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Tibetan Medicine master Zekang Qamba Tuwang

 

Zekang Qamba Tuwang was a well-known person around the turn of the 20th century, and once served as the first chief of the Lhasa Calendaring Center (called Moinzekang in Tibetan) and as the private medical doctor of the 13th Dalai Lama.

“Qamqen Qamba Tuwang”

Qamqen Qamba Tuwang was born in Qamqen Manor in Qoingyi, Tibet, during the 1850s. No data is available as to when the manor was founded. What is known is that it had long accumulated wealth and, during the time of the 5th Dalai Lama, ownership of it became hereditary.

Qamba Tuwang began to receive a good education at a young age. He started to study Tibetan and arithmetic at the age of five and learned to recited sutras at the age of eight. At the age of 20, he and his brother began to share the same wife for co-management of the manor.

Qamba Tuwang devoted part of his own land for serfs to cultivate. Harvests were under placed under the control of a granary headed by two serfs elected by their peers. Serfs involved in the labor were given regular remuneration. Those short of food could also borrow some from the granary, too, but at a high interest rate of 10 percent (the rate went to 14.3 percent for those outside the manor).
This system unique to the manor itself served to boost farming. However, Qamba Tuwang’s brother thought differently and the difference led to conflicts, ending in division of the land and serfs between the two brothers.

Outraged, Qamba Tuwang became tonsured to the Lhoserling Zhacang of the Zhaibung Monastery, leaving his brother in charge of the manor. He didn’t return to manage the manor until his brother died later. However, he had already become a manager in the Potala palace in Lhasa, and this position kept him busy working for the Potala Palace and the Gaxag Government. He went back to the manor only every two years, or so.

Qenrao Norbu, student of Zekang Qamba Tuwang, was the first president of the Tibetan Medicine Hospital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

“Oushi Qamba Tuwang”

Qamqen Qamba Tuwang was well received in the Lhoserling Zhacang of Zhaibung Monastery. But he managed to do a good job in running a manor attached to Qamqen Manor in Oushi. As a result, he won an official position in the local government, eventually becoming magistrate of Lhozha Zong.

Once, he was seriously ill, and a local medical practitioner came to treat him. When he recovered, he made up his mind to study Tibetan medicine.

Later on, a friend of his took him to the office of the former Tibetan Army where he met an expert in Tibetan medicine.

From then on, he developed a strong interest in Tibetan medicine and, through study and practice, gained much knowledge and ability.   

A portrait drawn by folk painters, with Yutog Yandain in the center and Zekang Qamba Tuwang in the left.

“Zekang Qamba Tuwang”

On May 5, 1897, the 13th Dalai Lama made Zekang Qamba Tuwang his private medical doctor and charged him with the task of training disciples. Within a short period of time, he had succeeded in training six disciples, including Gendain Nyiangzha with Wudui Zhaya Monastery and Qenrao Norbu from Shannan. Of the six, Lhunzhub Zhaba from Dagyiling Monastery was the most outstanding and later was appointed the private doctor of Galoon Lama Qamba Dainda.

In 1916 when the Lhasa Tibetan Medicine Calendaring Center was founded, Zekang Qamba Tuwang and his disciple Qenrao Norbu were made its chiefs. Given his high prestige in medical circles, Zekang Qamba Tuwang worked very efficiently. He was even in charge of overseeing the dissertations of his students.

Seeing lack of care for new-born babies and their mothers, resulting in many new-born babies dying soon after their birth, Zekang Qamba Tuwang produced a book on the diseases children suffered, and developed eight kinds of medicines for children which were distributed among 96 manors. In addition, he initiated a class on healthy births in the center.

Zekang Qamba Tuwang was also good at developing Tibetan medicines.

Tibetan medical doctors cherished a kind of medicine prepared with specially processed mercury, which proved also to have curative effects for poisoning and some other illnesses. In 1921, he produced the medicine, and developed Renqen Changjor, Renqen Mangjor and other precious drugs. Later, he passed the secret to Qenrao Norbu and Renzin Lhunzhub.

During the twilight of his life, Zekang Qamba Tuwang lived in Xoizaikang, which was where the local government was located. South of it was the former Tibetan Army Headquarters; to the left was the Xoi Sutra Printing House, and to the right the Xoi Qingke Winery. It was a three-story building covering an area of 700 square meters used to preserve the tents the Dalai Lama used when traveling.

Zekang Qamba Tuwang passed away in 1922 in Norbu Lingka, Lhasa.

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