The Tibet Journal
Winter Vol. XXIV, No. 4 1999

[Articles] [Book Reviews] [Brief Book Reviews] [Note] [Contributors]


"The Lhasa gTsug lag khang: Imago Mundi and Holy Fortress," Siegbert Hummel; Trans. G. Vogliotti, p. 3

"The Primordial Sea Under the City Temple of Lhasa and the Willows Before the Sanctuary," Siegbert Hummel; Trans. G. Vogliotti, p.12

"The Silver Coin Presented by the 13th Dalai Lama to Monks in 1910 A.D.," Wolfgang Bertsch, p. 22

"The Politics of Identity and Cultural Production in A mdo Reb gong," Mark Stevenson, p. 35

"Knowledge About Tibet in Slovenia: one of the youngest and smallest countries in Europe," Ralf Ceplak Mencin, p. 52

Book Reviews

Buddhism in Contemporary Tibet: Religious Revival and Cultural Identity, edited by Melvyn Goldstein and Matthew Kapstein, reviewed by Kabir M. Heimsath, p. 62

Natural Liberation. Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos by Gyatrul Rinpoche and B. Alan Wallace, reviewed by Franz-Karl Ehrhard , p. 68

Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind by B. Alan Wallace
'Jigs-med-gling-pa's "Discourse on India" of 1789: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the lHo-phyogs rgya-gar-gyi gtam brtag-pa brgyad-kyi me-long by Michael Aris, reviewed by Gareth Sparham, p. 71

Enthronement. The Recognition of the Reincarnate Masters of Tibet and the Himalayas by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye, translated and introduced by Ngawang Zangpo, reviewed by Ulrike Roesler, p. 75

Compassion. The Key to Great Awakening. Thought Training and the Bodhisattva Practices by Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen, reviewed by Alexander Fedotoff, p. 79

A Special Exhibition of Buddhist Gilt Votive Objects by Chu Jen-hsing et al., reviewed by Daphne Lange Rosenzweig, p. 80

Sky Burial-An Eyewitness Account of China's Brutal Crackdown in Tibet by Blake Kerr, reviewed by Kevin Garratt, p. 82

The Excellent Path to Enlightenment: Oral teachings or, the root text of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
Enlightened Courage: An Explanation of Atisha's Seven Point Mind Training by Dilgo, Khyentse, reviewed by Giacomella Orofino, p. 84

The Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra by H.H. the Dalai Lama and Alexander Berzin, reviewed by Paul Donnelly, p. 85

Brief Book Reviews

Buddha: his Life, his Doctrine, his Order by Hermann Oldenberg, translated from German by William Hoey
The Lankavatara sutra: A Mahayana Text by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, reviewed by Thupten K. Rikey, p. 87

Kalachakra and other Six-Session Yoga Texts by Alexander Berzin, reviewed by Riika J. Virtanen, p. 87

Note: Embryological Studies in Tibetan Medicine by Tsherrin K. Dhundhup, p. 89

Contributors, p. 93

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Wolfgang Bertsch has been doing research on Tibetan coins and paper money since 1974 and has published several articles on this subject in different journals including The Tibet Journal; his latest publication being A Study of Tibetan Paper Money with a Critical Bibliography, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA),1997.

Tsherrin K. Dhundhup has studied Zoology in Delhi University and is at present studying traditional Tibetan medicine at the Tibetan Astro-medical Institute (sMan rtsis khang), Dharamsala.

Paul Bryan Donnelly is a doctoral candidate in the Buddhist studies program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying with Geshe Lhundup Sopa of Sera Je monastery. He spent the 1995-96 academic year in India on a Fulbright grant during which time he studied at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath and also in Dharamsala. He is working on Tsong kha pa's commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, the Rig pa'i rgya mtsho.

Franz-Karl Ehrhard has previously been affiliated with the Institut fur Kultur & Geschichte Indiens und Tibets (Hamburg) and the Institut fur Indologie (Munster). From 1988 to 1993 resident representative of the Nepal Research Centre and the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project, and from 1993 to 1998 member of the interdisciplinary programme State Formation and Settlement Processes in the Tibetan Himalaya, he is currently resident research scholar at the Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI).

Alexander Fedotoff, PhD, a Professor at Sofia University "St. Kliment Ohridski," is the chief of the Korean department and the vice-dean of the Faculty of Classical and Modern Philology at the University. He is the co-author of Disputes Between Tea and Chang (LTWA 1993), the author of Mirror of the Heart (Sofia University 1997) and the translator of Bar do thos grol and other Tibetan books into Bulgarian, as well as the author of many scientific articles. He deals with Tibetan, Central Asian and Korean Studies.

Kevin Garratt is a lawyer and holds a Litt. B in Sanskrit and Tibetan studies from the Australian National University. He is the author of various articles on human rights and migration issues and was a member of the Australian Government Human Rights Delegations to China, 1991 and 1992.

