Q: Why is "Sherpa" added to the end of every Sherpa person's name?
A: Namaste, Good question!
Since there are 18 clans ("ru") in Sherpa society each with their own family name, you would think that Sherpa (shar-wa) folks would use their clan names. Clan names are beautiful, interesting, have rich meaning in the Tibetan cultural traditions (Please see brief explanation of "ru" [literally, "bones"] on the Sherpa Facts Page.)
But, if you've been to Nepal (or Brooklyn...) you would see why Sherpa folk pretty much all use "Sherpa" as a surname. There are a couple of factors contributing to this situation.
Firstly, most people in Nepal were (and still are) functionally illiterate. Few people outside temples & monasteries know much about their ethnic history. Because Nepal's central government has been working to unify many disparate ethnic groups into a loose national "Nepalese" identity, concepts like cultural diversity and "Roots" so familiar to us in the US, are not practiced. Rather, cultural distinctions are generally downplayed.
Secondly, Sherpas got famous as mountaineers. Every Sherpa (be he Taktok, Lama, or Pinasa) who wanted mountaineering work would have needed to call himself "Sherpa" in order to establish his ethnic credentials as a courageous, capable mountaineer.
Thirdly, when the Nepali-speaking government workers went into the Sherpa-speaking districts in the 1960's to register Sherpas as citizens of Nepal, they didn't ask anyone's surname. If you were wearing a Sherpa costume they registered you as "Sherpa." Most Sherpa persons' legal names are "Sherpa" now and they can't change them if they wanted to.
The only exception to virtually all ethnic Sherpas also using "Sherpa" as their surname is one clan called "Lama." The Lama clan is very proud. They have always called themselves "Lama" because that is an important name in Sherpa society. They got "Lama" on their Nepal citizen cards and later Nepal passports. However, even Lama people often write Lama-Sherpa so they have international and intra-Nepal identity. Members of the Tamang ethnic group also have "Lama" families, and the Lama-Sherpas need a way to be distinguished from them. As well, many Tibetan refugees use "Lama" as surname, further confusing Lama identity. So "Sherpa" as a surname is very important within Nepal as well.
Finally, although Sherpas do use the generic "Sherpa" surname legally, all Sherpas without exception know his or her clan surname. Clan rules determine who you can and cannot marry. Children are taught clan marriage rules very strictly! Hope this helps!
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Q: How do I make Sherpa tea? From what I have read Sherpa Tea is made by combining tea with either milk and sugar or butter and salt. What type of tea should I use? - Darjeeling, lapsang-souchong, Assam etc. Do Sherpas import their tea or do they grow it locally?
A: Tashi delek. Sherpa tea is made with nak or changri butter (usually rancid) and ground salt from Tibetan salt licks. The tea comes from Tibet in yak trains over the high passes, or now sometimes in heavy-duty trucks, in big black freeze-dried bricks. Normal people in Tibet buy Chinese black tea, the lowest blackest most fermented leaves, quite cheap, and dry them on flat rooftops in the cold brilliant sunlight. The bricks are tamped and wrapped in paper; they keep forever. We get them here in Berkeley and they taste fine even after five years!
Less-fermented green teas are so expensive that simple folk would never buy them, plus green teas are far too delicate to mix with butter and salt! Sherpa tea is a meal in itself. Many Sherpa farmers take only one meal per day, in the evening after grueling cold mountain farming is done; in the daytime, they simply drink this rich salty tea. It's remarkably nourishing.
In Tibetan areas of Nepal (such as the Sherpa regions) and in Tibet, salt butter tea is made in a tea churn. The blackest black tea is boiled into a hot thick soup. Then it is poured into a churn with local butter and a ton of salt. the tea tastes and smells richly of wood smoke and the salt is usually liberally mixed with dirt. The resulting mix is an acquired but supremely delicious taste.
