Towards a Social History of Tibetan Medical Manuscripts } Stacey Van Vleet Ph.D

Towards a Social History of Tibetan Medical Manuscripts
Lecture | September 15 | 4-6 p.m. | UC Berkeley Extension (Golden Bear Center), Seminar Room, Fifth Floor
Speaker/Performer: Stacey Van Vleet, UC Berkeley
Sponsor: Tang Center for Silk Road Studies

Video Segments:
00:00 Start
00:00:12 Welcome/Introduction: Sanjyot Mehendale Ph.D | Chair, Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, UC Berkeley
00:03:14 Stacey Van Vleet Ph.D | UC Berkeley
01:05:38 Discussion

From ninth-century instructions on moxibustion to twentieth-century incantations for preventing plague, manuscripts related to the knowledge and practice of healing (gso ba rig pa) hold a unique place within broader Tibetan-language manuscript culture. With their practical orientation, often provisional nature, and self-conscious reliance on a broad range of cultural sources, Tibetan medical manuscripts demonstrate pedagogical processes and provide material traces of moments when empirical observations were first recorded in written or illustrated form. Despite recently growing interest in Tibetan medicine, however, our historical understanding of Tibetan medical manuscripts and the social and institutional contexts through which they moved remains schematic. This talk will explore the significance of manuscripts within the social history of Tibetan medicine through a few illustrative examples that reflect their great diversity of form, content, and contexts. The material features of these manuscripts draw attention to how they bridged scholarly and popular practice and blurred boundaries between linguistic cultures. But while manuscripts demonstrate the hybrid nature of medical knowledge flowing into and out from Tibet, they also reveal how their creators staked claims that defined lineages and traditions. Medical texts were emplaced within a wider Buddhist literary culture that shaped medical pedagogy and practice with a diversity of approaches. The history of their production, revision, circulation, and use can be instructive for more general processes of knowledge formation and transmission in and beyond Tibet.

Stacey Van Vleet is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. Her book in progress, The World the Medicine Buddha Built: Tibetan Medical Governance in Qing Inner Asia, examines how Tibetan medical debates about producing potency became entangled with debates about the nature of benevolent and efficacious governance, first within the Qing imperial milieu and later within early-twentieth century state-building projects across Inner Asia.
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