Comparative Guts

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‘Diagram of Man’s Side-Body’ in 1597 reprint of Wanbing huichun

(Ceshen ren tu 側身人圖). This version of the “Viscera Man” was printed in a 1597 reprint of the Chinese medical text Myriad diseases ‘Spring Returned’ (i.e., ‘cured’) (Wanbing huichun 萬病回春) that is preserved in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

This 1597 reprint of a “viscera man” depicts the viscera as flat and static, like organ-board positions in the classic “Operation” game. The accompanying text, however, applies a hydraulic metaphor, which dates to the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor  (ca. 1st BCE), to define the course of flow of qi through each viscera’s tract. The guts are associated with the “Hand-yang brightness” tract and, with the lungs, form a yin-yang pair. Qi  flows from Lung point 1 (radial side of index finger’s tip), moves up the arm and connects to the lungs, and then continues upward to the nose’s opposing side where the tract ends at Lung point 20. The tract’s materiality is also given in weight and size. This text defines the guts using a fitting homonym: “Intestines (chang  腸) are unimpeded (chang  暢). [They are] where stomach qi smoothly flows and sedimentary filth is disposed.”