We make Sherpa tea here in Berkeley with sea salt (too bad, no dirt!) and supermarket butter, and it still tastes great because the Tibetan brick tea always tastes like a smoky Sherpa house. Very nostalgic
Tea doesn't grow well in most Sherpa regions. Sometimes in some microclimates you can grow a tea bush and get one picking per year. (Darjeeling tea bushes get 4-6 pickings or more!) So, virtually all Sherpa tea is imported.
You will never find milk or sugar in Sherpa tea. However, Sherpas often prepare Nepali tea for their Nepali-speaking and western guests. Nepali tea is low-grade heavily fermented ground black Indian tea (most Nepalese have stomach problems, guess why!) boiled in cow or buffalo milk with water and cane sugar. Fresh cardamom, cinnamon, and ginger are usually mixed in. Nepali chiyaa tastes similar to North India "chhai." It's a lovely, light pick-me-up tea served throughout Nepal. However, Tibetan cultural peoples such as Sherpas, Tibetans, Ladhakis, Nyeshang/Manang, Loba/Mustangi, etc. will all drink butter tea amongst themselves.
To make Sherpa tea in your home you will need to find Tibetan brick tea (generally unavailable in USA) or a harsh, air-dried leafy black Chinese tea. In any case some leafy tea heavily fermented. For salt taste Kosher salt is close to Tibetan salt lick taste. (Very salty!) For butter it is impossible to duplicate the taste of nak or changri butter outside the high Himalaya, but try with whatever nice butter you have.
- Boil up 1-2 cups of black leaves tea in a big cooking pot, about 30 minutes.
- Scoop out 2 cups of liquid, put in blender with 2 tablespoons (yes) salt and 1/2 cup butter.
- That should make 2 cups of thick "su-chha" -- "honorable Tea".
Also look for Tibetan monasteries near you (there are several on USA east and west coast) and make friends with the cook. Enjoy your tea!!
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Q: What is Sherpa Tea and how is it prepared?
A: "Sherpa Tea" is the same as "Tibetan Tea." Sherpas, Manangis, Ladakhis, and Pepa (Tibetans) throughout the Tibetan world drink a heavy black tea which comes from China (a quite low grade of tea leaf by Chinese standards) which is sun-dried into bricks measuring approx. the size of a shoebox. In the lower valleys the final drying sometimes happens indoors, imbuing the tea with a deep wood-smoke fragrance. The brick is compressed very tightly, travels exceptionally well, and will last several years at Himalayan altitudes.
When time comes to prepare tea for drinking, a handful of the black leaves are put into the housewife's tea-churn (looks like old style European/American butter churns, a narrow wooden barrel with up-and-down churner stick hand pumped) then boiling water and butter and salt are added. The butter is either nak butter (nak = female yak. Note there is in nature *no such thing* as "yak butter"!) or buffalo butter and the salt must come from Tibet (land salt or mined) not from India (i.e. not sea salt.) The Sherpani housewife vigorously churns her tea with butter, salt, and boiling water for about 30 minutes. It is then traditionally poured into a metal serving teapot and served in porcelain cups with saucers.
Tourists from California & Japan have noted the taste somewhat resembles their familiar miso soup. I personally love the taste, and feel quite sentimental for Nepal when I drink it. (Ours always smells so deliciously of the wood-smoke!) It is such a strong drink that a person can live on butter tea alone for days. It is the perfect drink for high altitudes (above 16,000 ft.), when nausea and headache make all other food unappetizing. However, it is definitely an acquired taste. Most Nepalese lowlanders, who take their tea with sugar, cannot abide it.
My own opinion is that the salt is extremely beneficial for the hard-working, heavy-breathing, high altitude Sherpa & Tibetan lifestyle. Sherpas will not drink salt from India (they believe it will make their hair turn gray!); they use only Tibetan salt, which is very strong.
Don't hesitate to ask us if we may provide more info.
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Q: What influence has Western Globalization had on the Sherpa Culture?
A: Namaste. Influence of 20th century globalization (westernization) on Sherpa culture is a deep subject, and it would be very difficult to evaluate on a short timeline! However, we can recommend several books that treat this subject fairly and at length.
