Comparative Guts

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The hand lesser yin heart channel

(two facing pages) 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

In writings on acupuncture, it became common to pair an image of an internal organ with an image of its channel’s pathway. Of particular note here is how Zhang visually depicts the classical saying that the heart has four “connectors” (xi) that lead into the other four depot organs. To the bottom right are the connecting pathways connecting the heart to the kidneys, the liver, and the spleen. But Zhang explains that “the connector to the lung is the lung tube.” This differs significantly from the image published earlier by Wang Qi (see Image 4). The text in the upper part of the page starts by reminding the reader that the heart is the sovereign organ and the source of the psyche. It then describes the heart’s physical attributes and position (beneath the “lung tube,” above the diaphragm, and attached to the “fifth vertebrae of the back”) and other details about its role in the body.