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Chinese drugs personified: Lithograph, 1935

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Credit: Chinese drugs personified: Lithograph, 1935. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Yaohui tukao (Illustrated Congregation of Drugs), published in 1935 (24th year of the Republic of China), presents the materia medica in dramatic form. It consists of ten scenes, in which various drugs appear as protagonists. This illustration accompanies Scene 10, Liquorice Brings Harmony to the Land (Gancao he guo), in which characters personifying liquorice, dendrobium (shihu) and rhubarb present the sapors, potencies, and therapeutic uses of various drugs through the medium of spoken dialogue and song. Aniseed/fennel (huixiang) sets Qi in motion and alleviates pain. Scizonepeta flower(?) (jiesui) eliminates poisons and dispels wind. Clam meal (gefen) tonifies the lung and relieves wheezing. Lotus stamens control involuntary emission and astringe semen/essence (jing). Red tangerine peel loosens phlegm and relieves coughing. Spurge (daji, Euphorbia pekinensis) eliminates water through purgation. Earthworms clear heat and unblock the channels. Lotus flower supports the stomach and raises Yang. Lotus plumule clears heat and alleviates thirst. Chinese aloe (luhui) kills parasites and cures infantile malnutrition (gan)… Altogether, this scene introduces about 40 drugs.


TITLE: Liquorice Brings Harmony to the Land (Gancao he guo) CAPTIONS: Liquorice Brings Harmony to the Land (gancao he guo); aconitum (chuanwu, monkshood); Chinese honeylocust spine (zao jiaoci, spina Gleditsiae); sulphur (shiliuhuang); yuyu liang (a kind of edible grain(?); Emperor Shennong (Shennong/Shen Nong = the Divine Farmer); liquorice; dendrobium (jin shihu); pokeberry (shanglu); morning glory seed (qianniu zi)


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