One place to find these titles is at the Himalayan Bookstore at: www.bena.com/sherpa1/ttt/tRecRead.htm to the Sherpa Culture page.
The Himalayan Bookstore's collection of books on Sherpas is at www.bena.com/sherpa1/ttt/him_book/tSherCiv.htm
James Fisher's study of westernization of Sherpa culture, "Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal" is great. It evaluates the effect of interaction with wealthy western customers and the subsequent new cash economy, on Sherpa religious practice, land management, and marriage. It's is an excellent and accurate overview. Fisher's book is composed from actual interviews with working Sherpas. This is a great advantage, since many books on Sherpas unfortunately are fabricated from anthropologists informants opinions. Find it at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520069412/nepaltashitakitr
Another useful study is Tigers of the Snows and other Virtual Sherpas by Vincennes Adams. Ms. Adams also uses direct interviews, (rather than informants) which is a step in the right direction. However her premise is that Sherpas' own self-image has been in whole or part "created" for them by western projection of the idealized courageous, athletic, self-sacrificing Sherpa. We find this a major overstatement, but the book is well-written and deserves a close read. Find it at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691001111/nepaltashitakitr
In our opinion, certain effects of Sherpa globalization can be noted without reading thick books. The first and most important is Access to English.
As you will read on our Sherpa Facts page www.bena.com/sherpa1/sfa/sSherFac.htm most Sherpas can now speak pidgin English. In addition to their native Sherpa language, the Nepali language that they learn in school and home, and Hindi learned in Indian schools, many Sherpas who work in trekking speak fluent English, as well as Japanese and European languages. Sherpa access to information, especially computer-provided information, is thus enhanced by their English knowledge.
Also, due to their extensive contacts with westerners, Sherpas are often invited to travel worldwide to visit their trekking customer's foreign homes.
There appears to be little degradation of religious devotion or of family loyalty with the new cash economy. Sherpas are fierce vajrayana Buddhists, and they seem maintain that intense religious commitment wherever they go.
Although Sherpas travel worldwide, they retain their ancestral land rights in their native villages, and they remain fully respectful and devoted to the traditional family structure. In the agricultural economy land was scarce and often younger sons were driven out of the village to seek their fortune elsewhere; there was often bitterness and despair, along with famine. In the new cash economy a small piece of land is enough to raise a family comfortably; there is no struggle to maintain herds of cattle or marginal grazing lands, or persist in unhappy marriages in order to keep land in the family. Overall, globalization / "cash-i-zation" has relieved some stresses in Sherpa culture without degrading Sherpa identity.
Hope the above is helpful. Best wishes for a successful essay!
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Q: Have trekking and mountaineering changed Sherpas forever? If so, has it for better or worse?
Q: Have Sherpas held on tightly to their culture despite the hoards of tourists? If so, why?
Q: To what extent have Sherpas adopted modern western customs, and is this good or bad?
A: The subject of Sherpa westernization is much discussed. There are two especially fine books on the subject:
(1) James Fisher's study of westernization of Sherpa culture, "Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal" is great. It evaluates the effect of interaction with wealthy western customers and the subsequent new cash economy, on Sherpa religious practice, land management, and marriage. It's is an excellent and accurate overview. Fisher's book is composed from actual interviews with working Sherpas. This is a great advantage, since many books on Sherpas unfortunately are fabricated from anthropologists informants opinions. Find it at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0520069412/nepaltashitakitr
(2) Another useful study is Tigers of the Snows and other Virtual Sherpas by Vincanne Adams. Ms. Adams also uses direct interviews, (rather than informants) which is a step in the right direction. However her premise is that Sherpas' own self-image has been in whole or part "created" for them by western projection of the idealized courageous, athletic, self-sacrificing Sherpa. We find this a major overstatement, but the book is well-written and deserves a close read. Find it at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0691001111/nepaltashitakitr
Barbara Lama Says:
My own personal opinion as a westerner married into Sherpa culture (living in both USA and Nepal) is that Sherpa culture has not fundamentally changed under western influence. Basically I agree with James Fisher (above). My reasoning is as follows:
It is true that Solu Sherpas have almost completely forgotten traditional dancing, they now dance Nepali (or French disco!)style.Western clothing and English/Hindi language usage are increasingly common. Like everyone else in the world, Sherpas increasingly live in cities and thus are losing their farming skills. However these are superficial influences, considered practical adaptations for better business, not cultural damage.
