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A Contribution of Emchi D. Yendonov in the development of the Tibetan Medicine at the Ashagat Manba Datsan by Natalia Bolsokhoeva

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Life of Dondub Yendonov

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Unfortunately, biographical information about life of D. Yendonov (1870-1937?) is scarce It is known that he was born in village of Kurba, located in the Zaigrayev region of Buryatia.

The dates of his life are founded in indirect manner.

Thanks to documents of the History Museum of Buryatia named after M.N. Khangalov (futher Museum) we became know the year of his birthday.

The document dated the 1924 says that D. Yendonov began to engage in medical practice in 1897, when he was 27 years old.[1]

This information let identify his birth year as 1870.

His farther was Yendon Munkuyev, the name of his mother is unknown.

We don’t know about their origins, what Buryat tribe they belong to, and what their social position was.

What is about the date of his Death it is a question as we didn’t find any information about it.

We proceeded from the fact that after 1937 there was no materials on his life and productive activity.

His destiny is unknown. It is possible that he became a victim of repression.

Probably, D. Yendonov has got his primary education in the Atsagat Buddhist monastery Tubten Dargye ling (thub brtan dar rgya gling), the great center of Buddhist learning, education, Enlightenment, culture and book-printing.

It could be, here he completed a full course on Buddhist Philosophy and obtained the degree of gabzha, the one of the highest scientific degree in the area of Buddhist studies.

In the collection of the Museum is kept the document in which it is said that in 1924 he was a gabzha in the Atsagat Buddhist monastery and “kept vows sacredly”.

Unfortunately, it was no fact in which monastery he was awarded by this high degree.

Traditionally this prestigious degree could be obtaining in the Buddhist monasteries of Mongolia and Buryatia.

Supposedly, in the monastery Tubten Dargye ling D. Yendonov was studied under leadership of highly-educated Buddhist masters.

At that time Buddhist scholars came from the most famous monasteries of Tibet and Mongolia to the Atsagat datsan by invitation of Buryat great Buddhist scholar Nawang Dorzhiev (1854-1938)[2].

The possessed by profound teaching’s talent and being the knowledgeable teachers taught Buryat students.

Further many of them traveled to get classical Tibetan education in the most known Buddhist centers of Tibet and Mongolia.

Invited scholars made a big contribution to the development and transformation of Buddhist education in many datsans throughout the ethnic Buryatia[3].

Thereafter D. Yendonov continued his philosophical and medical education in Ikh Khure (Urga, present day Ulan-Bator) under the tutorship of the great Mongol intellectuals.

D. Yendonov paid a main attention to the science of healing (gso ba Rig pa) and became one of the most eminent experts in the field of Tibetan medical culture.

After conclusion of his education in Mongolia he came back to his native village.

As it was noted above, at the age of 27 D. Yendonov began his active medical practice.

In the certificate, dated the 20 February 1913 and signed by Dymbrylov, shiretui (abbot) of the Atsagat datsan, he was named as “free practicing Tibetan doctor”[4].

In short time of his work he gained a high recognition among the locals thanks to treatment of the serious illnesses which were widespread among the Russian and Buryat populations in the region.

For twenty seven years D. Yendonov has conducted a successful medical practice and he was a real expert in Tibetan practical medicine.

He made a great contribution to research and identification of medicinal plants and herbs of the Transbaikalia region and its comparative studying with the original Tibetan and Mongolian and even Indian analogues.

D. Yendonov was an analytic, he worked out his own rules of the collection, drying, and storing of raw materials.

On the base of his own experience emchi introduced a new technology of the production of the multi - component Tibetan medicines taking adopted plants of a rich flora throughout the Baikal region.


D. Yendonov invested his own money for imported raw materials when it was not managed to find the substitutions in a local flora and fauna.

He followed strictly the ethics of Tibetan Doctors described in detail in the Root textGyushi“(rGyud bzhi, “Four Medical Tantras”) and feeling a deep Compassion, he treated the poor and orphans free of charge.

