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The Yellow Emperor transmits medical books to Lei Gong


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Credit: The Yellow Emperor transmits medical books to Lei Gong. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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'Shou shu tu (Illustration of the Yellow Emperor transmitting the books)', from Buyi Lei Gong paozhi bianlan (Supplement to Lei Gong's Guide to the Preparation of Drugs), edition of 1591 (19th year of the Wanli reign period of the Ming dynasty), is a fine example of Ming book art.

The Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) is shown presenting books containing medical knowledge to Lei Gong, the Thunder Duke. The scene unfolds outdoors. The Yellow Emperor is seated beneath a yellow canopy in the shade of a pine tree, flanked by four civil and military officials. Lei Gong prostrates himself at his feet. To his right, books and other largesse are laid out on tables. The picture is inspired by a passage in Suwen: Zhu zhi jiao lun (Plain Questions: On the Transmission of the Teachings), from the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor: 'When the Yellow Emperor was seated in The Hall of Brightness, he summoned Lei Gong and questioned him'. After this, he transmitted the knowledge of medicine to Lei Gong.

It should be noted that the clothing and personal adornment of the figures in the picture as well as the format and binding of the books all belong to the Ming period.

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Shou shu tu (Illustration of the Yellow Emperor transmitting the books)

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