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Ming herbal (painting): Siberian white crane


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Credit: Ming herbal (painting): Siberian white crane. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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Painting of the Siberian white crane (baihe) 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 Siberian white crane is also known as xianqin (lit. fabulous beast) and taiqin (lit. embryo beast). It is 3 chi in length (1 chi [Chinese foot] = c. 1/3 m.) and 3 chi in height. It has a long neck and short tail, and the beak is 4 cun in length (1 cun [Chinese inch] = c. 3 cm). The head and neck are red, and it has bright red cheeks and eyes. The feet are black. The plumage is generally white, but grey and green specimens are also found. It is a wader, whose usual habitat is shallow water and river banks. It has a loud, resonant call. The flesh and blood of the crane have the medicinal effects of replenishing Qi and insufficiency detriment (xusun). The ancients used it to treat deficit of Qi and blood, and physical frailty and emaciation. The crane's brain has the effects of nourishing the liver and improving vision. It is used to treat obscured and indistinct vision.

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Siberian white crane (baihe)

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