In the Circle of White Stones

Moving through Seasons with Nomads of Eastern Tibet

Gillian G. Tan

  • Published: December 2016
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / Tibet; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 176 pp., 19 bandw illus., 3 maps, 2 charts, 6 x 9 in.
  • Series: Studies on Ethnic Groups in China
  • Contents

This narrative of subsistence on the Tibetan plateau describes the life-worlds of people in a region traditionally known as Kham who move with their yaks from pasture to pasture, depending on the milk production of their herd for sustenance. Gillian Tan's story, based on her own experience of living through seasonal cycles with the people of Dora Karmo between 2006 and 2013, examines the community's powerful relationship with a Buddhist lama and their interactions with external agents of change. In showing how they perceive their environment and dwell in their world, Tan conveys a spare beauty that honors the stillness and rhythms of nomadic life.
Gillian G. Tan is assistant professor of anthropology at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia.

"I thoroughly enjoyed reading In the Circle of White Stones. I especially appreciate the portrayals of both (Tan's) interactions with her interlocutors and the changing conditions of life in the pastoral Eastern Tibetan plateau."
-Emily Yeh, author of Taming Tibet: Landscape Transformation and the Gift of Chinese Development

"Presents a glimpse into contemporary Tibetan nomad life that moves with a sense of pace and grace that is similar to how one must walk at altitude. The book captures lived experiences of Tibetans at a moment of momentous social, ecological, and economic change."
-Sienna Craig, author of Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage through the Himalayas

"Gillian Tan's beautifully written, collaborative ethnography offers us a succession of luminous insights into the lives and livelihoods of nomadic Tibetan pastoralists. Favoring intimate narrative accounts of quotidian existence over sweeping generalizations about the economic, religious, and political forces at play in Dora Karmo, Tan succeeds brilliantly in capturing the subtle interplay of continuity and discontinuity in a lifeworld that has always been, in one way or another, on the move."
-Michael D. Jackson, author of As Wide as the World Is Wide: Reinventing Philosophical Anthropology

Foreword / Stevan Harrell

Transcription, Transliteration, and Names
The People

1. Getting to Dora Karmo
2. The House and the Tent
3. Life in the Summer Pasture
4. A World of Impermanence
5. The Lama
6. Leaving and Arriving

Suggested Reading

"Tan's curiosity about pastoral culture and language is obvious in her reported observations and experiences. . . . The author's use of detail could not have been imagined, but only have come from lived experience. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed reading In the Circle of White Stones and its depiction of the reality of a Tibetan herding way of life."
-Konchok Gelek, Asian Highlands Perspectives