'Human essence/semen', C16 Chinese painted book illustration

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This illustration, headed 'Ren jing' (human semen or essence), 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 central element in the picture is an ornate black varnished bed. The bed curtains are drawn closed. On the step leading up to the bed are a pair of men's shoes and a white cat. On a table to the right, a shaded lamp is burning and several different kinds of men's hats are laid out, and beneath it there is a wash basin. Apparently, the bed has a male occupant. This delicate and allusive illustration is given more explicit meaning by the caption.

Though illustrations such as this have limited significance for medical research, they are valuable sources for cultural history and the study of costume, furniture etc.


Picture heading: 'Ren jing' (human semen/essence)


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