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.
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