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Drug preparation, C16 Chinese painted book illustration

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Credit: Drug preparation, C16 Chinese painted book illustration. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

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The 'Illustration of Lei Gong preparing medicines', 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.

Lei Gong is shown teaching humankind how to prepare drugs. We see him seated in the centre of the composition, holding a medicine gourd in his left hand, in front of a backdrop of pine trees and auspicious cloud formations. The rest of the picture shows typical scenes of drug preparation in antiquity. In the upper right, a man tends to the fire in a stove on which he is steaming herbs in a bamboo steamer. To the left is a figure in the act of lifting the lid of a pot of boiling herbs to check on the brew. In the centre four people in a row illustrate different stages in drug processing in a sequence from left to right: grinding ingredients in a mortar, sifting them, pulverizing them with a metal roller, and roasting ingredients while stirring them with fire-tongs. At the bottom of a picture is a similar row of three people. From left to right, they are engaged in pounding ingredients with a mortar and pestle, chopping herbs with a knife, and washing them in a bowl of water.

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