A report from Khotan by Research Assistant Patrick Hällzon

On 22–23 October 2015, an international conference on Uyghur traditional medicine took place in Khotan, a city located along the southern Silk Road and famous for its beautiful carpets and jade stones. Khotan is also considered to be the center of Uyghur traditional medicine.

Dance show at the conference in Khotan

At the conference, which was organized by College of Xinjiang Uyghur Medicine, scholars from a number of countries were represented. Besides Chinese and Uyghur speakers there were foreign guests from countries including Japan, Turkey, Tajikistan, France and Sweden. There were almost 900 people in the audience. Three papers were presented by Swedish participants: Rune Andersson, Professor in Global Health at the Department of Infectious Diseases at the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg, spoke about HIV-prevention and treatment in Xinjiang. Margareta Höök-Wennfors delivered a lecture about the Swedish Mission’s medical activities in Southern Xinjiang during the 1930s. In my own paper I discussed what kind of information on Uyghur medicine can be found in Swedish archives. Special focus was given to two Swedish missionaries who worked in the area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, L. E. Högberg (1858–1924) and Magnus Bäcklund (1866–1903).

In Stockholm there is a collection of Kashgarian (Uyghur) medicine compiled by missionary L .E. Högberg in 1907 and stored at the Museum of Ethnography. It contains a list of more than 125 types of medicine and a detailed description of various drugs – their names, proprieties and how they were used. This list has been translated and edited for publication.

7. Uyghur pharmacy

Within the framework of an ongoing SIPCATS project, ”Silk Road Studies in memory of Gunnar Jarring”, I am currently editing a handwritten grammar (Swedish – Eastern Turki) by the missionary Magnus Bäcklund. During my work, I discovered that one chapter deals with medicine. Magnus Bäcklund is reported to have been very gifted with languages.

Had he not died prematurely from typhoid fever in 1903, Bäcklund might very well, just as his well-known colleague Gustaf Raquette, have become a prominent linguist. After his death his work fell into oblivion. However, the current project will render his contributions to Uyghur grammar the recognition they deserve. His notes will be published as a book including a facsimile of the original text, translations from Swedish and Eastern Turki into English, notes and a glossary as well as a biography of Magnus Bäcklund.

Bäcklund first page