Kabir Mansingh Heimsath studied at University of California at Berkeley (B.A.) and the University of Washington in Seattle (M.A.). He is currently co-director of the Tibetan Studies Program of the School for International Training, Brattleboro, Vermont. He is interested in sacred geography, religious biographies, and practice in contemporary Tibet.

Siegbert Hummel (b. 1908 Vogtland) is a scholar, who has, for more than 40 years, contributed much towards an interdisciplinary approach in Tibetan studies. His scholarly output is to be found in over 201 articles, 175 reviews and several books.

Ralf Ceplak Mencin is the head of the Museum of Non-European Cultures in Gorieane near Medvode. He has been working in the museum for the last 14 years. He was elected president of the Association of Slovene Museums twice and was a member of the executive board of ICME/ICOM (International Committee of Ethnographic Museums). He has been to Tibet three times (1986,'94 & '95) and to [++Page 94 THE TIBET JOURNAL] India three times (1974, '90 & '92). He has published over one hundred articles and two ethnological booklets; also has co-edited the Guide to Slovene museums and organised nine museum exhibitions.

Giacomella Orofino is Professor of Tibetan Literature at the Oriental University of Naples and Ordinary Member of Is.IAO) (Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente, ex-Is.MEO) of Rome. She is the author of several studies on Tibetan religious literature including Sekoddesa, A Critical Edition of the Tibetan Translations (1994), Naropa, Iniziazione Kalacakra (co-author, 1994), Ma gcig Lab sgron, Canti Spirituali (1995). "On the Sadangayoga and the Realisation of Ultimate Gnosis In the Kalacakratantra" (East and West, 1996), "Apropos of Some Foreign Elements in the Kalacakratantra," in Tibetan Studies, Wien, 1997).

Thupten K. Rikey is the current Managing Editor of The Tibet Journal and the head of LTWA's Research and Translation Department.

Ulrike Roesler, PhD in Indology, University of Munster. She is currently associated with the Department of Indology in Marburg, Germany, as a Research Assistant/Assistant Professor ("Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin"). She is presently doing a study on the transmission of narrative materials from India to Tibet and on narratives and parables in the bKa' gdams pa literature.

Daphne Lange Rosenzweig received her degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Columbia University, specializing in East Asian art and languages. After two years in Taiwan at the National Palace Museum on a Fulbright Fellowship, she taught at several universities and is currently a faculty member of the Liberal Arts Program at the Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. She is a member of many learned societies, organizer of museum exhibitions, and author of numerous articles, exhibition catalogues and books, all in the field of Asian art.

Gareth Sparham received his doctorate in Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia and is presently associated with the Buddhist Dialectic Institute in McLeod Ganj, India.

Mark Stevenson is an Australian trained anthropologist currently writing a PhD thesis on painters of Amdo Rebkong and Chinese cultural policy since 1949. He also lectures on anthropology and Asian cultures and literatures in the Department of Asian Studies and Languages at the Victoria University of Technology in Melbourne.

Riika Virtanen has been working as Assistant Editor of Tibet Journal since 1996.

Guido Vogliotti (b. 1954) graduated in English at the University of Turin (1977). He subsequently studied Tibetan with Dr. E. Lo Bue and moved to Munich in 1986, where he started to collect the works of Siegbert Hummel and then to translate them into English. In addition to the collection of translations previously published in this journal in its special issue on Hummel's works- (Vol.22, No.4), he has completed the translation of Hummel's books, Mythologisches aus Eurasien im Ge-sar-Heldenepos der Tibeter (LTWA, 1998) and Zhang zhung (forthcoming from LTWA).

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Tibet Journal, Winter 1999, p. 89

Note by Tsherrin K. Dhundhup

Embryological Studies in Tibetan Medicine


Tibetan medicine is a unique and holistic system which has been continuously practiced and preserved since many centuries. It deals with the inner (i.e. the subtle body and mind) as well as the external environment. Tibetan medicine identifies ignorance (ma rig pa) as the cause of all the disorders (disease), generalised into three main disorders of rlung, mkhris pa and bad kan, collectively known as three humours. Our body, according to Tibetan medicine is made of five cosmic elements (earth, water, fire, wind and space).

According to Tibetan medicine, all our life processes (activities) are carried out by the three humours (wind, bile and phlegm). These three humours carry various essences to all parts of our body (physiological functions), when they are in state of dynamic harmony, but become the cause of disorder when they are in disharmony. Each of the three hum ours has five sub-divisions e.g. the five types of rlung are life sustaining, ascending or upward moving, pervasive, fire like or fire accompanying and downward moving rlung. The five types of mkhris pa are digestive, determining, complexion clearing, sight seeing and colour transforming mkhris pa. The five types of bad kan are supporting, decomposing, experiencing, satisfying and connective. Although each of these have their specific functions, but in general, rlung helps in functioning of mind and body, respiration, urination, defection, uterine contraction, menstrual blood flow, spitting, swallowing, speech and the clear perceptions of five sense organs. mKhris pa carries out the digestive processes, assimilation, promotes bodily heat, clear body complexion, the sense of courage and determination. Bad kan is responsible for the firmness of body, stability of mind, inducing sleep, correcting bodily joints, generating the sense of patience and lubrication of the body.

