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Chinese Materia Medica illustration, Ming: Oenanthe javanica

  • Wang Shichang et al. (Ming period, 1368-1644)
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Credit: Chinese Materia Medica illustration, Ming: Oenanthe javanica. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

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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 Oenanthe javanica (shuiying) showing the appearance of the plant. Bencao pinhui jingyao states: Oenanthe javanica is first cited as a medicinal substance in Bencao tujing (Illustrated Pharmaceutical Classic). Oenanthe javanica grows in boggy soil or shallow water. The entire plant is used for medicinal purposes. It is bitter in sapor and cold in nature. It has the effect of clearing heat and removing damp; promoting diuresis and relieving swellings. It can be used to treat swollen feet and stiff knees, difficulty bending and stretching the limbs, aches and muscular constriction (juluan), etc.


Shuiying (Oenanthe javanica)


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