Medical Manuscripts from the Times of Dunhuang
Medical Manuscripts from the Times of Dunhuang

Mongolian means the “Lightened Tower”, also called “Sand City”. Dunhuang was an ancient town serving as a strategic locale along the Silk Road that crossed from India to Lhasa reaching Mongolia and southern regions of Siberia. Today, Dunhuang is a town in the northwestern part of the Gansu province measuring 31200 Km with a population of 182,000 people. It is a tourist destination attracting 30,000 visitors a year. The famous Mogao Cave (Caves of the Thousand Buddhas) of Dunhuang is located in the southeastern area of town and is the first cave was built during Tsi Dynasty with further construction of the caves continuing the Tang dynasty. Finally, during the Ching dynasty, the number of caves accounted to a thousand. Today, 492 of the 1,000 caves remain; 2,400 colored mud sculptures and 50,000 square meters of wall paintings remain and are kept. If they are all connected horizontally, it would comprise a 25-km long painting gallery. Among other remarkable findings, were numerous ancient Buddhist scripts written in Chinese, Tibetan, Khoton, Turkic, Sanskrit and Sogdian as well as handwritten Dao and Mani religious scripts. The most ancient handwritten scripts originate from the 4th century until the latest script, found during the 11th century. As described in the Dunhuang ancient medical manuscripts, there were many passages noting the medicine and medical methods linked to Turkic Mongolians. The Dunhuang handwritten scripts are related to the periods of Niruns, Turkics, and Uyghurs. In Chapter 1 of the “Classical Medical Manuscripts” from Dunhuang states that “in case of broken skull, cut the head skin and remove injured bones without damaging a thin mucous. Then take a freshly removed dog skin and cover the wound by it. If the removed bone is covered by seeds oil and put it on the wound, wrapped in fiber, then the healing of the wound will fasten”. This method of surgery on the human skull can be evidenced from the tomb found in the Chandmani Mountain of the Uvs province in Mongolia dating from VII-III centuries of B.C.E. Far exceeding archeological findings of early skull trepanation procedures, hypotheses concerning the trepanation procedure has its beginnings dating from the Dunhuang period. Among the Chandmani findings on the skull trepanation that originates from the manuscripts of VII-III centuries B.C.E in Dunhuang consequently followed by a declaration of the Chinggis Khaan called “Uriankhai’s medical mantra,” which includes similar procedures on the skull. These two consequent findings attract attention for the traditional method of treatment for skull injury in terms of the location and time consequences of these two occasions. The surgical methods on the human skull, performed by Sogbo and Khor Mongols, are also directly and indirectly linked to the Dunhuang according to these manuscripts providing a basis for future exploration on this link. This manuscript sophistically written in Tibetan in 1686 entitled: translates in short to: ‘The Medical History of Tibet.’ The chapter, entitled “Spread of medical science in Tibet” in this book describes: abscess,’ written by Ligbajaltsan and represented the medical views of nomadic in Mongolia. In the fourth chapter entitled, “Medical Treatment”, it states “eating cooked rice mixing with a type of ginger is considered to be good for health: “also, dissolved ginger in high quality Mongol vodka is also good. A mixture of yellow butter from cow’s milk that when pressed into the sheep intestines, fresh meat with yoghurt and ginger herbs is also considered as good for health. Mongolian vodka with added ginger herbs that are dissolved in the yoghurt is also good”. Here, it is noted as or Mongolian vodka. In 11 B.C.E, when the Chinese attacked the Hunnu, causing the destruction of gers (tent houses), and burnt aaruul or dried curd. In an ancient Chinese recording stated “one cup of vodka will be granted to soldiers for every prisoner or cutting a head of enemy at the battlefield’’. This ultimately granted opportunities for the Hunnu people to become skilled in the fermentation of airag (kumis), mare’s milk, yoghurt, thus advancing the making of homebrewed vodka from dairy products to be served to qualified soldiers. Found in the tombs from Hunnu times were utensils created to make acirts (curd from sour milk), evidencing the familiarity of the Hunnu people with mare’s milk, aaruul, aarts and ultimately vodka, incorporating these dairy products widely in their diet, as noted in the Dunhuang manuscripts.

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