Dharmapala Thangka CentreTibetan Antiques

Medical Thangkas

Examples from the »Blue Beryl«

Surgical instruments on a medical thangka Probes Forceps Tweezers & lancets Stylet & adzes Adzes & saws

As recorded in the history of Tibetan Medicine, Tibetan surgery was banned during the eighth century after a failed heart operation on the Mother Queen of Tibet, and it gradually disappeared from the medical practice. Minor operations like eyes cataract, lungs and abdominal water drainage, and hemorrhoid operation were still practiced.

The age is hard to determine however it seems it to be late 19th or early 20thcentury.

The surgery tools are divided into five groups:

1. Probes 2. Forceps 3. Lancets 4. Mandrins 5. Auxiliary instruments

A wide variety of surgical instruments and techniques were developed in the Tibetan medicine. The 17th century Medicine Thangka No. 34 shows 83 of these traditional instruments.

There were three categories of performing therapy: mild, rough and rigorous. Mild therapy involves compresses, fomentation and massage. Rough therapy included bloodletting, moxibustion and minor surgery. Rigorous therapies consist of incision, excision, scraping and extraction.

Probes were used for exploring cranial bone fractures and excision of hemorrhoids. Probing instruments are round, thin and smoothly polished for cranial exploration. For hemorrhoids there are a series of tubular probes with lateral openings for examination and incision.

Forceps were used for extracting foreign bodies from muscle tissues and ligaments.

Lancets were used mainly for incision into muscle tissue and for puncturing vessels to cause bleeding. They include the sparrow-feather-shaped lancet used the curved lancet, and the sickle-shaped lancet used to incise tongue swellings.

Stylets were used to make punctures to release fluids or vapors from various part of the body. They include hollow surgical stylets the frog-shaped stylet, and the reednib-shaped stylet.

Auxiliary instruments as medical saws, medical knifes, stylets and catheter instruments were all made from the finest iron, copper, and gold were well polished. They came in different shapes and lengths.

Very few of these were used, as in Tibetan medicine performing surgery is a last resort when treating a patient.