Tibetan Foundation helps rebuild Yushu after earthquake

By Jamyang Dhondup

LONDON, UK, 21 November 2016

Tibet Foundation, a UK registered charity established in 1985, has as its main objectives creating greater awareness of Tibetan culture and helping raising standard of education, health care, and relieving poverty amongst the Tibetan communities both in Tibet and elsewhere in the world.

On 14th November 2016 the Foundation celebrated its 31st founding anniversary in London. Their chief guest was a delegation from Yushu Tibetan Hospital of the Tibetan Medical and Astrological Institute (TMAI) in Qinghai Province. They delivered their report to a full-house audience, and also presented some unique performances of Tibetan songs and dances in London and Manchester.

Yushu Tibet Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province is a large, pristine region of lush green grasslands, water bodies, fresh air, and is a rich treasury of all aspects of Tibetan culture. Such a rich and favourable natural environment has helped lay a firm foundation for the development and enrichment of the ancient science and practice of Tibetan medicine and astrology.

The first modern foundations of the Yushu Tibetan Medical and Astrology Institute were laid in 1983, with an outdoor patient clinic covering 500 square metres. The Institute has developed into a large complex with many different facilities to cater to the health needs of the local population.

The 2010 earthquake

On 10 April 10 2010, at about 7:48 in the morning, a massive earthquake measuring 7.49 on the Richter scale struck the centre of Yushu township and caused unprecedented death and destruction. As well as in terms of lives lost, it was also economically and culturally a great disaster. The Tibetan Medical Centre did not escape the catastrophe, and suffered almost total destruction.

In order to provide emergency relief aid after the earthquake disaster, with the approval and permission of the Party and the Government of China, and with approval from the State Council, Mr Phuntsog Wangyal, the founding Trustee of Tibet Foundation, visited Yushu soon after the earthquake in June 2010. With the support and cooperation of the staff and health workers of the Tibetan Medical Institute, he made concerted efforts to provide emergency relief, delivering tsampa, butter, cheese, tea, and clothing to the victims of the earthquake.

The health workers organised relief efforts and emergency medical aid to treat victims who had suffered broken bones and infectious diseases, along with flu prevention and treatment. They also provided rejuvenation infusions for the physically weak according to Tibetan medical formulae. The medicines benefited the sick and injured immensely, and saved the lives of countless people.

The Government then allocated over RMB 58 million in aid money for reconstruction of the Yushu Tibetan Medical Institute. The reconstructed Medical Institute has grown into a large complex with three blocks containing many facilities such as multi-storied patient’s wards, a walk-in patient treatment centre, and a centre for compounding medical pills and potions.

There are now medical wards for patients to remain longer for treatments, medical treatment clinics, a pharmacopeia, and a library for the archival collection of old Tibetan medical texts. There are also traditional chapels for worship, a medicinal pill processing centre, and a medicine exhibition centre.

In the overnight stay block, there are beds for 150 patients. There is a national level clinic specializing in liver disease, and a medicinal bath unit. Under the General Hospital are a liver unit, cardiac unit, and units for neurology, women’s disease, and health for longevity.

Thanks, and plans for future

Tibet Foundation expressed appreciation to the Government for the large-scale economic aid for the infrastructure re-development of Yushu in general, and in particular, for recognizing and helping to promote the ancient Tibetan medical system. The Foundation is resolved to rededicate themselves to the further promotion and expansion of the ancient heritage of their ancestors.

From 2015 onwards, the Tibetan Medical and Astrology Centre has been upgraded to the status of National Level 2 Medical Centre. The benefit of this upgrade has been to get enhanced funding to improve and expand medical treatment, public health and hygiene, medical research, medical college, and a pharmacy unit for Tibetan herbal medicines.

As a result of these above-mentioned developments, expansion, and progress, today the Yushu Tibetan Medical and Astrology Centre is able to provide much needed health services to the patients in the Kyegu-do (aka Yushu) region of Dril-da Zilmo-gung, one of the three major plateaus of the Dhokham region.

Barefoot doctors workshops

Between 2010 and 2015, with the express approval of the United Front Works Department of the Party, the UK-based charity Tibet Foundation has organised four 3-month intensive Workshops for Tibetan “barefoot doctors” from the six counties of Yushu prefecture.

The aim of these workshops is to alleviate the suffering of the patients and also to encourage the preservation and promotion of the unique Tibetan medical system. So far, in the last four years, 250 practising Tibetan physicians were successfully trained, by inviting some of the most senior and experienced Tibetan medical doctors from other Medical centres to teach and share their knowledge and skills.

The Institute’s own Tibetan doctors also ran intensive courses on the fundamental theoretical topics of the Four Root Tantras of Tibetan Medical Practice.

Classroom lessons were followed by clinical training and practice such as Tar-ga (drawing bad blood with a needle in the nadi), moxibustion, identification of various medicines, health of mother and child, compounding herbal and mineral constituents of Tibetan medicine, and general health care.

This totally free service attracted a large number of trainees who worked most diligently during their course and returned better informed, educated, trained, and experienced in serving patients in their home counties.

Tibet Foundation believes that even though there are national and political boundaries, there is no boundary to love and compassion. They have plans in the coming years for the general enhancement of the health of the local people through programs such as health awareness campaigns, preventative measures, life-style issues for good health and longevity, and so on.


From report by Tsewang Gyamtso, Director of the Yushu Tibetan Medical and Astrology Institute in Qinghai Province, on 14 November 2016, translated from the Tibetan by Tsering D Gonkatsang.
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