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Ming herbal (painting): The dog

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

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Monochrome painting of dogs from Diannan bencao tushuo (The Illustrated Yunnan Pharmacopoeia). Diannan bencao tushuo was compiled by the Ming (1368-1644) writer Lan Mao in the 14th-15th century. The word 'Dian' in the title refers to the Yunnan region, in the Southwest of China. It provides a record of the plants and other substances commonly used for medicinal purposes in Yunnan in the Ming period. Most of the entries are illustrated with ink and wash paintings. This manuscript copy was executed in 1773 (38th year of the Qianlong reign period of the Qing dynasty, Gui Si year) by Zhu Jingyang. In the text, Lan Mao states: The dog can be seen everywhere. There are numerous different breeds. The hunting dog (liequan) has a long muzzle and is a good hunter; the domestic dog has a short muzzle and is a good guard; the comestible dog is plump and suitable for eating. The flesh is salty and acid in sapor, warm in thermostatic character, and non-poisonous. It has the medicinal properties of tonifying the centre, replenishing Qi, warming the kidneys, invigorating Yang [i.e. increasing virility], augmenting essence/semen (jing) and replenishing marrow. It is used to treat Qi deficiency of the spleen and kidney, cold aches in the small of the back and knees, insufficiency-overexertion (xulao) and bodily weakness etc.

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The dog is salty and acid in sapor, warming, non-poisonous, and somewhat rank-smelling. It is found everywhere, and there is a wide variety of breeds. The field dog (tianquan) has a long muzzle and is good at hunting; the domestic dog has a short muzzle and is good at guarding; the comestible dog is plump and suitable for eating. In the [Divine Farmer's] Canon of Materia Medica (Benjing), the dogs used are all comestible ones. It is indicated for calming the five viscera, tonifying the male genital tract (yangdao), replenishing Qi, treating the 'five exhaustions' (wu lao), warming the small of the back and the knees, and replenishing the marrow with true essence (zhen jing). It is cooked with the five sapors, and is particularly efficacious when taken on an empty stomach. It is incompatible with pokeberry (shanglu), apricot kernels/almonds (xingren) and garlic.

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