International workshop on religion in Amdo (northeast Tibet)

An international workshop entitled “Unity and Diversity: Monastic and Non-monastic Traditions in Amdo”, convened by Yangdon Dhondup (SOAS), Ulrich Pagel (SOAS) and Geoffrey Samuel (Cardiff University), was held from Friday, 30th September to Sunday, 2nd October 2011 in St. Michael’s College, in Llandaff, Cardiff. Research in Amdo has become over the past 15 years one of the most active sectors of on-site social science and humanities research in Tibetan societies, and is today probably the most active one within the People’s Republic of China. The Cardiff workshop gathered scholars working primarily in anthropology, religious studies and history. Of particular note: nine out of the eleven presentations focused on the county of Repkong (Chinese: Tongren) alone. Repkong has a population of the order of 80–90.000 inhabitants, mainly ethnic Tibetans, but with sizeable Han, Hui, Monguor and other groups as well. It is known for its history of producing important Tibetan intellectuals and religious figures (Gendun Chophel, Shar Kalden Gyatso, Shapkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol…) and its rich religious diversity.

Repkong ngakpa elders, Sakor village, 2004

Among the Cardiff presentations, not less than six focused, at least in part, on the very important local traditions of (Buddhist and Bönpo) non-monastic tantric religious specialists (called ngakpa / ngakma [sngags-pa/-ma] or, for males only, xön [dpon]) of Repkong, whose fame has spread across much of northeast Tibet and beyond. The important monastic or place deity cult (lərul [klu-rol]) traditions of the region, as well as female lamas and rulers for instance, were also the object of several presentations. The result was a nicely complementary and very fruitful workshop.

The presentations, in chronological order:

Geoffrey Samuel: Rebkong in the Multiethnic Context of Amdo: Religion, Language, Ethnicity, and Identity

Charlene Makley: Rebgong’s Klu rol and the Politics of Presence: Methodological Considerations

Colin Millard: Bon Religious Practice in Rebkong

Heather Stoddard: A Short Life of Rigzin Palden Tashi (1688-1743) Founder of the ‘1900 Dagger-Wielding, White-Robed, Long-Haired Yogins of Rebkong’ (phur-thog gos-dkar lcang-lo-can) Also Known as the ‘Community of the Many Yogins’ (sngags mang)

Yangdon Dhondup: Rebkong’s Tantric Practitioners: Origin, History and Development

Nicolas Sihlé: When the officiant becomes the donor: Donor and recipient perspectives on the gift in the context of the Repkong tantrists’ major rituals

Tiina Hyytiäinen: Rebkong Ngakmas – The Relationship between their Religious Practices and Local Economics

Jane Caple: Narrating monastic revival: stories from Rebgong and Western Bayan

Paul Nietupski: The unity of religion and politics: Monastic and nomadic governance in Amdo. The Detri Estate (sde khri nang chen) at Labrang Monastery

Hildegard Diemberger: Female Rulers and Female Lamas: Religion and Gender Politics in Early 20th Century Amdo

Dawn Collins: Dancing the Gods: Modern Transformations of ‘Cham in Rebkong


Click here for the complete abstracts.


Cite this blog post
Nicolas Sihlé (2011, October 5). International workshop on religion in Amdo (northeast Tibet). The Himalayas and beyond. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from

Nicolas Sihlé

Nicolas Sihlé, a sociocultural anthropologist, is researcher at the Center for Himalayan Studies, a research unit of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) based in Villejuif (France). He specializes on Tibetan religion and society, and is the author of Rituels bouddhiques de pouvoir et de violence : La figure du tantriste tibétain [Buddhist rituals of power and violence : The figure of the Tibetan tantrist] (Brepols, 2013). His current work focuses on post-Mao socioreligious transitions in and around the famous communities of non-monastic specialists of tantric Buddhism in northeast Tibet (Amdo), and more generally on the comparative anthropology of Buddhism.

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1 Response

  1. Sonam Dorjee says:

    ཁོང་རྣམ་པ་ཚང་མ་རེབ་གོང་ལ་རྒྱུས་ཡོད་པའི་ཕྱི་གླིང་བ་རྐྱང་རེད། དེ་ལྟར་ལས་འདི་འདྲ་ཞིག་སྒྲུབ་པར་མཐུན་རྐྱེན་བསྐྲུན་པར་སེམས་གཏིང་ནས་དགའ་སོང་།
    [These are all non-Tibetans who are knowledgeable about Repkong. It is profoundly rejoicing to see that the conditions have been brought together for such work to be accomplished.]

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