Precious Skin

The Rise and Fall of the Otter Fur Trade in Tibet

in Inner Asia
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Before 2006, otter pelts, the skins of carnivorous mammals from the Lutrinae family, were considered to be among the most precious and sought-after commodities in Tibet, being used for clothing, hats, and cushions. The animal’s flesh and body parts were used as ingredients in Tibetan medicine. However, after the Dalai Lama criticised the use of wild animal furs in 2006 in response to requests from international conservation organisations, most Tibetans not only stopped wearing otter fur, but a significant number of people also set fire to pelts worth thousands of yuan. In this article, by exploring a number of Tibetan religious and historical texts, I discuss the history of otter fur in its broadest context and the change in social values indicated by the cessation of this practice and outline the history of otter fur usage in Tibet, as well as the rise and fall of the material’s trade in the country.

Precious Skin

The Rise and Fall of the Otter Fur Trade in Tibet

in Inner Asia



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  • View in gallery
    The four special protectors of Menri monastery. On the right is Midud Champa Traggo. (From A sngags Tshe ring bkra shis & gNyan mo grub (eds). 2010: 318.)
  • View in gallery
    Yeshe Dondrup Tenpe Gyeltsen’s illustration of the otter with multilingual names. He also describes the physical characteristics, habits and movements of the creature (Jam dpal rdo rje 2008: 242).

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