tibetan Bon religion. The dissertation's objective is to 

offer a descriptive presentation of the view of the great perfection (rdzogs 

pa chen po'i lta ba) based on Bonpo textual sources and living tradition. It 

also contains the translation and critical edition of two inedited Bonpo 

sources that specifically deal with the topic. The dissertation is going to 

be published by Snow Lion, with the (provisional) title of "Introduction to 

the metaphysical view of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon religion."

2.  Martin Mills, Religious Authority and Pastoral Care in Tibetan Buddhism: 

The Ritual Hierarchies of Lingshed Monastery, Ladakh. Unpublished Ph.D. 

thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1997.

	The work comprises an ethnographic description of the  religious and 

ritual life of the Gelukpa Order Kumbum Monastery in Lingshed Village, Ladakh, 

in turn the basis of an analytic discussion of the nature of religious 

authority in the Gelukpa Order. To do this, the work concentrates on three 


i) The internal structuring of Gelukpa monasteries both as collections of 

hierarchically-ordered religious specialists, and as heterogeneous symbolic 

domains, divided up into regions of comparative purity;

ii) indigenous understandings of ritual hierarchy (rim pa), sponsorship 

(sbyin bdag) and blessing (byin rlabs) in terms of the relationship between 

monasteries and village household estate as kin and land-holding groups; and

iii) a critical examination of of a variety of ritual forms - recitation (chos 

sil), blessing of the fields (bum skor), purification (khrus), Dharma 

Protector rites (bskang gsol), and  tantric empowerments (dbang) - particularly 

in terms of the way they symbolically reconstruct households and cultivated 

territorial domains as objects of Buddhist hegemony. 

	The final part of the thesis is given over to an examination of 

the ritual relationships between Lingshed Monastery and the cult of local 

area gods (yul lha, gzhi bdag, and sa bdag) in Ladakh and Tibet. Having 

examined the institutional structures linking these two conceptual 

domains, I argue that discourses about locality and chthonic embodiment 

are central to Tibetan understandings of political and social personhood, 

and therefore that the distinction between the key monastic roles of 

ordinary monk (grwa pa) and incarnate lama (sprul sku) must be understood in 

such terms.

3. Isabelle Riaboff, Le Roi et le Moine. Figures et principes du pouvoir et 

de sa l\xE9gitimation au Zanskar (Himalaya occidental). Doctoral thesis. 

University of Paris X - Nanterre, 1997, pp. 401, 3 vols., photographs, maps, 


	This dissertation is the result of twenty-two months of fieldwork in 

Zanskar in the western Himalayas (Jammu and Kashmir State, north-western 

India). It is a study of the connections between religion and polity in a 

Tibetan community. The author examines the separation between the monastic 

authorities and the Zanskari monarchistic structures (the King of Zangla, 

leader of a small kingdom, maintained his prerogatives until 1950).

	After a lengthy introduction to Zanskar's geography and history, the 

thesis successively describes the main features of Zanskari social order, 

the political and religious figures, the economic foundations of the exercise 

of power and the ritual roles played by the King and the monks which symbolically 

contribute to ensure their authority and power.

	In conclusion, the author considers the association between the 

Tibetan king and monk in comparison with the Hindu king and Brahmin as 

analysed by Louis Dumont. In both cases the hierarchy is linked to the distinction 

between status and power, and the pair is in a "hierarchic reversal" form of 

relationship. However, great divergences appear: on one hand, the Tibetan 

monasteries and hierarch's economic life is not entirely comparable to the 

material dependence of the Brahmins upon their clients; on the other, the 

Buddhist king is somehow linked with the divine sphere (indeed, the idea of a 

strictly secular nature of The Hindu king, asserted by Dumont, is decried 

by numerous Indianists).


\xA9 1998 The Center for Research on Tibet

Text is not to be used without written permission.

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