Moderately influential changes such as switch from holding wealth in cattle and land, to holding wealth in houses (fancy houses rather than the land they sit on) and cash, have also occurred. However, the fundamental Sherpa response to the possibility of gaining wealth remains positive and enthusiastic. (Compare to Nepalese Hindu lowlanders, who are often contradictory and ambivalent about wealth/money.) Sherpas were merchants in 1600 and they are merchants today. Sherpas have always traded things with outsiders, and labor with each other. In the old days they traded farming labor and now they trade trekking or consulting labor, but the system of trading agreements remains the same.
With tourism/westernization the "things" traded have changed. Not much salt and butter traded now, but very much carpets and precious metals. These are hot selling items now, these are what customers want to buy. The main trading is in labor, this is unchanged. Sherpa marriage customs are unchanged. Sherpas always did accept marriage to outsiders, and they still do. It makes sense for business.
The core value in Sherpa culture is Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism - "black hat" Tibetan Buddhism. As James Fisher notes in his excellent volume on Sherpas, the proof that Sherpa culture is essentially unchanged by all the incredible superficial adjustments in language, dress, food, etc. is that as soon as any Sherpa has extra money - whether by business profit, by inheritance, or through marriage -- he/she will invest that money lavishly in Buddhist ceremonies.
(Most) Sherpa monasteries continue to thrive as centers of religious art, and lamas remain the spiritual directors of Sherpa society. People do what the lamas tell them to do, and people continue to pay the lamas for magical labor, and advice. The wealthier Sherpas get, the more ceremonies they buy. Common Sherpas in villages continue to donate all the food, time, and money required to have the lamas perform their regular annual agricultural ceremonies. Many village Sherpa farmers, who are quite poor, nevertheless may have sons and uncles in trekking business. The trekking business profit often comes back to the village to repaint monastery frescoes, re-gild Buddha statues, and fund grand ceremonies.
[Note there is substantial mixing of Sherpa and refugee Tibetan support to monasteries in Nepal, and often Tibetan-run monasteries train Sherpa lamas while Sherpas donate to Tibetan gompas and vice versa. But the point is that the first thing a wealthy Sherpa (or a wealthy Tibetan refugee for that matter) in Nepal will do with their extra money is to make a religious donation.]
In short, in my view, Sherpa society shows many superficial adaptations to modern western values, but the true core which is Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhist devotion is actually getting stronger.
Ethnic Sherpas themselves hold a wide range of opinions on the state of their own culture. Sherpa culture very much emphasizes practical business intelligence over reflective ruminations, and very few Sherpas have academic degrees, so it is quite rare to find an inner-looking Sherpa with a well-formed opinion on his/her own culture. However, in general, at the Sherpa gatherings we host in California, Oregon, and Washington State, where 25-40 Sherpas and Sherpinis of various ages can be found discussing Sherpa culture, both living-in-Nepal and USA-immigrant, Sherpa opinion reflects the above view that religion is more important than ever.
All the best to you on your Sherpa project. Tashi delek!
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Q: Is there a cultural connection between Sherpa and Navajo people?
A: This is Barbara's personal answer from personal experience - not anthropologically authoritative!
Yes, Sherpa are "red" people from Central Asia.
Currently Sherpa ("east-people") live mainly in eastern Nepal and Sikkim. They emigrated from Kham in eastern Tibet about 400 years ago. Before that they may have been wandering infinitely throughout the Siberian world - who knows? Sherpa have a shamanistic culture (contained within Nyingmapa Buddhist-Lama outer culture) that has many ancient elements - dance, nature-worship, healing practices - and alcoholism - in common with hundreds of other "Siberian" culture groups.
