ISLAM & TIBET: Publications

Anna Akasoy (select publications)

‘Along the Musk Routes. Exchanges between Tibet and the Islamic World.’ In Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 3/2 (2007), pp. 217-40 (with Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim). Musk was the most important trading good from Tibet in the Islamic world where it was highly prized due to its aphrodisiac effect. As in the lands where it came from, musk was used in the Middle East for medical purposes. This article compares medical uses of musk in Tibetan and Islamic medicines and explores ways of the transmission of medical knowledge along the trading routes, presenting the novel concept of ‘Musk Routes’ following the model of the Silk Roads.

‘Tibet in Islamic Geography and Cartography: A Survey of Arabic and Persian Sources’, in Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett, Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (eds), Islam and Tibet: Cultural Interactions, 17-41. Since the time of the first military and political encounters between the Islamic world and Tibet, Muslim geographers have included Tibet in their texts and maps. This article presents a survey of the primary sources in Arabic and Persian and outlines a general development.

‘Dying of Laughter in Lhasa. Tibet in Islamic Geography’ (article in preparation). Among the most popular themes in descriptions of Tibet in Arabic and Persian literature was the happiness of its people. This article explores the theme and contextualises it within the literary aspects of Islamic geography.

‘Alexander in the Himalayas: Competing Imperial Legacies in Medieval Islamic History and Literature’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 72, 2009, pp. 1-20. In Islamic versions of Alexander’s campaigns to Asia, the great conqueror travels into regions where the historical Alexander never went. This article includes a survey of Arabic and Persian texts which describe Alexander’s presence in Tibet as well as rivaling theories about great kings from the West who came to the Himalayas. It includes the account of a nineteenth-century South Arabian visitor to Tibet.

‘Rashid al-Din’s Life of the Buddha – Islamic Perspectives.’ In Akasoy, Burnett, Yoeli-Tlalim (eds),Rashid al-Din as an Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran (in preparation)

The ‘Life of the Buddha’ in Rashid al-Din’s History of India presents a version of the Buddha’s life which is independent of the popular Bilawhar wa-Budhasf. This article presents a close reading of the first chapter of the Life of the Buddha and analyses the Islamic background of the vocabulary.

‘What is a musk mouse? Tracing an elusive animal in Arabic literature’ (article in preparation) In addition to musk itself, the animals which produce fragrant substances were a popular topic in Arabic literature. This article traces debates about one of them, the ‘musk mouse’, and analyses in which ways the authors tried to establish its identity.

Georgios T. Halkias (select publications)

“Until the Feathers of the Winged Black Raven Turn White: Sources for the Tibet-Bashahr Treaty of 1679-1684.” In Mountains, Monasteries and Mosques: Recent Research on Ladakh and the Western Himalaya, eds. John Bray and Elena de Rossi Filibeck. Supplement to Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, Nuova Serie, Volume LXXX, pp. 61-86. Diverse polities are known to have formed around the western Himalayan frontier zones from the earliest times, flourishing along ancient and vital mountain-passes that linked sub-continental trade with trans-continental commercial networks, the Silk Routes. The articles above discuss historical sources for a neglected trading treaty forged in 1679 between the Raja of Bashahar in India and the Tibetan government in Lhasa - bearing relevance to contemporary Sino-Indian border disputes and the aftermath of the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal War of 1679-1684. Evidence included derives froma two month archival research at the National Archives in Delhi and Shimla and travels through Kinnaur, Spiti, Lahaul, and Ladakh (India). Documents from this research trip can be found in the Tibet-Islam image and text electronic repository – see documents.

“Loss of Memory and Continuity of Praxis in Rampur-Bashahr: an Itinerant Study of Seventeenth-Century Tibetan Murals.” 2009. In. Contemporary Visions in Tibetan Studies, co-edited with Brandon Dotson et al. Chicago: Serindia Publications.2009, pp. 139-155. This narrative stems from research conducted in July 2007 in the town of Rampur-Bashahr, state of Himachal Pradesh, India. On-site investigation prompted locating a unique set of Tibetan-style murals painted at the Shish Mahal Palace to commemorate a clandestine military alliance that transpired during the Tibet-Ladakh-Mughal war, 1679-1684.  Equally, the seventeenth-century murals were meant to celebrate a trading treaty that ensued at the aftermath: tax-free trading between the Himalayan kingdom of Bashahr and western Tibet territories (the latter lost by Ladakh to the Tibetan government) . Unfortunately, the treaty-murals were no longer available for observation. In their place, I discovered an exemplar of symbiotic proselytism: late twentieth-century Tibetan murals depicting major Hindu and Buddhist deities signed by a Tibetan inscription praising the Buddhist merit of the religious images, dating the time of their composition, and reporting on those officiating as the king and queen mother of the bygone kingdom of Bashahr along with two honorary members, none of whom were Tibetan. As will be shown, the murals represent a meeting of faiths and cultures in Bashahr that goes back to at least the seventeenth century and concords with oral and written histories.

“The Muslim Queens of the Himalayas: Princess Exchange in Ladakh and Baltistan.” In Islam-Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, eds. Anna Akasoy et al. Ashgate Publications.
“Histories of Tibet from the Margins: Borderland Wars and Trade in the North-West Himalayas.” In New Perspectives on Tibetan Traditionality, ed. Laura Harrington. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (selected Publications)

‘Along the Musk Routes. Exchanges between Tibet and the Islamic World.’ In Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 3/2 (2007), pp. 217-40 (with Anna Akasoy)

‘On Urine Analysis and Tibetan Medicine’s Connections with the West’ In: Frances Garrett, Mona Schrempf and Sienna Craig (eds.) Studies in the History of Tibetan Medicine, Proceedings of the 11th seminar of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 2006, International Institute for Tibetan and Buddhist Studies GmbH (IITBS) (forthcoming). We know, thanks to the work of Chris Beckwith, that Tibetan medical histories place great importance to the contribution of Greek-derived medicine. What was the nature of this contribution has remained a big open question. This article is a preliminary attempt to tackle this complicated problem. It focuses on one of the earliest extant Tibetan medical texts, the Zla ba’i rgyal po and particularly on its urine analysis section.

“Islam and Tibet: Cultural Interactions - An Introduction,” In Akasoy, Burnett, Yoeli-Tlalim (eds), Islam and Tibet (forthcoming 2009).
Though much of the history of Islamic-Tibetan interactions is still shrouded in obscurity, enough is known to indicate that there were political and economic interactions between the Tibetan empire and Muslims from the seventh century onwards. This book is a first attempt to deal with the vast area of cultural interactions between Islamic and Tibetan cultures. The introduction contextualises the work presented in this book, coming from very different fields and disciplines.   ‘Rashid al-Din’s Life of the Buddha – Buddhist Perspectives.’ In Akasoy, Burnett, Yoeli-Tlalim (eds), Rashid al-Din as an Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran (in preparation).  This paper discusses the way of ‘cultural translation’ in which Rashid al-Din uses and adapts Buddhist notions in his ‘Life of the Buddha’. As such it exemplifies the way in which Buddhism and Islam not only translated each other in the Ilkhanid court, but also interacted with each other.


Edited volumes: (edited by Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett and Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim)

Astromedicine, Astrology and Medicine, East and West (Micrologus Library, 2008).

Islam and Tibet. Interactions along the Musk Routes Ashgate 2010.

Rashid al-Din as an Agent and Mediator of Cultural Exchanges in Ilkhanid Iran (The Warburg Institute Colloquia Series).