Historical Engagements in Eastern Tibet

  • Gillian G. Tan
Part of the Studies in Human Ecology and Adaptation book series (STHE, volume 10)


In attending to the diachronic dimension of change, this chapter explores the historical literature on nomadic pastoralists of eastern Tibet in order to establish an understanding of their previous relationships. What becomes clear is that the literature complicates a simple or single idea of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism. Focusing on Tibetan nomadic pastoralists’ relationships with each other and with outsiders, an assumedly egalitarian system is disrupted by the presence of hierarchical relationships with local kings and aristocrats. Moreover, civil wars and wars with distant empires entangled nomadic pastoralists in larger political strategies as they contributed to military skirmishes. Even within pastoralist communities, the system of relationships was punctuated by inequalities of rank, wealth, and access to good pastures. Feuds and raids led to movement for physical and strategic needs, marking these communities with dynamism and fluidity. Finally, historic trade and exchange with others contributed to the continuation of a pastoral way of life. The complexities and dynamism of these previous relationships set an understanding from which contemporary adaptations and transformations may be analyzed.


Pastoral estates Rank and wealth Egalitarian Segmentary system Feuds and raids Movement Trade 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian G. Tan
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Humanities and Social SciencesDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia

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