Interestingly, Navajo dances and other shamanistic cultural features are very easy for the Sherpa to recognize. When my Sherpa husband first saw Navajo tourist-performance dancing in Santa Fe he was surprised to see his native Sherpa dance steps! We also have a Sherpa friend who entered USA through a marriage to USA white woman in the 1970's but had such a violent culture clash that the marriage failed quickly. This guy had been raised in a remote Himalayan village, and he really could not adapt to mainstream USA culture. Twenty years ago, he sought refuge in a New Mexico Navajo reservation. To this day he lives in a trailer on that reservation. His cultural comfort level with the Navajo is so high, that he has never needed to return to the Nepal/Tibet region.
Sherpa people also look similar to Navajo people - equivalent copper skin tone, high cheek bones, etc. When USA ladies first meet Sherpa men while trekking in Nepal, they often remark how handsome are the Sherpa men by saying "Oh they are so good-looking, they look like Navajo!" Presumably the common root is way back in Siberia. Who knows for sure?!?
There is a good book "Navajo and Tibetan Sacred Wisdom - The Circle of the Spirit" that looks at many of these cultural and spiritual connections.
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Q: Thi is the Tibetan year of the Waterhorse. What is Waterhorse? Is it a hippopotamus or water buffalo or some type of animal?
A: Tashi delek. The Tibetan calendar is very similar to Chinese calendar. It uses a cycle of 60 years with 5 elements and 12 animals, also the energetic constitution of the year switches between male & female, and several other qualities. So, "horse-year" comes around every 12 years, but this coming year it is "male-water-horse" whereas twelve years ago (1990) it was male-iron-horse. This is very important for the Tibetan astrology & traditional medicine. Horse characteristics are quite different with male-water- elemental qualities than they are with male-iron- qualities.
Predictions for coming year and scheduling of religious rituals depend on knowledge of the energetic forces indicated by the Tibetan lunar calendar, as these forces are *symbolized* (not literal!) by animal, element, gender, etc. So we are not expecting any hippopotamus or water buffalo action! Rather the animals and their elements are a coded system for subtle energy management.
In human terms 2002 is an active (male) family oriented (water) and patriotic/loyal/steady (horse) year. Everyone will be affected by these general effects, and those whose values are in harmony with the general effects will experience prosperity.
We will be delighted to add you to our Losar mailing list.
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Q: Has Sherpa society changed radically in the last 25 years?
I am attempting to write an essay on the Sherpa for my anthropology class. I watched a video from The Disappearing World series on the Sherpa (1976) . It illustrated an egalitarian society; gender equality, small self governed clans, and intriguing marriages. If a married woman returned to her parents, then all her goods, cattle etc. returned with her. I have since been looking for other source material to justify the video content but can find none - in fact - what I do find is very contradictory. Has Sherpa society changed so radically in the last 25 years since the video was made? I keep running across articles encouraging family planning as the population in the villages has increased rapidly; wife-beating, problems with men taking off for the city and leaving the family etc. I would be grateful if you could guide me toward recent, accurate information. If necessary, I can compare that to what was in the video.
A: Namaste. Most of the books listed in the Himalayan Bookstore at www.bena.com/sherpa1/ttt/Him_book/tSherCiv.htm are first world anthropological studies of Sharwa (Sherpa) society. The studies by Fisher and Orton are especially comprehensive and accurate. You may be able to find some or all of them in your local library.
Sharwa (Sherpa) society hasn't changed all that much in its core values, since the expedition/trekking industry started in the 1950's. Like most Buddhist societies it is strikingly gender-equal, tremendously respectful or parents/elders/priests, and permeated with religious practice in temple and home.
James Fisher's (1990) book on Sherpas points out that as Sherpa economy has adapted (since 1951) from barter to cash; and Sherpas have intermingled with tourists from every country on the globe; educated their children in Nepali & English; bought fax machines; and moved freely in Hindu society -- there have been many External Changes - in language, dress, food, goods, marriage customs, etc. But the core Tibetan Buddhist values have deepened. When Sherpas have extra money, their first priority is improving monasteries. Second is food & clothing for their families, security for their parents, after that education, travel, etc.
