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- Author Btzun-gzungs Ban-do Ble-bzung Chos-phel – Mongolian erudite lama writing in the Tibetan language
- Date of production 2nd half of the 19th century
- Place of creation Mongolia
- Dimensions height: 17 cm, length: 43.5 cm; each page contains approximately 13 verses
- ID no. 51760/mek, 9316/mek, 19317/mek
- Collector from a collection of Julian Talko-Hryncewicz/Witold Światopełek-Mirski
- Object copyright The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków
- Digital images copyright public domain
- Digitalisation RDW MIC, Małopolska's Virtual Museums project
A part of the Ethnographic Museum's collection, the so-called Tibetan medicine set is one of a few complete 19th/20th-century descriptions of Tibetan medicine in the world, including a set of medicines and a description of their application. It consists of two medical manuscripts and almost 300 medicines, or actually products to prepare them such as seeds, plants, fruit and minerals, mostly labelled in the Tibetan language.more
A Tibetan medicine set: a medical manuscript and medicines
Author of the medical manuscript: Btzun-gzungs Ban-do Ble-bzung Chos-phel — a learned Mongolian lama writing in the Tibetan language.
The title of the manuscript (translation): The essence of the heart's richness, (or) a collection of descriptions of diseases and related treatment methods in one book.
The original title (transliteration): Sman gžung khungs ma rnams las nad kyi rtags bcos sogs Thor bur ̒byung ba phyogs gcig tu bsgrigs pa gces btus sñing nor žes bya ba bžugs so.
Translation (from the original) of the manuscript title and names of medicines and the general description of the manuscript contents: Ireneusz Kania, a well-known Kraków translator and Tibetologist.
Medicines in leather bags
Dimensions: length = 15.5 cm and 17 cm
Inv. no.: 19316/MEK; Inv. no.: 19317/MEK
Origin: Mongolia, 19th/20th century
Collection of an exile, Witold Świętopełek-Mirski, procured by the Professor of the Jagiellonian University Julian Talko-Hryncewicz between 1892 and 1908 during a research project in Eastern Siberia and transferred to the Polish Academy of Learning in Kraków, from where, in 1921, it reached the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków.
Property of the Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków
A part of the Ethnographic Museum's collection, the so-called Tibetan medicine set is one of a few complete 19th/20th-century descriptions of Tibetan medicine in the world, including a set of medicines and a description of their application. It consists of two medical manuscripts and almost 300 medicines, or actually products to prepare them such as seeds, plants, fruit and minerals, mostly labelled in the Tibetan language. Both medicines and manuscripts were compiled and written down at the turn of the 20th century in the territories of Northern Mongolia and Buryatia, once under the influences of the Tibetan culture. The whole set was procured from a collector-in-exile, Witold Światopełek-Mirski, by Julian Talko-Hryncewicz (1850–1936), an anthropologist and professor of the Jagiellonian University. Between 1892 and 1908, he was a physician in Eastern Siberia in the so-called Zabaykalsky Krai, where he simultaneously ran research projects among the Buryatia people, Tungusic peoples and Mongolians. His collection related to Buddhism, including the medicine set procured from the exile, was given to the Museum in 1921. What makes an inextricable part of the medicine set is a manuscript entitled The essence of the heart's richness, (or) a collection of descriptions of diseases and related treatment methods in one book, which mostly describes the medicines included in the medicine set. It is a kind of compendium of medical knowledge entirely based on Indo-Tibetan theory and medical praxis developed for over 2000 years. Although it includes elements of folk medicine, this compendium should be regarded as a scholarly work rather than a piece of folk writing since it is based on written Indian treatises on treatments and diseases included in the oldest Vedic texts. The manuscript is primarily based on Āyurveda texts, i.e. The knowledge of life (from Sanscrit: āyus – life; Veda – knowledge), which belongs in the category of Upaveda, i.e. texts complementing a given Veda; in this case, it is a study supporting the youngest of four Vedas – Atharvaveda. Āyurveda is concerned with humans in a holistic way, their physical, mental and spiritual well-being. According to Eastern beliefs and studies, humans and their bodies reflect cosmic forces. The human organism is a microcosm reflecting the macrocosm, while being a part of the latter. For this reason, getting to know the cosmos is as important for medicine as medicines and treatments.