It is important to underline that firstly in an ancient India the fundamental principals on social services were worked out and the highly qualified physicians provided medical care without reference to the social group that a patient belonged to and the poor were treated free of charge.

D. Yendonov was very kind to seriously ill patients, visited them on his horse through a long distance having a pharmacy with him. It was consisted of high quality, fresh and hand made medicines effective even in extremely occasions.

Hence it may say that D. Yendonov was not only as a physician but as a pharmacologist and skilled pharmacist.

Emchi earned a reputation of a competent doctor not only in Atsagat but in nearby regions, his true worth was appreciated by his widespread clientele.

There are facts that doctor Yendonov every year has cured no less 2000 patients belonging to the different ethnic groups[5].

Since 1925 the activity of D. Yendonov has been closely connected with the Atsagat manba datsan, its development and transformation of a global medical education within of this prestigious institution.

At that time he worked as a senior teacher at medical faculty of the Atsagat arshan.

D. Yendonov worked out a course based on studying of classical Tibetan sources which were recognized as compulsory in the medical college situated on Chagpori Hill (lcags po ri sman ba’i grwa tshang, lit.

«Iron Hill»), near Lhasa[6]. It was founded in 1696.

D. Yendonov hardly worked in educational and pedagogical ways paying a special attention to the preparation of the highly qualified medical specialists among Buryats.

He initiated the organizing of a new educational process connected with the transformation of the educational system at the Atsagat manba datsan.

New conditions have required an elaboration of other educational model and reviewing of the structure of education.

D. Yendonov was highly interested in Western (allopathic) medicine.

In the Museum’s documents there are the facts that from the 21st November until the 21st December 1915 Tibetan doctor has attended a special course on a number of disciplines on Western medicine under the supervising of a well-known at that time doctor Michael Tanskii in a Verkhneudnsk’s hospital (since 1934 Ulan-Ude)[7].

Thanks to his talented abilities the physician has got for a short time a profound knowledge on anatomy, physiology and therapy learned some principals of treatment and pharmacopoeia of Western medicine.

This experience was as a good supplementary knowledge in the practice of traditional Tibetan physician for the composition of Russian-Mongolian dictionary of medical terms in the thirties years of XXth century.

In 1929 (according to other sources in 1930) D. Yendonov and his assistant (paramedic) Yandyk Tsyrenzhapov treated patients for hearing loss in Saratov’s hospital on ear, throat and nose.

At the same time they collaborated with the physicians from the Research Institute of Physiology of upper - respiratory tract in Saratov.

Buryat specialists have cured many patients with the throat’s cancer.

They demonstrated with a professional skills the methods and means of healing of Tibetan medical system.

The works of D. Yendonov

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In 1930s the works of D. Yendonov played an important role in the development of Tibetan medicine at the Atsagat medical school and educational system of this famous institution.

The new program of D. Yendonov focused on the composition of the adaptive guidance on Tibetan medicine attracted a number of written sources on Tibetan medical culture and information of modern Western medicine.

In this way the appropriated knowledge during the training in the Verkhneudinsk’s hospital and in Saratov’s clinics were extremely important for contemporary applied medicine.

Rich illustrated materials of the “Atlas of Tibetan medicine[8] were a valuable source for decision of many actual problems on theory and practice of Tibetan science of healing.

The Museum’s collection has a manuscript of the textbook on anatomy and physiology written on European of high quality paper stitching in the form of notebook of big format (A-4).

The volume textbook consists of four Books (452 pages), for each of them there is its pagination, only right sides of pages are numbered, and reverse sides are not numbered.

Such principal is traditional in Tibetan and Mongol xylographic editions and Tibetan and Mongol manuscripts.

The first book includes 136 pages (68 sheets); it consists of the table of contents, a general description of the human Body and 27 chapters containing description of the head and neck.

In the corps of the second book there are 11 chapters where are given descriptions of shoulders and arms and 16 chapters describe chest and abdomen.

These chapters include 84 pages (42 sheets).

In the third book – 106 pages (53 sheets).