Sharwa (Sherpa) [the correct pronunciation of the British term "Sherpa" is actually "Shar-wa." Shar = east and wa = people] intermingle with many other groups. Sherpas have historically supplemented their mountain farming income with merchant trading on the India-Tibet route. Therefore Sherpas have always known about other people's customs. (Most of the other 35 + Nepalese cultures by contrast have been quite isolated.)
Sherpas who travel for business (men and women) are externally flexible. When in Rome, they do like the Romans do -- in all matters except religion, in which they are exceptionally devout and conservative.
These days, older or poorer village Sharwa continue to worship, eat, and marry in the traditional ways. They enjoy the same Nyingmapa culture that they brought in migration from Kham (east Tibet) in the 1600's.
However, many Sherpa families live full-time in Hindu Nepal or in India. Those families will tend to speak Nepali or Hindi rather than Sherpa. Sherpa husbands with Hindu male friends might be tempted to treat their wives less respectfully at a mixed party. (But they would not try that trick at a party in a pure Sherpa village!) Long-term Sherpa residents in Hindu areas might take additional Hindu wives. This is obviously helpful for business socializing.
So, yes, there are adaptations in Sherpa life *outside* the traditional villages. But these changes are fairly superficial. They are the product of Sherpa adaptation to the Nepalese business climate, and the changes have never reached the conservative religious core.
Do be aware also when you read accounts of Sherpa life, that poorly informed "experts" frequently confuse Sherpa culture with Nepalese culture! We recently read a book containing "Sherpa Language Vocabulary List." 50% of those listed words were not Tibeto-Burman Sherpa language -- they were Sanskrit-based Nepali! The English-speaking "Sherpa Expert" obviously did not know either Sherpa or Nepali. Unfortunately there are numerous such "expert" books & movies about Sherpa people.
Sherpas are loyal citizens of Nepal but Sherpa customs are Tibetan customs. Sherpa customs incluce gender equality, self-government, Tibetan clan marriage. The unfortunate Hindu cultural practices of woman hating/wife-beating/wife-starving, government by intimidation, and caste system do not apply in Sherpa culture. Sherpas do speak Nepali for business, but they generally do not follow Nepalese Hindu customs in village or home.
Sherpa village population has fallen consistently since the 1970's, as Sherpas have moved to the cities seeking education and work. There is no Sherpa village population problem! Just as in the first world, Sherpa families were larger in the 1950's-1960's - often 6-8 children - but with increase in wealth and education, it is more common now for Sherpa families to choose a family size of 2-3 children. Because of the shrinking village population, there are many broken-down empty houses in Shar-Khumbu villages! By contrast, contemporary Hindu village families often have very large numbers of children, and Hindu men conventionally resist birth control. The country of Nepal does suffer overall from overpopulation and resource depletion, but the Sherpa, Nyeshang, Loba, and other culturally Tibetan peoples along Nepal's northern border with Tibet are exceptional in that their families tend to be smaller and their villages are underpopulated.
Sherpa men rarely abandon their families but they do frequently take extremely long business trips, often years long. Divorce is embarrassing but allowed in Sherpa culture. Within conservative Hindu Nepalese cultures the wife-abandoning is worse because divorce not allowed.
Hope this is helpful. Best wishes for high marks on your paper!
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Q: I need some book titles with information on the Sherpas.
A: Try these books listed below.
Sherpas: Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal by James F. Fisher With a foreword by Sir Edmund Hillary. The best account of modern Sherpa life in Kathmandu & SoluKhumbu that we have read. An ex-Peace Corps anthropologist who had lived in Sherpa communities during the 1960's comes back to interview Sherpas in the 1990's about love, money, family, politics, and religion. Describes the curious natural affinity between Himalayan Sherpa and heartland North American cultures. - 1990 .Highly Recommended.
