Comparative Guts

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Diagram of the inner landscape

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 his magnum opus, The Classified Canon (Leijing), the physician Zhang Jiebin reorganized the contents of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon by topic. In two companion works (“wings”), he also discussed contemporary medical doctrines and debates. In this image, Zhang revised a standard depiction of the internal organs to rebut the prevailing idea that the Gate of Life (mingmen)  corresponded to the right kidney. Zhang believed that the Gate of Life corresponded to the “Child Palace” (zigong), which took the form of a womb in women and served as a reservoir of generative vitality in men. While other illustrations depicted the bladder adjacent to the rectum, Zhang inserted this new Gate of Life between them. Furthermore, while other authors depicted the “Pathway of Essence” (jingdao)  as a conduit running down the backbone and transversing the anus, Zhang depicted it as a passage descending from the Gate of Life, see 1597 reprint of Wanbing huichun, “Diagram of Man’s Side-Body”.