In this brief study, the origin and spread of the alchemical process of refining mercury in Tibetan medicine will be explored. Beginning with early sources from the eighth to the twelfth centuries, it will be argued that Orgyenpa Rinchenpel (O rgyan pa Rin chen dpal) caused a turning-point in the processing of mercury in Tibet by introducing a complex alchemical process previously unknown. This knowledge, including the manufacturing of new pills containing mercury, soon spread through Tibet and was incorporated into the medical expertise of local schools such as the Drangti school (Brang ti). Later it was most prominently practised by Nyamnyi Dorjé (Mnyam nyid rdo rje) in southern Tibet. This particular tradition was upheld by Chökyi Drakpa (Chos kyi grags pa) of the Drigung school, who taught it to his gifted student Könchok Dropen Wangpo (Dkon mchog ’gro phan dbang po). During the seventeenth century, two main transmission lines for refining mercury emerged, one associated with the Gelukpa school (Dge lugs pa) in Central Tibet and one with the Kagyüpa school (Bka’ brgyud pa) and the Rimé movement (Ris med) in eastern Tibet. Both will be discussed in detail, highlighting important proponents and major events in their development. Finally, the situation in the twentieth century will be briefly explained.
CzajaO.SchrempfM.‘The Making of the Blue Beryl: Some Remarks on the Textual Sources of the Famous Commentary of Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (1653–1705)’Soundings in Tibetan Medicine. Anthropological and Historical Perspectives2007Proceedings of the 10th Seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies6–13 September 2003OxfordLeidenBrill345372
CzajaO.Medieval Rule in Tibet: The Rlangs Clan and the Political and Religious History of the Ruling House of Phag mo gru pa with a Study of the Monastic Art of Gdan sa mthil2013WienVerlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
EhrhardF.-K.KlausK.HartmannJ.-U.‘A Short History of the g.Yu thog snying thig’Indica et Tibetica. Festschrift Michael Hahn2007WienArbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien151170
KloosS.‘Tibetan Medicine in Exile: The Ethics, Politics and Science of Cultural Survival’2010PhD thesis submitted at the Graduate Division of the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley
LiB. W. L.‘A Critical Study of the Life of the 13th-century Tibetan Monk U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal based on his Biographies’2011PhD thesis, submitted at Wolfson College, Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford
Van der KuijpL.CüppersC.‘U rgyan pa Rin chen dpal (1230−1309) Part Two: For Emperor Qubilai? His Garland of Tales about Rivers’The Relationship between Religion and State (chos srid zung ’brel) in Traditional Tibet2004LumbiniLumbini International Research Institute299339
See, for instance, Men-Tsee-Khang (ed.)2011b, p. 5.
Van der Kuijp2004, p. 299.
For a full list of his works, see Li2011.
Men-Tsee-Khang (ed.)2011b, pp. 4–6.
Ibid., p. 5. Accidentals enclosed in square brackets are editorial.
Ibid., p. 43.
Ibid., pp. 43, 130–4.
Sönam Bakdrö2006, pp. 46f. Probably he is identical with Tserik Dzinpa Ngakwang Sangye Pelzang (Tshe rig ’dzin pa Ngag dbang sangs rgyas dpal bzang). On the latter, see Jampa Trinlé 2000, pp. 336ff.
Jampa Trinlé2000, p. 377 and Sönam Bakdrö 2006, p. 39.
Sönam Bakdrö2006, pp. 41, 55, 362.
Sönam Bakdrö2006, pp. 48, 57. The biography of Jamyang Chökyi Lodrö did not reach the author in time. It could therefore not be checked.
Sönam Bakdrö2006, p. 47.
Lappendum Lozang Lodrö2006, pp. 230ff.
Cf., also Sönam Bakdrö2006, pp. 47, 56.
Lappendum Lozang Lodrö2006, p. 241. The doctors and assistants were Tendzin Chödrak, Tupten Shakya (Thub bstan shakya), Jamyang Lhündrup (’Jam dbyangs lhun grub), Rindzin Wangyel (Rig ’dzin dbang rgyal), Yeshé Dorjé (Ye shes rdo rje), Tségyel (Tshe rgyal), Ngakwang Gyamtso (Ngag dbang rgya mtsho), and others. They produced 19 kg of refined mercury or tsotel (btso thal).
Lappendum Lozang Lodrö2006, pp. 241f. In 1980, 19 kg of tsotel were produced at Mandal monastery under the supervision of the Derge Mentsikhang. Four years later, in 1984, the printing house and the Mentsikhang in Derge manufactured together Precious Cold Compound, Major Black Pills, ‘Wish-fulfilling Jewel’ (Ratna bsam ’phel), and ‘Precious Accumulation Pills’ (Rin chen mang sbyor). In 1987, the Tibetan clinic in Rebkong in Amdo made 51 kg of tsotel. Then, a year later, three clinics for Tibetan medicine produced tsotel. In the sixth month, the clinic of Gannan prefecture in Gansu province produced 50 kg and prepared precious pills such as Major Black Pills and Wish-fulfilling Jewels. The Tibetan clinic in Jyekundo manufactured 51 kg in the seventh month. In the tenth month, the clinic in Tsolho (Hainan) manufactured 52.5 kg. In 1995, the Tibetan clinic in Jomda County of the Chamdo Prefecture together with the Troru monastery (Khro ru dgon) made 37.5 kg and prepared some pills such as Tarima Pills. For the names of the doctors and assistans involved in it, see the cited source.
Sönam Bakdrö2006, pp. 49f. Lappendum Lozang Lodrö 2006, pp. 244f.