This book uses a system of romanization for Tibetan names and terms that largely follows the Tibetan and Himalayan Library’s Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan devised by David Germano and Nicolas Tounadre.1 Exceptions to following this system are words already commonly used internationally, such as Sowa Rigpa (not Sowa Rikpa) for Gso ba rig pa (Science of Healing) and Shigatse (not Zhikatsé) for Gzhis ka rtse (the capital of Shigatse Prefecture). For specialists, I provide exact transliterations of Tibetan terms in the glossary, following Wylie (1959). For Tibetan-authored works, I romanize the author’s name in the text and the notes, and list their works in the bibliography, where I provide the authors’ name and the details of the Tibetan reference in full using Wylie’s system, so that specialists can track down these works. Tibetan and Chinese book titles are provided in English translation in the text, with the exception of the main Tibetan medical text, Four Treatises, which I also refer to as the Gyüshi. I tend not to translate Tibetan names for illnesses, as this would entail a loss of their “semantic network” (Good 1977) and would inaccurately render their meaning in specific contexts through lexical English or biomedical equivalents. I also do not translate Tibetan names of medicines and medical ingredients, as European-derived identification and classification of individual Tibetan materia medica is largely unsatisfactory.
Tibetan does not mark plural and singular in the spelling of nouns. I therefore indicate the English plural at the end of Tibetan terms with an unitalicized “s” or, where appropriate, no plural ending at all, such as amchis or amchi for doctors. Again, exceptions are commonly used Tibetan terms, such as thankas and lamas, which are anglicized and thus not italic. I capitalize Sowa Rigpa and similar proper nouns, such as Ayurveda. Chinese terms are provided in pinyin, the official People’s Republic of China (PRC) mode of transliteration. All prices are given in Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY). At the time of research, ¥10 was worth approximately US$1.3. Terms are Tibetan unless indicated otherwise for Chinese (C) or Sanskrit (Skt).
Tibet has had shifting and often disputed political, geographical, ethnographic, and linguistic definitions. I use central Tibet to refer to regions of Ü (the Lhasa area) and Tsang (western central Tibet), and western Tibet (mainly Ngari) and eastern Tibet to refer to the regions of Amdo and Kham. Tibet includes all the areas inside the borders of China where Tibetans are a substantial portion of the population, such as in various Tibetan autonomous prefectures and counties in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and neighboring Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan Provinces. This is mainly for simplicity’s sake and accords with most of my Tibetan interlocutors’ understanding of what and who is a part of “Tibet” and how this contrasts with what in their view is “China.” When Tibetans speak about the non-Tibetan areas of China, they use the term Gyanag (Tib. “China”). However, when speaking or writing Chinese, the term neidi (C. “interior”) is also commonly used among Tibetans, in many publications translated as “mainland China.” I use “China proper” or the “interior” as translation for neidi, but “China” for the Tibetan Gyanag. The Tibet Autonomous Region is the current name for a part of Tibet that was under the control and administration of the Lhasa government, at least between 1913 and 1951 (see map 1). Within it lies Tsang, the traditional term for a part of central Tibet that is now administered as Shigatse Prefecture—I use these interchangeably (see map 2). For counties (Tib. dzong; C. xian) I use “county.” Under Communist administration, counties have been subdivided into districts, or xiang, and I translate these as “townships.”