Ming herbal (painting): Swan

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Painting of a swan 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 swan (tian'e) is also called hu. It is larger than a goose, and has pure white feathers. It flies very high, and can cover large distances. Its habitat is lakes and marshy areas. The flesh of the swan is non-poisonous, and has the medicinal effects of replenishing Qi and force, and tonifying the zang and fu viscera. The ancients used it to treat Qi deficiency (qi xu) and blood deficit, bodily weakness, frailty and emaciation, etc. The fat of the swan (tian'e) is sweet in sapor, cool in thermostatic character, and non-poisonousIt has the effects of clearing heat, and promoting the healing of wounds and lesions. The ancients used it to treat wounds, lesions and toxic swellings (zhongdu), for paediatric malnutrition affecting the ear (?) (ergan), etc. Swan's down is used externally to treat injuries from metal blades.

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Swan (tian'e)

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Ming herbal (painting): Swan. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

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Credit: Wellcome Collection

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