Comparative Guts

Manchu face, Universal body

(Early 18th century) Ge ti ciowan lu bithe, or Manchu Anatomy (based on Thomas Bartholin, Anatomia, 1684), Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris

The Jesuits actively persuaded the Kangxi Emperor to study anatomy. They hoped that he would convert to Christianity while marveling at the wonders of the various parts of his body, impressing the mystery of God’s creation. When court painters copied Western anatomical diagrams as part of their textbooks, they added a head with Manchu face to the figure explaining the peritoneum attached to the intestines. Perhaps this is because some opponents try to dissuade the emperor by arguing that anatomy is not worth learning because Westerners and Chinese have different organs. This image conveys the message that although the races are different, the truth is the same.