Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

Tibet Travel log 14: Traditional Tibetan medicine

with 5 comments

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The farmacy at Kirti monastery clinic in Ngaba (Aba)

In large parts of Tibet it is still the monks and the monasteries that practise the traditional Tibetan medicine, that oversee the collection of the raw ingredients and take care of the preparation of the pills and powders.

Not as large-scale and modern as the pharmaceutical factory in Lhasa but also in these smaller factories modern machines are used to increase production.

The factory in the photos below is located in Peyul (Sichuan). It took me quite some effort to find it, communicating with hand and feet and my three words of Chinese and Tibetan as my translator decided to sleep in that morning. People in the streets were quite happy to help but had no idea what I wanted. I was the only foreigner in town and I would probably be the only big-nose foreigner for months to come as well. Even if there were others they would probably not try to visit the factory and not be out and about at 5 in the morning.
So they kept offering me tea, food, a place at the fire and tried to send me in the direction of the huge monastery overlooking the town.

But once I had found the factory, it did not help it didn’t look like a factory at all, I was made very welcome. The monk in charge was still performing his early morning prayers and the factory closed. While waiting the old lady taking care of the place saw it as her duty to feed me as much butter tea as humanly possible. I tried to limit the intake, an hours walk from my hotel through the city I feared that need for (and lack of) privacy that man and Tibetan woman in long dresses can more easily solve…

Once the factory opened I got the full tour. From the storage room, to the office, to the production rooms onto the roof where the brown medicine balls were laid out in the sun to dry. With a staff of only 5 they produce quite a large amount of pills which once packaged in the shiny metallic sachets are distributed and sold in little ‘medical’ shops around town.

I really liked this insight into the practise of Tibetan medicine production and was especially happy to get to meet the monk in charge who radiated calmness and wisdom and put me totally at ease after the mad search for the factory!

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First 4 photos above: the medicine factory in Peyul, last photo a traditional doctors office in Gandze

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5 Responses

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  1. I’m glad that found your blog. i’ll follow your blog to learn more about Tibet.

    MissMangue

    March 6, 2013 at 12:06

  2. Finding your blog was a great surprise! Tibete is one of my dream destinations and I love your pictures and insight! I hope I can make it before it completely changes

    preconcept

    January 27, 2013 at 03:27

    • Thank you! even if you can’t make it over there soon, there are more and more periods in which foreigners have limited access, it is worth it. The Tibetans are finding there own unique blend of traditional and modern, which is very interesting as well!

      Marieke ten Wolde

      January 27, 2013 at 11:07

      • I can only imagine 🙂 I will keep following your blog to get a glimpse of that! And hopefully I will get there soon enough and see and photograph it all myself 🙂

        preconcept

        January 27, 2013 at 12:13


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