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Ming herbal (painting): Peacock

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

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Painting of a peacock in the meticulous (gongbi) style, in colour on silk, from Bencao tupu (Illustrated Herbal). The painted illustrations in Bencao tupu were jointly executed by Zhou Hu and Zhou Xi in 1644 (the final year of the Ming period). The explanatory texts were provided by Zhou Rongqi. The book was not completed: each volume was to have contained 14-15 paintings, but only 29 are extant. Zhou Rongqi writes: The peacock (kongque) is also known as yueniao. It is 3-4 chi in height (1 chi [Chinese foot] = c. 1/3 m.). It is as large as a crane, with a slender neck and a high back. It lives in groups. It has a thick crest of feathers on the top of its head. The tail of the peahen is shorter and drab in colour, but the tail of the male peacock can be up to 2-3 chi long, with multicoloured feathers running from the back to the tip of the tail. Because of the weight of the tail, it is unable to fly. The flesh and blood are used in medicine, and are salty in sapor, cool in thermostatic character, and poisonous. They have the medicinal effects of clearing heat, and removing poison. The ancients used them to treat ulcers, abscesses and lesions, and all kinds of drug poisoning.


Peacock (kongque)


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