• This research investigates the intersection of traditional medical systems and medical languages in maritime Southeast Asia, with Singapore at the centre. Drawing on ethnographic research by the PI, it recognizes that Chinese dialect speakers use local (Malay World) medicinal plants but conceptualise their use in Chinese (not only Malay) medical frames. This points to a hitherto unstudied history of the cross-linguistic exchange of medical knowledge in the region, framed here as “polyglot medicine.”


    This project historicizes this phenomenon by assembling and developing textual and digital resources which will enable scholars, and the general public, to trace local medicinal plants, and the understanding of their use, across multiple medical textual traditions, in their original languages. It will investigate polyglot traditional medicine in the region by studying the ethnonyms for medicinal plants in Chinese and Malay as they appear in manuscripts and ethnographic surveys. By tracing the presence of these plants in historical texts and contemporary use, we will radically enhance the understanding of local ethnic communities’ practices of borrowing, assimilation and adaptation over time. By integrating this data with up-to-the-minute standards in botanical science, plant chemistry and pharmacology, we will promote appreciation of the efficacy of traditional methods, while at the same facilitating a radical increase in drug safety monitoring, research into modern polypharmacy, and the potential for new drug discovery, while at the same time protecting indigenous claims to the drug knowledge.


    At present, the site is still under construction and parts of it does not click through. The team will adding more and more information throughout the course of 2021.


    July 26, 2021
    Jawi was the standard script of the Malay language from the fourteenth century till the twentieth century. With trade expansion and the arrival of western colonialisation in the Southeast Asian region, the Jawi script was consigned strictly within the confinements of religious education as the...
    The modern Malay language has been written in two scripts: Jawi, based on Arabic letters and Rumi, based on Roman letters. From the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, Jawi was the dominant script in the region but Rumi overtook Jawi in popularity and official usage in the twentieth century....


    Open access journals that feature articles on alternative and traditional medicine

  • Other digital humanities projects

    Making pharmaceutical and botanical cultural heritage digitally accessible and usable
    Collaborative international research community that brings together and showcases interdisciplinary research on recipes across broad temporal and geographic spans
  • TEAM

    Primary Investigators

    Michael Stanley-Baker

    Faizah Zakaria

    Francesco Perono Cacciafoco

    Project Officers

    Sharifah Nur Binte Syed Mohamad Alhabshee

    Michael Wayne Goodman

    Xu Duo Duo


    Supported by:

    Nanyang Technological University

    National Heritage Board (Singapore)

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