Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol 4 No 5 (2017)

In search of trust and efficacy: Tibetan medicine in multiethnic Rebgong, Qinghai, China

  • Nianggajia
  • Heidi Fjeld
March 24, 2017
December 15, 2017


This article describes how Tibetan medicine, traditionally an ethnomedicine indigenous to Tibetan areas, travels across cultural boundaries in a multiethnic region, presenting empirical findings from Rebgong (Ch. Tongren) in Qinghai province, People’s Republic of China. Focusing on Muslim Hui and Han Chinese citizens, we describe how these patients smoothly engage with Tibetan medicine. This, we argue, is enabled by a strong sense of trust in distinguished Tibetan doctors, or ‘lineage doctors’, and their privately produced Tibetan medicines, and by shared understandings of the patient role. Contemporary medical pluralism in Rebgong invites us to revisit classic themes in medical anthropology as it brings the study of ethnomedicine into the context of a reconfigured instrumentalized public health system and ethnic relations, in which trust is a rare and treasured quality.