Medicine Along the Musk Route

Episode 336

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

How did people in Tibet view the Islamic World, and vice versa? How did a figure like Galen travel from Ancient Greece, through the Islamic World, and end up as a founding father in Tibetan medical history? In this episode, we speak to Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim about the exchange of knowledge, and especially medicine, between these regions. We discuss objects like musk, which originated in Tibet but played a huge role in the Muslim world, and scholars like Rashid al-Din al-Tabib, who wrote about Buddhism and Chinese medicine from Il-Khanid Iran. The silk road is often thought of as a trade route connecting China and Greece, but Ronit uses a new framework, the "Musk Route," for looking at the transmission of knowledge between Tibet and the Islamic world. She also describes the role of some important archives in shaping our understandings of these connections, like Dunhuang and the Cairo Geniza.

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim is a Senior Lecturer in the History Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research deals with the transmission of medical ideas along the so-called ‘Silk-Roads.’
Taylor M. Moore is a PhD Candidate in Modern Middle Eastern History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is interested in the interconnected histories of medicine, magic, and ethnographic museums in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Egypt.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, especially in the Indian Ocean World.


Episode No. 336
Release Date: 03 November 2017
Recording Location: International Congress of Traditional Asian Medicines, Kiel, Germany
Audio editing by Shireen Hamza
Music: Special thanks to Hadar Maoz, for her songs "Eeyori jon" and "Tchaman." Check out her video, The Persian Bukharian Blues.
Bibliography courtesy of Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim
Image courtesy of the Sarabhai Foundation, Ahmedabad, India SFP 146, and the Agha Khan Program at the Harvard Fine Arts Library

Select Bibliography

Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (eds.), Rashīd al-Dīn as an Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran, London: Warburg Institute, 2013.

Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (eds.), Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.
Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes,
Edited by Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim.
Farnham: Ashgate, 2011.

Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 3:2 (Special Silk Roads Volume) 2007. Anna Akasoy and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim, “Along the Musk Routes: Exchanges between Tibet and the Islamic World,” Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 3:2, 2007, pp. 217-240.

Yoeli-Tlalim, Ronit. “On Urine Analysis and Tibetan Medicine’s Connections with the West” In: Sienna Craig, Mingji Cuomu, Frances Garrett and Mona Schrempf (eds), Studies of Medical Pluralism in Tibetan History and Society, Andiast: International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH, 2010, pp. 195-211.

Yoeli-Tlalim, Ronit. “Re-visiting ‘Galen in Tibet’”, Medical History, 56:3, July 2012, pp. 355-365.

Yoeli-Tlalim, Ronit. “Central Asian Mélange: Early Tibetan Medicine from Dunhunag,” In: Brandon Dotson, Kazushi Iwao and Tsuguhito Takeuchi (eds), Scribes, Texts, and Rituals in Early Tibet and Dunhuang, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013, pp. 53-60.

International Dunhuang Project:

The Cairo Genizah Research Unit at Cambridge University: genizah-research-unit

The Genizah Research Unit on Facebook:


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.