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Guilford College

Publication Date

Fall 2017

Program Name

China: Health, Environment, and Traditional Chinese Medicine


What are the experiences of Tibetan women living in and around Shangri-La with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood? In order to explore this topic, one must first understand the context in which this topic exists: Tibetan Buddhism and culture. This paper gives a short background on women and the female body in Tibetan Buddhism, the Tibetan Medical system, and the current accessibility and regulation of hospitals, before entering into the topic of Tibetan women’s experiences with childbirth. The experiences and traditional practices of childbirth are important, as birth is universally significant as well as particularly religiously significant in Tibetan Buddhism, and the idea of cultural preservation is highly relevant to our globalized world, particularly China. Additionally, previous studies on Tibetan childbirth are not located within Yunnan, generally outdated, and do not include new hospital regulations.

My field work was located primarily in Shangri-La, with additional study in three other Tibetan areas within Diqing Prefecture. Observation and contextual study of the areas I worked in and the residents of those areas was crucial to better understanding my topic, which led me to include Tibetan women I observed for extended periods of time within my list of human resources (Appendix A). Officially, I had twelve interviews, but a total of seventeen human resources.

My findings turned out significantly different from how I had originally anticipated, and very different from previous studies on Tibetan birthing traditions. It is because of these differences that this paper is a comparative exploration of different aspects of the birthing process depicted in previous literature and from my own field work. In what ways are my findings different, and why might the discrepancy between my study and previous studies exist?


East Asian Languages and Societies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Maternal and Child Health | Medicine and Health | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Philosophy | Religion | Women's Health | Women's Studies



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