domingo, 23 de março de 2014


  1. The Making and Disappearance of the Bronze Acupuncture Figure
  2. After the Tang dynasty ended in 907,
  3. China experienced a period of political instability during the Five Dynasties
  4. and Ten Kingdoms (907-979).
  5. Medical education during that brief period was also interrupted,
  6. which created many social problems.
  7. After the Song dynasty (960-1279) restored order to the empire,
  8. the Song emperor Renzong (1010-1063) ordered the physician Wang Weiyi
  9. to consolidate the entire body of medical literature
  10. and establish a system of standards
  11. to serve the needs of the medical profession and the general population.
  12. Wang researched the number of acupuncture points and their locations on the body, and in the year 1027
  13. published his Illustrated Manual of Acupuncture and Moxibustion for use with the Bronze Figure.
  14. Because of the work’s importance,
  15. the text and illustrations were carved on stone tablets,
  16. which others could copy or use to make rubbings.
  17. Taking rubbings from carved stone tablets is one of the earliest forms of printing in China.
  18. This is how it is done.
  19. A paste is applied to the flat, uncarved surface of the stone.
  20. Soft white paper is then placed on the surface of the stone,
  21. and beaten with a pillow-like tool, so that some of the paper sticks
  22. to the flat surface while some is forced into the carved out text or pictures.
  23. The paper is then “stamped” gently with a flat inked pad.
  24. The pad only applies ink to the flat surface of the stone, which forms the “background” of the final rubbing,
  25. and leaves the carved-out text or illustrations white.
  26. Rubbing thus enables anyone to take a perfect copy of a written text,
  27. although the results appear as “white on black.”
  28. Wang Weiyi, who lived in the Song dynasty,
  29. is also the inventor of an important bronze human figure
  30. that had 354 acupuncture points indicated on its surface,
  31. along with their names.
  32. The figure was hollow inside and
  33. opened up to show models of the 11 internal viscera.
  34. It was a superb aid in teaching acupuncture in government institutions;
  35. no equivalent device was produced in the West for another 800 years.
  36. During the Song dynasty, officials used the bronze figure for teaching
  37. as well as testing.
  38. The points themselves were filled with small amounts of mercury,
  39. and the entire figure was covered with wax, which concealed the points.
  40. When a student was asked to locate a particular point with a needle,
  41. if he hit the point correctly,
  42. the mercury would spill out of the hole in the wax.
  43. If he missed, nothing happened.
  44. In the Song dynasty, doctors had to master the location of every acupuncture point
  45. on the figure in order to obtain their license to practice,
  46. whether they specialized in acupuncture or moxibustion.
  47. Treating a place on the body where there were no acupuncture points was,
  48. of course, useless and potentially harmful.
  49. Historical records tell us that Wang Weiyi made two bronze figures.
  50. One was placed in the imperial Office of Medicine,
  51. and used for teaching and examinations.
  52. The other was placed in a famous Buddhist temple,
  53. the Da Xiangguo temple,
  54. in the Northern Song capital, Kaifeng,
  55. where people could come to learn about acunpuncture.
  56. The figure is called the Tiansheng Bronze Figure because it was cast
  57. in the Tiansheng reign period of the Song Renzong emperor.
  58. We have little historical information about the figures themselves,
  59. but a book written in the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) by Zhou Mi,
  60. entitled Dong Qi Ye Yu, an unofficial history of the period,
  61. records an incident in which a man sees a bronze figure used
  62. in acupuncture and moxibustion.
  63. The figure was cast out of high-quality bronze,
  64. and covered with acupuncture points,
  65. with the names of the points written next to them.
  66. “What is most astonishing is the way the names of the points are not written
  67. on the surface of the figure with brush and ink,
  68. but rather inlaid with Chinese characters in gold.”
  69. This inlay or cloisonné technique was accomplished
  70. by incising the characters with a stylus
  71. on the surface of the figure,
  72. filling in the carved-out spaces with gold filaments,
  73. hammering the gold until it filled the space,
  74. and polishing the surface until it is smooth
  75. Try to imagine a life size bronze figure as tall as I am,
  76. with all the acupuncture points indicated with gold characters.
  77. Only a Chinese emperor could afford to have such a priceless object!
  78. The book Dong Qi Ye Yu also mentions that the figure had an opening
  79. in the middle and models of the 11 internal organs inside it.
  80. Qi Dong Ye Yu was written in the Southern Song dynasty,
  81. but the figure was made in the earlier Northern Song dynasty.
  82. We can thus assume that the figure was still
  83. in existence during the Southern Song,and that one of them was placed
  84. in an office of the government for safe keeping.
  85. After the Mongols invaded China in the mid-thirteenth century,
  86. crossing the Yangtze River and conquering the Southern Song dynasty,
  87. the famous bronze figure disappeared.
  88. In 1268, Kublai Khan became the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty.
  89. Medicine was a subject of great interest to the Mongols.
  90. When Kublai got ahold of the one remaining bronze figure,
  91. it had already been damaged by war.
  92. He had it repaired
  93. and ordered a revised version of Wang Weiyi’s book,
  94. Illustrated Manual of Acupuncture and Moxibustion for use with the Bronze Figure.
  95. He had both the figure and the book placed them in the Temple of the Three Emperors in the Mongol capital, today’s Beijing.
  96. In 1368, the Ming dynasty overthrew the Mongols.
  97. Nearly a century later,
  98. the restored bronze figure
  99. was again seriously damaged in an uprising,
  100. leaving most of the names of the acupuncture points illegible.
  101. But in 1443, the Ming Zhengtong emperor ordered a copy
  102. made of what remained of the Yuan dynasty figure,
  103. which was actually from the Northern Song.
  104. This copy turned out to be a masterpiece of bronze craftsmanship,
  105. displaying all the acupuncture points
  106. and their names in finely executed Chinese characters.
  107. This bronze figure, known as the Zhengtong Bronze Acupuncture Figure,
  108. was placed in the Imperial Medical College,
  109. where is served as the standard
  110. for acupuncture studies for the next five centuries.
  111. In 1900, near the end of the Qing dynasty,
  112. the Eight Allied Armies entered Beijing to suppress the Boxer Uprising.
  113. Russian troops occupied the Imperial Medical College,
  114. and in the chaos that followed the Zhengtong acupuncture figure disappeared,
  115. its whereabouts unknown.
  116. While it lasted, the Qing dynasty Imperial Medical College needed a bronze acupuncture figure on the premises
  117. —just as the Foreign Ministry
  118. and the Ministry of Geology needed world globes
  119. —so another figure was cast,
  120. some two meters tall. This time, however,
  121. it was not modeled after an earlier figure,
  122. since there was no such figure around .
  123. Today this early-twentieth-century bronze figure stands in the National Museum of China in Beijing.

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