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India, China Tussle Over Ancient Tibetan Medicine

The country which will be able to tie it don will look at possible commercial rewards. China had filed a plea with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to recognise medicinal bathing, one of many practices of sowa rigpa, the Tibetan name for this type of medicine, as part of its "intangible cultural heritage".

India, China Tussle Over Ancient Tibetan Medicine

India and China tussle over ancient Tibetan medicine

Whenever it comes to Tibet, India and China have never seen eye to eye. This time the debate has been with the ancient practice of Tibetan Matrimony and who will associate it with their national patrimony. The country which will be able to tie it don will look at possible commercial rewards. China had filed a plea with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to recognise medicinal bathing, one of many practices of sowa rigpa, the Tibetan name for this type of medicine, as part of its "intangible cultural heritage". The decision will be made next year.

"If China is applying, of course India can also apply," said Geshe Ngawang Samten, the vice-chancellor of the Central University of Tibetan Studies in Sarnath. "This is Indian culture as well." The Tibetans who practice this ancient technique were stuck in crossroads as to what to make of the decision.


They hoped that recognition will bring them commercial aid and would increase the medical jobs for the Tibetans in this field. But they worry that UNESCO could industrialise the process and in the process, eliminate the natural procedures required for it to work.

In April, the state-run newspaper Global Times quoted Qin Yongzhang, an ethnologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying, "The truth is that Tibetan medicine not only originated but has developed in China." Whereas other researchers have also claimed that Tibetan medicine has direct linkage with Ayurveda.

Robert Thurman, a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, said that because China "forcibly" owned most of the Tibetan areas, its Unesco application does make sense. "But to claim that somehow China has been the origin of the tradition is, frankly, just silly,". Thurman wrote in an email. UNESCO needs to ensure that the politics does not creep in this debacle and taint the whole ancient art.

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