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C14 Chinese tongue diagnosis chart


Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
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Illustrations of 'spotted' (sheng ban), 'red star' (hongxing), 'black tip'(hei jian) and 'black border' (hei quan) tongue from a manuscript copy of Shanghan diandian jin shu (The Gold-dust Book of Cold Damage) dated '1st year of the Zhengyuan reign period of the Yuan dynasty' (1341), section entitled Yanzheng she (Examining the Tongue). All four illustrations appear on the same half-folio.

This book incorporates the teachings of Ao Jiweng (Song period, 960-1279) on the movement of Qi and those of Du Ben (Tao Hua) (Yuan period, 1206-1368) on pulse and tongue diagnosis, etc. Yanzheng she is based on an original text by Ao Jiweng, edited by Chen Shiwen and Shi Buni (Song period). It is a guide to the diagnosis of cold damage conditions according to the coating of the tongue, with 36 illustrations in colour.

The text states: In Spotted tongue image, the body of the tongue is red with little black spots scattered over it. In light of this tongue image, appropriate treatments are Decoction of Figwort Root (xuanshen, radix scrophulariae) and Cohosh (shengma, cimicifuga, Kudzu Vine Root (ge gen, radix puerariae) Decoction and Spot Transforming Decoction (hua ban tang).

In Red Star tongue image, the body of the tongue is pale red with vivd red star shapes on it. This tongue image is the harbinger of jaundice. Appropriate treatments are Capillary Artemisia (yinchen) Decoction and Five-Drug Powder (wu ling san).

In Black tip tongue image, the body of the tongue is pale red, but the tip appears blue-black. The appropriate treatment is Decoction of Bamboo Leaf and Gypsum; or if the patient is running a very high fever, Stomach Regulating and Qi Supporting Decoction (tiao wei cheng qi tang) should be given to bring the fever down.

In Black border tongue image, the body of the tongue is pale red with a red film in the middle and a black border around the edges. It should be treated with Qi Supporting Decoction (cheng qi tang).


HEADINGS (R to L): Spotted tongue (sheng ban she). Red star tongue (hongxing she). Black tip tongue (hei jian she) 'black border' tongue.



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C14 Chinese tongue diagnosis chart. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

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