Readers may be interested in this seminar by SOAS on 13 January 2021 with a heavy focus on Cambodia. Registration to the Zoom link below.
‘The Grief of Kings is the Suffering of their Subjects’
As the Covid-19 pandemic makes us acutely aware that our survival depends on medical services and medical science, what better time to reflect on how the ancient world coped with medical emergencies? The first large national health service we know about was built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII of the Khmer Empire. A well-supplied, country-wide network of 102 hospitals, open to all citizens, some 250 years before Europe’s first hospice for the poor was founded at Beaune in France in 1443. Having taken to the throne after driving out of Angkor a military occupation force from neighbouring Campā, part of Jayavarman VII’s strategy for reassuring the people after four years of strife and the first ever attack on their capital, and legitimizing his accession, was to promote compassionate Mahāyāna Buddhism through the powerful Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and, in a deft political stroke, the Medical Buddha Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Master of Remedies, whose image was raised outside each hospital.
The skill of the ancient Cambodians with medicinal herbs is first attested in the mid-seventh century. Indian Tantric Buddhist master Puṇyodaya (‘Na-t’i’), who had carried a large collection of sutras for translation to Chang’an, was sent to the Khmer country by the Tang emperor to collect rare herbs known to be used there.
The APSARA National Authority in Siem Reap is now undertaking an excavation and restoration programme to deepen our knowledge of this extraordinary early health innovation at the service of the Khmer people. From inscriptions we know that precise quantities of medicinal herbs and minerals, duly blessed by the monks, were distributed quarterly to the hospitals, manned by doctors and nurses and mantra specialists. Built in wood around a stone temple to Bhaiṣajyaguru, the hospitals were sited in quiet spots outside the walls of cities across the country.
In this webinar, scholars who study the ancient medicine in China, Vietnam, Tibet and India will address the long background of humanity’s development of medicines and the distribution systems that spread the time-honoured cures and the new scientific discoveries through the world.
Source: Webinar Registration – Zoom