Author Biography

Nyimatashi (Gongwei Yang) is an Associate Professor at the Southwest University for Nationalities (Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China) and has a PhD in Ethnography. Most recently, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Yenjing Institute. His primary field of research is the topic of urbanization and the Tibetan community, focusing on modern development, resource inequality and ethnicity. He also has an interest in Tibetan historiography.


This case study examines the use of water in Kangding, China. Kangding is a location in the Kham Himalaya which for centuries served as a strategic border area between Tibetan and Chinese worlds. As the discussion elaborates, an examination of the way that water has been used in the past and in the present demonstrates the dynamism of the religious practices prominent in locations such as Kangding. The study of water, and of the everyday religious practices with which it is associated, also intersects with growing resource management challenges that have come to the forefront during a contemporary period of development and modernization. I suggest that the recent resurgence of religion could deepen our understandings about local knowledge of the natural environment while shedding light on some ideas about its ideal use.


The paper has been made possible with support from the New School in New York City, China’s Social Science and Ministry of Education Project ‘The Urbanization Project of Tibet and its Reemployment of the Displaced Farmers’ (12XMZ029,12XJC850005), and the Southwest University for Nationalities’ Research Team Project (2016XWD-S0304). The author would also like to thank a number of scholars for their support, including Ashok Gurung, Marina Kaneti, Georgina Drew, and Sienna Craig. Their advice on this paper was invaluable. Additionally, the author would like to thank Leonard van der Kuijp (Harvard University) for his knowledge of the dynamic relationship between water and rulership. Finally, the author acknowledges informants from Kangding, Buchu Rinpoche of the Dordrak monastery, Daji Rinpoche of the Lhamotse monastery, and Jiang’chuo of the Sichuan Provincial Tibetan Language School. Without their help, this paper would not have been possible.

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