Chinese Materia Medica illustration, Ming: Damupi plant

  • Wang Shichang et al. (Ming period, 1368-1644)
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Traced copy of an illustration from Bencao pinhui jingyao (Materia Medica Containing Essential and Important Material Arranged in Systematic Order, completed 1505), in red and black ink. In 1503, the Ming emperor Li Zong put imperial physician Liu Wentai in charge of compiling a new herbal (bencao). The resulting work, which ran to 42 volumes, contained entries on 1815 pharmaceutical plants and other substances, with 1358 full-colour illustrations by artists including Wang Shichang. It was completed in the spring of 1505. However, in the summer of that year, The Emperor contracted a fever, which unsuccessfully treated by Liu Wentai, proved fatal. As a result Liu Wentai was banished from court, and the herbal was not allowed to be engraved or published. The original manuscript was preserved in the imperial palace, where only a select few officials were allowed to consult or copy it. The exemplar held in the Library of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine) is a traced facsimile made in the Ming (1368-1644) period by an unknown hand. This is a botanical illustration of the damupi plant, showing the appearance of the plant. Bencao pinhui jingyao states: Damupi is first cited as a medicinal substance in Bencao tujing (Illustrated Pharmaceutical Classic). Damupi Is found in Shizhou (in today's Hubei province). The height of the plant varies. It keeps its leaves all year round and produces no fruit. It is bitter in sapor and warm in nature. It has the effect of clearing heat and removing toxins. It is used to treat conditions involving the proliferation and congestion of heat toxins within the body.


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