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Chinese woodcut, Famous medical figures: Portrait of Bian Que

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Shen ying wang Bian Que (Numinous Bian Que/Bianque)


One of a series of woodcuts of illustrious physicians and legendary founders of Chinese medicine from an edition of Bencao mengquan (Introduction to the Pharmacopoeia), engraved in the Wanli reign period of the Ming dynasty (1573-1620) -- Volume preface, 'Lidai mingyi hua xingshi' (Portraits and names of famous doctors through history). The images are attributed to a Tang (618-907) creator, Gan Bozong.

The account in 'Portraits and Names of Famous Doctors through History' states: Qin Yueren, known as Bian Que, was a native of Bohai in Luguo. Having studied Huangdi neijing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), he wrote Bashiyi nanjing (Classic of Eighty-One Difficulties) as a commentary on that work. According to tradition, Bian Que learnt his medical skills from Zhang Sangjun. One day, Zhang Sangjun said to Bian Que, 'I have a prescription that I had hoped to pass on to my son when I grew old. If you take some of the prescription from this cup, and drink it with the water from this pool, in thirty days you will have knowledge of things.' Bian Que did as he said, and from then on, when he examined a patient, he was able to see into the viscera to discover the cause of the disease.


Credit: Wellcome Collection

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