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Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19(3):143-52. doi: 10.1159/000339343. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

[Early encounters of German-language explorers with the Tibetan medicine in Siberia in the modern era].

[Article in German]

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IOEB SO RAN, Forschungsinstitut für allgemeine und experimentelle Biologie der Russischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Ulan-Ude, Russland.


The spreading of Tibetan Buddhism and with it the Tibetan medicine in the region east of Lake Baikal, goes back to the 17th century. At the beginning of the 18th century, German speaking scholars were among the first to undertake scientific expeditions through Siberia. As such they were amongst the first scientists of the modern era who encountered the traditions, concepts, and therapeutic methods of Tibetan medicine. The aim of this article is to describe and analyze these first encounters with Tibetan medicine by the example of selected men of science of the 18th and 19th century. This work is based on extensive studies of sources in archives and libraries in Russia and Switzerland. We found documents related to the following scientists: Daniel Gottlieb Messerschmidt (1685-1735), Johann Georg Gmelin (1709-1755), Erik Laxmann (1737-1796), Friedrich Adelung (1768-1843), and Joseph Rehmann (1779-1831). They mentioned the distribution of Tibetan medicine within Russia, the use of medicinal plants and formulas as well as therapeutic techniques. For the scientific community of the time these first encounters of Europeans with practitioners of Tibetan medicine could not lift Tibetan medicine out of other exotic context in the field of ethnography. For today's researchers, these encounters are an important evidence for more than 300 years of development of Tibetan medicine on the vast territory of Siberia. The practice and the scientific examination of Tibetan medicine in Siberia is an active endeavor until today. The present work shows that it is possible and rewarding to follow up the historic and cultural connections from Europe to Asia via the Siberian link.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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