Religion, Medicine and the Human Embryo in Tibet (Hardback) book cover

Religion, Medicine and the Human Embryo in Tibet

By Frances Garrett

© 2008 – Routledge

224 pages | 8 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138862258
pub: 2015-03-04
Hardback: 9780415441155
pub: 2008-04-25
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This book explores the cultural history of embryology in Tibet, in culture, religion, art and literature, and what this reveals about its medicine and religion. Filling a significant gap in the literature this is the first in-depth exploration of Tibetan medical history in the English language. It reveals the prevalence of descriptions of the development of the human body – from conception to birth – found in all forms of Tibetan religious literature, as well as in medical texts and in art.

By analysing stories of embryology, Frances Garrett explores questions of cultural transmission and adaptation: How did Tibetan writers adapt ideas inherited from India and China for their own purposes? What original views did they develop on the body, on gender, on creation, and on life itself?

The transformations of embryological narratives over several centuries illuminate key turning points in Tibetan medical history, and its relationship with religious doctrine and practice. Embryology was a site for both religious and medical theorists to contemplate profound questions of being and becoming, where topics such as pharmacology and nosology were left to shape secular medicine. The author argues that, in terms of religion, stories of human development comment on embodiment, gender, socio-political hierarchy, religious ontology, and spiritual progress. Through the lens of embryology, this book examines how these concerns shift as Tibetan history moves through the formative 'renaissance' period of the twelfth through to the seventeenth centuries.


"Religion,Medicine and the Human Embryo in Tibet is a very valuable addition to our knowledge of Tibetan medicine and also a good source for teaching undergraduates and graduates on exactly how religion andmedicine can be intertwined in specific cultural contexts.The book is an important contribution for scholars of Tibetan studies and Tibetan medicine, and also for students and scholars of Buddhist and religious studies, as well as medical history."

BARBARA GERKE, Traditional South Asian Medicine

Table of Contents

1. Becoming human in Tibetan literature 2. Traditions of knowledge on human development 3. Interactions between medicine and religion in Tibet 4. The fetal body, gender and the normal 5. Gestation and the religious path 6. Growth, change and continuity Epilogue: Historiography recapitulates embryology

About the Author

Frances Garrett is Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research addresses doctrinal, ritual and textual practice in Tibetan cultures.

About the Series

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism

Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism is a comprehensive study of the Buddhist tradition. The series explores this complex and extensive tradition from a variety of perspectives, using a range of different methodologies. The series is diverse in its focus, including historical, philological, cultural, and sociological investigations into the manifold features and expressions of Buddhism worldwide. It also presents works of constructive and reflective analysis, including the role of Buddhist thought and scholarship in a contemporary, critical context and in the light of current social issues. The series is expansive and imaginative in scope, spanning more than two and a half millennia of Buddhist history. It is receptive to all research works that are of significance and interest to the broader field of Buddhist Studies.

Some of the titles in the series are published in association with the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, which conducts and promotes rigorous teaching and research into all forms of the Buddhist tradition.

Editorial Advisory Board:
James A. Benn, McMaster University, Canada

Jinhua Chen, The University of British Columbia, Canada

Rupert Gethin, University of Bristol, UK

Peter Harvey, University of Sunderland, UK

Sallie King, James Madison University, USA

Anne Klein, Rice University, USA

Lori Meeks, University of Southern California, USA;

Ulrich Pagel, School of Oriental and African Studies, UK

John Powers, Australian National University, Australia;

Juliane Schober, Arizona State University, USA

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Michael Zimmermann, University of Hamburg, Germany

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / Central Asia
MEDICAL / History
RELIGION / Buddhism / History
RELIGION / Buddhism / Tibetan
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General