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C14 Chinese tongue diagnosis chart


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Credit: C14 Chinese tongue diagnosis chart. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


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Illustration of 'Tongue with white coating and black root' '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).

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: The two-thirds of the tongue towards the tip has a white coating, while the third towards the root is black. This tongue image indicates the presence of a malign cold (e han) syndrome, with pain involving the whole body, and is considered a threatening symptom. If it is accompanied by insufficient liquid intake, it can be treated with Five-Drug Powder (wu ling san). If it is accompanied by spontaneous sweating and thirst, White Tiger Decoction (baihu tang) can be used. If it is accompanied by diarrhoea, it can be treated with Poison-Removing Decoction (jiedu tang).

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