Medical theory and practice in Mongolia and Buryatia were almost entirely imported from Tibet, including other fields of knowledge and religion and even the language of science and liturgy of Tibet. Tibetan medicine is a traditional system based on a very old written tradition originating from India as well as China and Persia. Foundations and principles of medical theory were borrowed entirely from India, from where principal medical books and related commentaries were borrowed between the 8th and 11th centuries along with other Buddhist books, including the famous Four Books of Catuș-tantra (Tibetan: Rgyud bzi), credited to the legendary medicine teacher, Bhaișajyaguru, the cult of whom spread in Central Asia and China as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Its Sanskrit original did not survive, but we can enjoy a Tibetan translation dating back to the mid-8th century. It is a complex piece of work that encompasses elements of Chinese medicine framed in traditional Indian medicine. Here we find Chinese names of plants with properties described in accordance with the Indian medical system and Indian names of body organs classified in accordance with the Chinese system by means of the ying-yang principle. There are also references to both Indian etiology, covering the causes of diseases, and Chinese pulse and urine examination methods.
Tibetan medical literature is tremendous. Tibetans extended it by combining the knowledge and medical practices from foreign medical texts into a single compilation of healing thoughts and concepts; they also added contemporary medicines and treatment methods. Additionally, the authors of medical manuals – learned lamas, especially those originating from great families, deemed it desirable to make their own contribution into another textbook being developed. However, these were mostly imitative works, replicating treatment solutions and practices of older works. This does not change the fact that medical knowledge from Indian medical treatises and commentaries translated into the Tibetan language, which appeared in the Tibetan Buddhist medical canon (gso-rig-ba), mostly exists to this day and is an example of empirical and rational Ayurvedic medicine.
As specified in Ireneusz Kania's description, the medical manual in the Museum's collection consists of 121 chapters describing various diseases and related treatment methods. Some chapters discuss dietary solutions, bloodletting, moxibustion and bathing, others touch upon causes, treatment mistakes and what must be considered when diagnosing a patient. Tibetan medicine, just like Indian medicine, strongly emphasised diet, physical and psychic hygiene as well as prophylaxis. It was important to determine the cause of a sickness and regain balance by eliminating the causes. Treatment also involved magical practices.
Chapters differ in volume, but their internal structure is similar. First come the causes of a sickness, a primary sickness, resulting from ignorance, cosmic ignorance – the source of all evil, and a secondary sickness – depending on the circumstances, occurring upon the imbalance of three elements of the organism, the so-called tridosha, i.e. bile, phlegm and wind. The following order was used: a description of symptoms, treatment methods, a list of medicines and their application. The end of the work includes information on the author and manuscript development. The manuscript was penned by an eminent lama from a famous family; he was a scholar and physician, working in the late 19th century and early 20th century, well-known in Mongolia. According to his advice and his instructions, the book was complemented and corrected by Honourable Sadharma Vijaya, of whom little is known.
It is also worth mentioning that the manuscript is in good condition; it underwent conservation, during which it gained a narrow ribbon – a type of ”covering” typical of all ancient Eastern manuscripts.
The set of medicines accompanying the manuscript includes almost 300 medicines of all kinds: plant roots, seeds, fruit, minerals and powdered substances, mostly contained in chemist's jars. Many labels and Tibetan names of medicines written down in Dbu Can have survived, but not all of them. An additional difficulty in deciphering is that sometimes the name on the jar does not correspond to the actual contents, which is likely to result from those peculiar exhibits having ”wandered” for some time before they reached their final destination. And here is the challenging task for the Museum: it is necessary to fully examine those medicines pharmacologically and botanically.
The two medicines presented in leather bags are Thang-prom (Pchysochlaina physaloides): a herbal healing plant in a powdered form, in a brown leather bag, used to treat muscular pains and tensions; and Thar nu: an unidentified brown powder in a small claret leather bag. All labels with the names of the medicines have also undergone conservation and additionally complement the whole set.
Elaborated by Eleonora Tenerowicz (The Seweryn Udziela Ethnographic Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved