Comparative Guts

The diagram of the stomach

from Zhang Jiebin (1563-1640), Illustrated Wing of the “Classified Canon” (Leijing tuyi), woodblock edition, preface dated 1624

From the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard University

This image of the stomach accompanies Zhang’s illustration of the pathway of the Foot Yang Brightness Stomach Channel. The upper text begins with classical descriptions of the stomach as a “granary,” “the origin of the five sapors” and a “sea of fluids and grains, qi and blood.” Next come descriptions of its dimensions, weight, and capacity. The text on the stomach and to either side explains the organ’s function and physical relationship to other organs: (1) fluids and grains are “fermented and ripened” in the center part of the stomach (2) the upper orifice is called the “rushing gate” and refined qi from food and drink is transported from there into the spleen and lungs, which then spread qi into the pulse vessels and (3) the lower orifice of the stomach is called the “dark gate” and is simultaneously the upper orifice of the small intestine.