High Religion - A Cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism by Sherry B. Ortner - 1989 Beautifully written, theoretically uncluttered account of Zhung (Junbesi) Gompa's history and culture. Retells the old stories of the Sherpa passage from Kham into Solu & Khumbu, and how the Sherpa clans began. Highly recommended.
Sherpas Through Their Rituals by Sherry B. Ortner [Cambridge Studies in Cultural Systems. Published by Cambridge Univ Press: June 1978 Highly recommended
Life and Death on Mt. Everest : Sherpas and Himalayan Mountaineering by Sherry B. Ortner Brand new, Sept. 1999.
Rhythms of a Himalayan Village by Hugh R. Downs Beautifully photographed and poetically captioned journal of one man's personal transformation during his studies with a traditional Sherpa Lama artist. Highly Recommended
The Sherpas of Nepal : Buddhist Highlanders. by Christopher von Furer-Haimendorf - 1972 Recommended.
Body and Emotion : The Aesthetics of Illness and Healing in the Nepal Himalayas (Series in Contemporary Ethnography); by Robert R. Desjarlais
Tigers of the Snows and other Virtual Sherpas by Vincanne Adams. Clever ethnographic study of the popularized image of the Sherpa as (1)a western cultural icon and (2) a determining factor in Sherpas' own images of themselves. Recommended.
Himalayan Traders by Christoph von Fèurer-Haimendorf . Prof. Von Furer-Haimendorf studied Khumbu Sherpa culture in the 1950's and 1960's, before the onset of the trekking industry. Fascinating observations on traditional (now, partially lost) Sherpa lifestyle. Usually OOP, but hunt around! -- 1988. Recommended.
The Tibetan Symbolic World - A Psychoanalytic Exploration by Robert Paul. Tiresome, academic, but comprehensive description of Sherpa Buddhist society from the Freudian analytical perspective. -- 1982. In India printed as The Sherpas of Nepal - In the Tibetan Cultural Context by Robert A. Paul Motilal Banarsidass edition 1987.
Claiming the High Ground : Sherpas, Subsistence, and Environmental Change in the Highest Himalaya, by Stanley F. Stevens.
Living in the Middle : Sherpas of the Mid-Range Himalayas; by Donna M. Sherpa. A very personal account of one Pennsylvania high-school teacher's marriage to a Sherpa man from Pharak. Describes traditional family life in his village, relationships with relatives, tourists, etc., plus the trials and tribulations of their somewhat isolated life in the USA. Not well researched, contains a number of factual errors and incomplete tables. However the writing is sincere.
Man of Everest: The Autobiography of Tenzing as told By Tenzing to James Ramsey Ullman. A charming interview with Tenzing, often known as Tenzing Norgay or Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, who accomplished the first ascent Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary in 1953. Honest reflections on Sherpa life in Darjeeling in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, plus marvelous stories of Tenzing many previous mountaineering adventures in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Tibet. Includes wonderful tale of his travels across pre-occupation Tibet with the eccentric Tucci. Hard to find.- 1955. Highly Recommended.
Sherpa of Khumbu : People, Livestock, and Landscape (Studies in Social Ecology and Environmental History) by Barbara Brower
Nima : A Sherpa in Connecticut by Elizabeth Fuller - 1984
The Sherpas in the Solu District by Hans Guldberg Axelsen. "a preliminary report on ethnological field research in the Solu District in North-Eastern Nepal.
Sherpas Transformed : Social Change in the Buddhist Society of Nepal by Christoph Von Furer-Haimendorf -1984. Over his long anthropological career, Furer-Haimendorf studied many Himalayan societies in Nepal, Tibet, and India. However, after he lived in Khumjung during the 1950's, he especially loved & admired Khumbu Sherpa life. The Sherpas Transformed was written in 1983, when F-H returned to Khumjung to analyze the radical social changes that occurred when the Sherpa economy shifted from India-Tibet trade to the trekking & climbing industries. A classic, written with obvious affection. Hard to find in USA (easy to find in Kathmandu.) Highly Recommended
- Folk Tales of Sherpa and Yeta (Nirala Series-10) by Shiva Dhaka
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