These pages contain the following materials: the descriptions of the spinal column in four chapters, spinal cord and spinal nerves – 1 chapter, bones of the lower limbs – 10 chapters.

Further there are descriptions of lung and large intestine in 10 chapters and 4 chapters describe stomach and spleen.

The forth book consists of 126 pages (63 sheets) with the descriptions of heart and small intestine in 6 chapters, kidneys and urine - genital system – 13 chapters, liver and gallbladder - 2 chapters - circulation and gas exchange – 2 chapters.

There are 126 illustrations in this work.

The analysis of illustrations was not made; it will be possible likely on the next stage of our research.

Actually it is difficult to define the chronological frames of writing this textbook.

Not excluded that D. Yendonov worked hardly on it’s composition after training on Western medicine and experience’s exchange in the hospitals of Saratov during his two successful but short - term study trips.

It should be noticed, that there was not endeavor for the creation of this kind of textbook before D. Yendonov, by content it represents a successful synthesis of Tibetan and Western (allopathic) medicine.

We can say he was a pioneer in this interesting field.


However D. Yendonov having described the illnesses used the classification on solid[9] and hollow[10] organs which are considered as the key classification in Tibetan applied medicine. Solid and hollow organs are connected to each other and form a united organism providing a constancy of inner environment.

Knowledge of the laws of their close interrelations lets a physician diagnose illness and make prophylactics and treatment.

The structure of the textbook follows this traditional classification and therefore the composer entitled chapters; as heart – small intestine, lung - large intestine, liver – gallbladder.

Illustrated textbook has title: The textbook on anatomy and physiology, approved from above”, written in old Mongolian, which was used as the official literary language of Buryats until 1931.

The text is written by an amazing calligraphic written by black ink of European production.

D. Yendonov as a competent physician and highly qualified senior teacher realized the difficulties of Buryat students in learning the content of medical treatises in classical Tibetan language.

He had put big efforts for facilitating of educational process in the Atsagat manba datsan, composing the comments and explanations in old Mongolian easily understandable for Buryat students.

Subsequently they became a basic of bilingual (Tibetan and old Mongolian) education at medical schools throughout the territory of ethnic Buryatia[11].

This approach was an absolutely new in the education of the Atsagat medical school.

An important document is consisting of the first part conventionally called as a dictionary and the second part as a guidance on pharmacology of modern Western medicine is kept in the Museum’s collection of rare Books and manuscripts.

This manuscript has a form of stitching book with sizes 22x34,5, it has no beginning, no end.

The dictionary, consisting of 14 pages includes 137 names of medical terms in Russian with the translation in old Mongolian language.

It should be noted that among all terms there are only seven names (№ 16, 23, 32, 44, 61, 74 and 104) without translation.

Maybe it has been some difficulties to find exact equivalents in Mongolian language that is why a composer preferred to leave without translation.

The manuscript has nine illustrations from anatomical atlas of C Heitzmann[12].

They are illustrated materials for medical terms in D. Yendonov’s dictionary which have numbers 82, 88, 94, 95, 100, 103,104 and 106.

We have no even the suppositions what was the cause of a limited number of illustrations.

The composer did not give any explanations.

Unfortunately, the text work and illustrated part were not ended.

But these 137 terms in the dictionary help us to say about linguistic, lexical and technical particularities.

The material used by D. Yendonov shows a high level of his knowledge on modern medical terminology that was a rare occurrence for traditional Tibetan doctor (emchi) in the 1930-s.

It may suppose that known repressions didn’t give a possibility to Buryat scholar to continue and complete his important work.

It could be the author supposed to create a lexicographical guidance for adequate translation of special medical terminologies in old Mongolian not only for students, but for the specialists in the area of Tibetan medical science.

Not excluded that Buryat lexicographer had the idea of the creation of the lexical guidance for the translation of needed medical literature from Russian into old Mongolian language and its implement in a basic educational program in medical school in Atsagat.

Moreover according the conception of Dr. D. Yendonov an anatomy and physiology were considered as important structural forming elements in educational system of the well-known Atsagat manba datsan.


