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Ming herbal (painting): Horse

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Credit: Ming herbal (painting): Horse. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Monochrome painting of a horse from Diannan bencao tushuo (The Illustrated Yunnan Pharmacopoeia). Diannan bencao tushuo was compiled by the Ming (1368-1644) writer Lan Mao in the 14th-15th century. The word 'Dian' in the title refers to the Yunnan region, in the Southwest of China. It provides a record of the plants and other substances commonly used for medicinal purposes in Yunnan in the Ming period. Most of the entries are illustrated with ink and wash paintings. This manuscript copy was executed in 1773 (38th year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing dynasty, Gui Si year) by Zhu Jingyang. In the text, Lan Mao states: The horse can be seen everywhere. Horses have a very wide variety of coat colours; white ones are preferred for medicine. The flesh is pungent and bitter in sapor, cold in thermostatic character, and poisonous. and has the medicinal properties of clearing heat, regulating Qi and strengthening the back and loins. It is used to treat conditions such as accumulated heat in the stomach and gut, chills and fever (hanre), and atrophy-flaccidity blockage disease (weibi). The mane can be burnt to ash and applied to wounds to staunch bleeding. The ash of the hoofs can be mixed with oil and applied externally to scabby scalp/ringworm (tuchuang). The calcined ash of the skin can be applied externally to sores and ringworm, with excellent results.

Lettering

The horse is pungent and bitter in sapor, cold, and poisonous. It is used to treat damage to the centre, to eliminate heat, to bring down [retrograde] Qi, to lengthen the sinews and strengthen the bones, and to strengthen the back and loins. It can also strengthen the intellect, make the body light, and cure chills and fever (hanre) and atrophy-flaccidity blockage disease (bi). The ashes of the burnt mane are most effective for application to wounds and sores. The ash of the burnt hoofs is mixed with oil and rubbed into scabby scalp/ringworm (tuchuang). The calcined ash of the skin, when applied to ringworm, brings about immediate improvement…

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