Body and Spirit
Tibetan Medical Paintings
The first full set of Tibetan medical paintings, or medical tangkas, were painted between 1687 and 1703 and were inspired by Sangye Gyatso, Regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama, who was a great patron of medical learning. In a beautiful and unique artistic style, the paintings illustrate Tibetan medical knowledge that drew on medical traditions from India, ancient Greece, Persia, pre-Buddhist Tibet, and China, while remaining firmly rooted in Buddhism. Copies of the iconic images have been created in meticulous detail through the centuries and Body and Spirit focuses on a set of contemporary paintings in the traditional technique by the Nepalese artist Romio Shrestha and his assistants in Kathmandu.
The tangkas illuminate human anatomy and the causes and effects of illness, as well as their diagnosis and treatment. Most of the paintings consist of rows of small human figures, animals, plants, minerals, houses, landscapes, and demons and deities, depicting the rich complexity of human endeavor: farming, animal husbandry, personal hygiene, marriage, sex, birthing, fighting, sleeping, studying, and meditating. The thousands of small and large images were designed to add visual form to the technical information: an eye-pleasing teaching aid for medical students.
About the Authors
"…a beautifully produced catalogue…Body and Spirit makes available all seventy-nine paintings, giving a well translated short summary on each of them and an English rendering of all medical terms, drawing on the original seventeenth-century descriptions. Gyatso's erudite introduction adds greatly to the value of the book for academic and general readers alike…. Body and Spirit will not only be of great use to teachers and students of Asian studies and global medical history but will also give much pleasure to anyone interested in Asian art."—Medical History
"This new rendering of the subject has the distinct advantage of being affordable and accessible for a wider audience, including students. The subject is eclectic, and the curious-from medical professionals to scholars of art, culture, and religion-will benefit from exploring this new treatment."—Choice
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