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Table of Contents
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 21-24

The bronze acupuncture model produced by emperor qianlong's order in 1744 A.D.

Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China

Date of Web Publication3-Jul-2018

Correspondence Address:
prof. Hong Qin
Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_12_18

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The bronze acupuncture model was produced by Emperor Qianlong's order in 1744 A.D. It has been 274 years since then, and this model has always been well kept and handed down with a full record. It is of great traditional medical and cultural value, regarded as the treasure of Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine due to its rareness and intactness both at home and abroad.

Keywords: Bronze acupuncture model, Ding Jimin, Fu Hai, Wang Jimin, Yi Zong Jin Jian (《医宗金鉴》Golden Mirror of Medicine), Yuzhi Zhenjiuxiang Chongxiuji (The Rebuilding Record of Acupuncture Models by Emperor’s Order), Zhen Sheng

How to cite this article:
Qin H. The bronze acupuncture model produced by emperor qianlong's order in 1744 A.D. Chin Med Cult 2018;1:21-4

How to cite this URL:
Qin H. The bronze acupuncture model produced by emperor qianlong's order in 1744 A.D. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 May 23];1:21-4. Available from: https://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2018/1/1/21/235844

During the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty, Wu Qian (Dean of the Imperial Academy of Medicine) and his colleagues compiled a comprehensive series of medical works – Yi Zong Jin Jian ( Golden Mirror of Medicine) by imperial orders, which was published in the 7th year of Qianlong (1742 A.D.). After the series was completed, the Emperor ordered the craftsmen to cast a batch of bronze acupuncture models to reward all the staff who had contributed to the compilation. Up till now, there is only one model in existence, collected as the most precious treasure and exhibited on the second floor of the Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Bronze acupuncture models are cast in human figures with meridians and acupoints. Their production can be dated back to the Tiansheng period of the Northern Song Dynasty (1023–1032 A.D.) and was inherited in the Ming–Qing Dynasties and modern times, having been deemed as the symbol of TCM acupuncture [Figure 1].
Figure 1: The Bronze Acupuncture Mode

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In Chinese medical history, the first acupuncture model was designed and produced by Wang Weiyi () in the Northern Song Dynasty named as Tiansheng Bronze Model. In 1026 A.D., the work of Xin Zhu Tong Ren Shuxue Zhenjiu Tu Jing ( The Illustrated Acupuncture Classic of New Cast of Bronze Model) compiled by Wang Weiyi by Emperor RenZong's Order was published, which was a monograph on acupuncture organized by the government. When he was writing the book, Wang also took charge of the design and production of two bronze models. In the 5th year of Tiansheng (1027 A.D.), the two models were cast in real human size and became the valuable carriers of the first national standard of acupoints.[1] One model was placed in the Benevolence Hall of Xiangguo Temple in Bianliang, and the other was stored in the Medical Bureau of Bianliang. During Jingkang period (1126–1127 A.D.), when the Jin army captured the city, one model was carried to Xiangyang and then disappeared and the other model was robbed to the north with the Illustrated Classic carved in stone, which were then placed in the Er. Huang Temple of the Imperial Academy of Medicine in Dadu in the Yuan Dynasty. Yet, it was lost and became a mystery as well during the Zhengtong period of the Ming Dynasty (1435–1449 A.D.) [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Golden Mirror of Medicine

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The Zhengtong acupuncture models in the Ming dynasty were recast by Emperor YingZong's order imitating the Tiansheng models in the 8th year of Zhengtong (1443 A.D.), collected in the Imperial Academy of Medicine. The Qing Government followed the Ming example and treasured the Zhengtong models in its Imperial Academy. In the 26th year of Guangxu (1900 A.D.), the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beiping and the Russian army robbed the models to Russia. It was documented in the Records of The Imperial Academy of Medicine by Ren Xigeng, “the standard bronze models were erected in front of the Yaowang Temple in the Imperial Academy of Medicine; and all the acupoints were correctly marked and annotated with characters, superior to books and illustrations in details; and they were indeed the standard of acupuncture and models of medicine; the models were cast in Zhengtong period and robbed by the Russian army in the 26th year of Guangxu.” In 2005, the study group led by expert of Huang Longxiang from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Science went to Russia and confirmed after inspection that the acupuncture models collected in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg were the Zhengtong models which had been lost for over a century.[1]

