Mustang District

Mustang District and Lo Monthang

Mustang is situated right at the northern border between Nepal and Tibet, at altitudes ranging from around 2,000 to over 8,000 metres. The people speak a dialect of the Tibetan language, practise the Buddhist religion and retain a culture very close to that of Tibet. The rocky landscape is virtually a mountain desert, its harsh grandeur broken only by small oases, where villages have grown up around a water source.

The Kingdom of Mustang, called “Lo” in Tibetan, was founded in the 14th century, and the current King, Jigme Palbar Bista, is the 24th in this lineage. Lo remained independent until the 18th Century, when the Gorkha King, Prithivi Narayan Shah, united the various Nepalese states into the Kingdom of Nepal. Since then, as a part of Nepal, Lo has retained a degree of autonomy, and continued spiritual and cultural allegiance to Tibet. Geographical remoteness and restricted foreign access have protected the area from many of the influences of modern development, which has both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, a unique and precious culture has survived, which includes beautiful works of art and the Buddhist philosophies and traditions. However, this also means that the inhabitants of Mustang, in particular Upper Mustang, have received few of the benefits of modern medicines, education or economic development. For the poorest families, survival depends on subsistence farming and animal husbandry, in a harsh and unproductive environment, supplemented by earnings from the out-migration of younger family members for several months each year, for trading in India and other parts of Nepal. Many children do not have access to formal education, or western style health care. Local health needs are met by practitioners of Tibetan medicine, called amchi. This ancient system of healing is still highly respected and trusted in Mustang, and other culturally Tibetan parts of Nepal.

Lo Monthang, the capital of Upper or Northern Mustang, is eight days walk from a motorable road. It is a fascinating ancient walled “city” with narrow streets and mud walled buildings, including major Buddhist monasteries and other religious buildings. These had fallen into disrepair, but are being substantially renovated with foreign funding. A team of experts drawn from different countries has contributed various skills and knowledge to the process, for example Italian craftsmen experienced in restoration of paintings have worked with local people who have the traditional painting skills. It is an interesting tourist destination for trekkers looking for a new experience, although access is restricted by the Nepal government. A special permit is required and only guided groups can undertake the ten day round trekking trip.

We believe amchi medicine emphasises disorders as they
manifest in the relationship between body, mind and soul, especially on the mind aspect of disorders. For Sowa Rigpa practitioners and followers of Buddhism, ignorance is the root cause of all diseases.
Lo Kunphen aims to provide a culturally appropriate free education and professional opportunities to children from poor families in mountain communities, and in particular to maintain and develop the tradition of amchi (Tibetan) medicine. Donations are welcome.