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Accueil > Publications > Dernières publications

Article by Nicolas Sihlé (CEH)

Why Hair Needs to Be Long - Religious Identity, Embodied Divinity and Power among the Repkong Tantrists (North-East Tibet) / De la nécessité des cheveux longs : identité religieuse, divinité incorporée et pouvoir parmi les tantristes du Repkong (nord-est du Tibet)

published in issue 45 (2018) of the journal Ateliers d’anthropologie "Trichologie tibétaine — Les cheveux et leur traitement au Tibet", edited by Françoise Robin, Nicola Schneider and Nicolas Sihlé

This issue about hair and its treatment in the Tibetan cultural area is in keeping with the work of Christian Bromberger, who proposed a general analytical approach to the social treatment of head hair and body hair. As a bodily element intimately associated with an individual’s prosperity and vitality (as recalled by the ethnographic testimony of a Tibetan contributor to this issue), hair in the Tibetan world also reflects contemporary developments, with ruptures in the valorisation of long hair among lay people, or possible critical political readings of its length. Among religious people, the types of hairstyle are strongly codified, in a variable way according to the forms of religious specialisation. There is a stark contrast between the monastic clergy with short hair and, at the other extreme, cases of practising non-monastic virtuosos with long hair, especially tantrists with their own culture of long hair, and even dreadlocks. The texts in this issue show a particularly rich trichological culture, which opens the way to extending Bromberger’s work towards a more complete anthropology of hair.

Table of contents

Nicola Schneider
Introduction : Le fait capillaire dans la culture tibétaine [Texte intégral]
Introduction : Hair in Tibetan Culture Texte intégral

Christian Bromberger
Pour une ethno-trichologie tibétaine [Texte intégral]
Esquisse d’une ethno-trichologie générale
Towards a Tibetan ethno-trichology : sketch of a general ethno-trichology

Françoise Robin
« La bru Gemotsang s’est fait teindre en blond » [Texte intégral]
Métamorphoses de la coiffure féminine dans la littérature contemporaine de langue tibétaine
“The Gemotsang Daughter-in-Law Got Her Hair Dyed Blonde” : Metamorphoses of the female hairstyle in contemporary Tibetan-language literature

Donyol Dondrup et Charlene Makley
“The Body Hair that Grows on the Head” [Texte intégral]
Menla-kyap’s “Views on Hair and Hairstyles” (2009)

« Ces poils qui poussent sur la tête » : « Perspectives sur le cheveu et ses coupes » de Menla-kyap

Lhamokyab Noyontsang
བྱིས་ པའི་ མནོལ་ སྐྲ་ ལེན་ པའི་ སྐོར་ གྱི་ ངོ་ སྤྲོད་ ཆེ་ ལོང་ ཙམ། [Texte intégral]
A brief introduction to the “removal of the child’s impure hair” ceremony
Une brève introduction à la cérémonie appelée « enlever les cheveux impurs de l’enfant »

Nicola Schneider
La chevelure féminine et la religion (au Tibet) : entre renoncement et pouvoir [Texte intégral]
Women’s hair and religion (in Tibet) : Between renunciation and power

Nicolas Sihlé
Why Hair Needs to Be Long [Texte intégral]
Religious Identity, Embodied Divinity and Power among the Repkong Tantrists (North-East Tibet

De la nécessité des cheveux longs : identité religieuse, divinité incorporée et pouvoir parmi les tantristes du Repkong (nord-est du Tibet)


Tibetan tantrists (non-monastic Buddhist practitioners of tantric rituals) attach great importance to keeping their hair long. The importance of tantrists’ hair is particularly striking in Repkong county (northeastern Tibet), which is famous for its large number of tantrists, many of whom wear dreadlocks wound around their heads. This study of the Repkong tantrists’ capillary culture will argue that their hair, at the intersection between the bodily, the social and the political, constitutes an overdetermined religious identity marker. Bromberger’s analytical approach to hair, which focuses primarily on sociological factors such as group belonging or norm vs. marginality, is relevant here, but overlooks key cultural dimensions of the phenomenon. Tibetan notions of embodied divinity and ritual power attached to hair indicate that it is important to include questions about cultural perceptions of the nature of hair and of its relationship with the individuals themselves, or with the beings that can inhabit it.

Keywords :Tibet, hair, religious identity marker, ritual power, tantric Buddhism, tantric deities 

Voir en ligne : Ateliers d’anthropologie, n° 45 (2018)