Elemental theory states that all the natural phenomena, either macro cosmic or micro-cosmic are composed of five elements. Universe (macro cosmic) is formed of these elements and our body, the micro-cosmic, is also made up of them. In case of the living beings, these elements are not just the static physio-physical elements, but it deals more with the inherent energetical functions, for example the element fire does not mean the burning fire inside the body, but its inherent qualities of bringing warmth and strength in the body. These five cosmic elements play important role in the development of baby in the womb of the mother. Earth element is responsible for the formation of muscle tissue, bones and sense [++ Page 90 THE TIBET JOURNAL] of smell, overall solidification of the body. Water elements are responsible for the formation of blood, body fluids, and sense of taste, aggregation of different parts of the body together. Fire element is responsible for the body temperature, complexion, sense of sight, and maturation of the growing embryo. Air element helps in the development of the body, sense and touch. Space element creates body cavities, sense of hearing and provides space for the proper development of the body.

According to Tibetan medicine, sperm and ovum contain three humours (wind, bile, phlegm) and subtle qualities of five elements. Unlike the Tibetan system, the western science states that sperm and ovum carry the genetic blue print of life, the cell, which contains chromosomes (XX in female and XY in male) and the genetic material (DNA, RNA, and nucleic acid).


Tibetan medical texts explain the essentials of four major factors for a successful conception. These four factors are:

1. The healthy qualities of sperm and ovum (sperm should be white, heavy, sweet and frothy and the healthy ovum should be dark reddish colour like of the hare's blood and that leaves no stain on the clothes)
2. The conglomeration of five cosmic elements
3. The consciousness of being wandering in the intermediate world (bardo)
4. Karmic relationship between the consciousness and the parents.


The development of the fetus begins receiving its nutrition through umbilical cord connected to the naval of the fetus and placenta. The development of the fetus takes place in 38 weeks (26 weeks) plus ten days (nine months and six days).

1st week The sperm and ovum mingle.
2nd week The mixture then turns into semi-fluid.
3rd week Solidifies into curd like fluid
4th week then it becomes round, oval or oblong formation, which determines the sex of the embryo into male, female and hermaphrodite respectively.
[++NOTE Page 91]


Heaviness of the belly, weakness, loss of appetite, yawning, stretching of the limbs, laziness, developing breasts and appetite for sour foods and drinks and various things due to fetus. During this period, the wishes of the pregnant woman should not be restricted as this could harm the baby.

5th week the navel of the fetus itself forms
6th week the life channels form
7th week the shape of eyes form
8th week the shape of head forms
9th week upper and lower trunk of the body (abdomen) form

10th week the shape of two shoulders and two hips form
11th week forms the shape of the nine orifices
12th week the shape of five vital organs form
13th week the shape of six hollow organs form

14th week the shape of two arms and two thighs form
15th week the shape of forearms and legs form
16th week the shape of fingers and toes form
17th week the formation of internal and external connecting vessels

18th week formation of the muscles and fatty tissues
19th week formation of tendons and ligaments
20th week formation of bones and bone marrow
21st week formation of the outer skin

22nd week opening of the nine orifices of the body
23rd week growing of the hair, body hairs and nails
24th week full development of the vital and hollow organsl 25th week movement of wind energy in the body system
26th week mind clearly recollects the past

27th-30th week all the body systems increase very fast. This time fetus sucks the placenta

31st-35th week all the body systems increase very fast. This time fetus sucks the placenta.

36th week five feelings of distress rise in the mind of fetus (unclean environment, stingy, prison like, dark and a feeling to come out from the womb)
37th week feels like turning up side down.
38th week turns up side down by the action of downward moving wind.


Tibetan medicine explains that the development of embryo in the womb of the mother takes place by the action of different rlung energies. West ern medicine states that development occurs by cell division, and the action of certain hormones.

Tibetan medical text states that different organs of the body have their specific sources whereas the western medicine holds different views.

Delivery of the baby by the action of downward moving wind is ex- plained as uterine contraction due to hormonal effects that leads to the delivery of the baby according to western science.

One of the chief differences is that Tibetan medicine explains in tune to Buddhist viewpoint of life such as the law of karma, consciousness from the intermediate world. The presence of the consciousness is the main thing without which the conception will remain unsuccessful. But, the western medicine doesn't explain the role of karmic forces and the consciousness in child conception.

  • Nilsson, Lennart, A Child is born, Decorte Press Seymour Lawrence, New York, 1990.
  • Dakpa, Ngawang, "Certain Problems of Embryology according to Tibetan Medical Tradition," Aspects of Classical Medicine, Sikkim Institute of Tibetology, Sikkim, India, 1993.
  • Norbu, Namkai, On Birth and Life: A Treatise on Tibetan Medicine, Namkai Norbu, 1983.
  • Bo Ki So Rig Slob Thab, Documentation & Publication Department, Tibetan Medical and Astro. Institute, Dharamsala, 1997.

--Tsherrin K. Dhundhup

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