JĪVAKAPUSTAKA, a medical text in Sanskrit and Khotanese belonging to the Indian Ayurvedic tradition. It is preserved in a single bilingual manuscript, incomplete and without colophon, that was recovered from the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas (Qianfodong) near Dunhuang (q.v.) in northwest China and is now kept in the British Library.

The manuscript, written in cursive Khotanese Brāhmī (q.v.) script, presumably dates from the 10th century and consists of 71 folios (ms. Ch. ii.003: facing Sanskrit and Khotanese in Bailey, KT I, pp. 136-95; facs. of fols. 44 and 64 in Hoernle, 1917, and of fols. 100r and 115r in Stein, 1921, pl. cl; complete facs. in Bailey, 1938, pp. 71-141; ed. of the Khotanese in Konow, 1941, with tr. and gloss.; cf. Emmerick, 1992, pp. 42-43; Meulenbeld, 1999-2002, IIA, p. 126, IIB, pp. 144-45; Skjærvø, 2002, p. 305). A. F. Rudolf Hoernle prepared a study on fols. 44-72r (secs. 1-25 according to Konow’s numbering, partly published as Hoernle, 1917: see Emmerick, 1982), which he intended to publish under the title “An ancient medical manuscript from Eastern Turkestan” as the second volume of his Manuscript Remains of Buddhist Literature Found in Eastern Turkestan (Oxford, 1916): it is now kept in the India Office and Oriental Collections of the British Library as ms. Eur. D.723 (see Emmerick, 1992, p. 43, and 1997, and Skjærvø, 2002, p. xliv).

The work is an otherwise unknown collection of prescriptions taken from various texts and organized by type of preparation in complementary chapters, which are introduced by the Sanskrit auspicious formula siddham ‘success’, like most of the chapters of the Khotanese Book of Zambasta (q.v.). The first chapter is presented (sec. 2) as a teaching of the Buddha to the physician Jīvaka (who is called “the king of physicians” in the Late Khotanese Mañjuśrīnairātmyāvatārasūtra, l. 358), hence the conventional title “The book (Skt. pustaka-) of Jīvaka” invented by Bailey (KT I, p. vii). In the first chapter Sanskrit sentences alternate with Late Khotanese ones, while the other chapters alternate the two languages section by section. Chap. 1 (secs. 1-3; see Hoernle 1917, pp. 420-29, and Emmerick, 1992) contains an antidote (Khotanese agada- from Skt. agada-); chap. 2 (secs. 4-46; see Emmerick, 1994, for sec. 6 and Hoernle, 1917, pp. 429-32, for sec. 18) deals with drugs mixed with clarified butter (Khot. gvīha’- rūna- lit. “cow oil,” Skt. ghṛta-); chap. 3 (secs. 47-73) with drugs mixed with sesame oil (Khot. kūṃjsavīnaa- rūna-, Skt. taila-); and chap. 4, which lacks the end (secs. 74-93, sec. 93 being partly extant only in Sanskrit), with powdered medicines (Khot. cą̄ṇa- from Skt. cūrṇa-). The Khotanese version is based on the corrupt Sanskrit, which the translator could not understand fully, as is indicated by translation mistakes (see Emmerick, 1979, p. 243). For each prescription, the instructions for the preparation are followed by indications on its use. Twenty-nine of the ninety-three prescriptions have been identified in several earlier Indian medical works, including Ravigupta’s Siddhasāra, which is also extant in Khotanese (see Emmerick, 1979, pp. 235-37).



H. W. Bailey, Codices Khotanenses: India Office Library Ch. ii 002, Ch. ii 003, Ch. 00274 Reproduced in Facsimile with an Introduction, Copenhagen, 1938.

Idem, Khotanese Texts [KT] I-VII, Cambridge, 1945-85 (several reprs. with corrections). R. E. Emmerick, “Contributions to the Study of the Jīvaka-pustaka,” BSOAS 42, 1979, pp. 235-43.

Idem, “Hoernle and the Jīvaka-Pustaka,” BSOAS 45, 1982, p. 343.

Idem, A Guide to the Literature of Khotan, 2nd ed., Tokyo, 1992.

Idem, “The Svastika Antidote,” Journal of the European Āyurvedic Society 2, 1992, pp. 60-81.

Idem, “The Mahāsauvarcalādi Ghee,” in Memoriae munusculum: Gedenkband für Annemarie v. Gabain, ed. K. Röhrborn and W. Veenker, Wiesbaden, 1994, pp. 29-42.

Idem, “The Mahāsauvarcalādi Ghṛta in Hoernle’s Unpublished Edition of the ‘Jīvakapustaka’,” Journal of the European Āyurvedic Society 5, 1997, pp. 76-81.

A. F. R. Hoernle, “An Ancient Medical Manuscript from Eastern Turkestan,” in Commemorative Essays Presented to Sir Ramkrishna Gopal Bhandarkar, Poona, 1917, pp. 415-32.

S. Konow, A Medical Text in Khotanese: Ch. ii 003 of the India Office Library with Translation and Vocabulary, Oslo, 1941.

G. J. Meulenbeld, A History of Indian Medical Literature, Groningen, 1999-2002, 3 vols. in 5 pts. P. O. Skjærvø, Khotanese Manuscripts from Chinese Turkestan in The British Library: A Complete Catalogue with Texts and Translations, with contributions by U. Sims-Williams, Corpus Inscr. Iran. II/V/Texts VI, London, 2002.

M. A. Stein, Serindia: Detailed Report of Explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, Oxford, 1921, 5 vols.

(Mauro Maggi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 17, 2012

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