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Ming herbal (painting): Cormorant
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About this work
Painting of a cormorant in the meticulous (gongbi) style, in colour on silk, from Bencao tupu (Illustrated Herbal). The painted illustrations in Bencao tupu were jointly executed by Zhou Hu and Zhou Xi in 1644 (the final year of the Ming period). The explanatory texts were provided by Zhou Rongqi. The book was not completed: each volume was to have contained 14-15 paintings, but only 29 are extant. Zhou Rongqi writes: The cormorant (luci) is also known as shui laoya (lit. 'water crow') and yi. Its habitat is rivers, lakes, marshes and seashores. It is black with a long, slightly hooked beak. By day they congregate on river islets, and by night they roost in wooded areas. They are good at catching fish for food in shallow waters, and can be domesticated and trained to fish. The flesh is acid and salty in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and slightly poisonous. It has the medicinal effects of clearing heat and promoting diuresis. The ancients used it to treat abdominal distension and water in the abdomen. The calcined and powdered bones, mixed with honey and gargled, are a remedy for fishbones [caught in the throat]; applied externally to the face, this gets rid of freckles.