The second part of the book has 46 pages (15-61); it is composed according the following scheme: the name of medicament, illness and correct medicines, indications and descriptions.

While the name of the medicament and often the name of pathology are given in Russian when the indications and descriptions in old Mongolian.

Probably D. Yendonov thought that these two indicators were extremely important for patients that are why he gave a Mongolian text, which was more understandable for Buryats.

D. Yendonov made a great contribution to the composing of the visual aids on Tibetan medicine and he was an initiator and author of the many years project on the creation of medical illustrations by Buryat artists and physicians.

Besides he formed a creative group for making copy of a number of plates of the “Atlas of Tibetan medicine”.

In the collection of the Museum there are 65 plates of different formats of medical contain with a separated chapters on Tibetan medicine depicting by director and students of the Atsagat manba datsan on separated album sheets, on whatman paper and primed canvas

They represented an illustrated material, subordinated mainly to the subject and structure of some paragraphs, chapters, and volumes of classical Tibetan medical treatise “Gyushi”, its scientific commentary ‘Lapis Lazuli’ (vaidurya sngon po, Vaidurya - onbo, writing between 1687-1688), text on pharmacology and pharmacognozyShelpren” (shel ‘phreng, composing in 1727).

The author of the last source is a Tibetan outstanding scholar from Eastern Tibet Geshe (dge bshes) Deumar Tentsin Phuntsok (sdeu dmar bstan ‘dzin phun tshogs, born in 1672).

The Atsagat illustrations are distinguished by particular style a technique of images and colors reflect a definite level of Buryat spiritual culture in the thirties years of last century.

In conclusion it is necessary to underline that highly educated Buryat scholar, skilled teacher, professional emchi and artist D. Yendonov made a great contribution to the development Tibetan medical culture and education at the Atsagat manba datsan.

Now it is right time to start deep research, concerning productive activities of Buryat personality D. Yendonov.


Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • «Атлас тибетской медицины». Свод иллюстраций к тибетскому медицинскому трактату XVII века «Голубой берилл». 1994. Вступительные статьи Н.Д. Болсохоевой, Д.Б. Дашиева, В.С. Дылыковой - Парфионович, К.М. Герасимовой, Л.Э. Мялля, Т.В. Сергеевой. Перевод текста атласа Т.А. Асеевой, Н.Д. Болсохоевой, Т.Г. Бухашеевой, Д.Б. Дашиева. Пояснительный текст к листам атласа составил на основании исследования тибетских медицинских трактатов «Четверокнижие» и «Голубой берилл» Ю.М. Парфионович, из-во «Галарт», М.,592 P..
  • Heittzmann C., Anatomical Atlas. Kiev, 1902, 590 P.


  1. Ochirova., 2004, p. 129
  2. Bolsokhoeva,2008, p.140.
  3. Ibid, p. 140
  4. Ochirova, 2004, pp. 127-128
  5. Ochirova, 2004. p.. 127
  6. This medical college founded by the most eminent Tibetan scholar, regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama Nawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682) and skilled politician Desi Sangye Gyatso (1653 – 1705). It was the first state educational Institution through out Tibet, where traditional Tibetan physicians were trained within the framework of united medical school. Unfortunately during ‘cultural revolution’ in China this college was completely destroyed.
  7. Ochirova, 2004, p. 132.
  8. The drawings have been copied on canvas by the group of professional Tibetan artists and physicians and traveled quite far. At the beginning of the XX th century they reached ethnic Buryatia. For more detail see: the Atlas of Tibetan Medicine, 1994, pp 26-32; Bolsokhoeva and Gerasimova, 1998, pp. 33-60. Bolsokhoeva, 2007 c, pp. 347-367.
  9. Solid (in some Tibetan texts they call main organs) organs: heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys.
  10. Hollow organs: stomach, gall-bladder, small intestines and large intestine, urinary bladder and testicle ? (Tib. samseu)
  11. Bolsokhoevz, 2008 , pp 164-168
  12. Heittzmann, 1902, 590 р.


Author: Natalia Bolsokhoeva