  The Process of Collection Top

Ding Jimin wrote at the beginning of the Story of the Bronze Model, “last year, I met with Mr. Wang Jimin on one occasion when we talked about the relics in Chinese medical history; Mr. Wang told me he once came across a bronze model in a Beijing antique shop which was said to be the possess of a bannerman named Shizong and that he took it as a great pity since he wasn't able to afford the price then and bring it to a medical museum.”[2] Ding Jimin immediately promised to buy it back if it had not been sold. Hence, Mr. Wang “wrote to his doctor friend named Li Yousong in Beiping and asked him to buy the model, and fortunately, it was still in the shop, but since the owner was gone and the price increased, it took Li much effort to get it;” “what's worse was that during war time it was difficult to deliver it safely back… it seemed much harder to take the not-so-large a model than moving a mountain.” Later, Mr. Wang Shunhe, one of Wang Jimin's friends, was requested to bring the model to Shanghai, and he made it through passing many barriers and conquering hardships. In the end, the transport expense cost even much more than the model itself, and these were all covered by Mr. Ding Jimin. His exclamation of “beginning from the medical official academy and ending in medical museum” on the complicated experience of the bronze model was indeed a reflection of his devotion to the cause of TCM.

In 1945, when Wang Jimin made a proposal, Ding Jimin offered money, Li Yousong bought it from an antique shop in Beijing, and the model was collected in the Medical History Museum of Chinese Medical Association, it had been 39 years from 1906 and two centuries since it was made (1745 A.D.). It really makes one wonder if it was a coincidence of time or a plan of destiny.

  The Condition of the Collection Top

When it was shipped to Shanghai in 1945, the acupuncture model was placed in a brocade case with a book of The Record of Acupuncture Models Rebuilt by Emperor's Order in classic butterfly style, written by Fu Hai's ninth-generation grandson of Zhen Sheng in the Guimao year of Guangxu (1903 A.D.), with a record of November (lunar calendar) of the 32nd year of Guangxu (1906 A.D.) on its cover.

The original text of The Rebuilding Record of Acupuncture Models by Emperor's Order was as follows:

I am a ninth-generation Confucian doctor, practice and treat patients, and take a position in a major hospital. My previous ancestors were all famous doctors, and our family treasures an acupuncture model produced by Emperor's order, exquisite and intact. I like to appreciate rare relics and deem this as a valuable mirror of medicine. After the Gengzi war (1900 A.D.), the government determined to make progress, abolish imperial examination, and establish universities to benefit from practical science and cultural achievements. My generation friend of Xu Huaqing responded to the government's call, set up the Beiyang Military Medical College, and was appointed as the executive officer. Moreover, the Japanese friend of Gojo Meikei () was employed by the Qing Government as a medical officer in the Beiyang General Office. I once invited them to dine at home in Tianjin, they found the bronze model on the desk at my study. They both loved it greatly and praised it as a rare treasure and valuable reference to TCM doctors of later generations. Due to long time of storage, the decorating thin silk became rotten but the inter-inscriptions were still clear and it was finely cast with all the meridians and acupoints perfectly engraved. Hence, I asked the craftsmen to redecorate it with yellow silks following its original style; hopefully, it would be well kept and handed down to the future generations. Here was it recorded, revised in the November (lunar calendar) of the 29th year of Guangxu (1903 A.D.), and respectfully written by Zhen Sheng, the ninth-generation grandson of Man-Jhou Sanjia Fu family of Zhenglan Banner.

The record on the cover was,

November (Lunar Calendar) of the 32nd year of Guangxu (1906 A.D.)

The Rebuilding Record of Acupuncture Models by Emperor's Order

Collected by the descendant of Fu family.

The words on the gate flaps of the brocade case to place the model were recorded as follows:

The subject of He-Prince Hong Zhou, in charge of affairs of medical book department, took the order to compile the series of Golden Mirror of Medicine and completed the mission now, here then respectfully delivered the report to Your Majesty. This responded to the previous imperial edict that Your Majesty ordered me to investigate the compilation of the medical series by the imperial academy on February 7th (lunar calendar) in the 5th year of Qianlong (1740 A.D.). I learned that after the edict was issued, the Imperial Medical Academy, National Academy, and officials of all ministries had written to the Imperial College and provincial education commissioner of Zhili and ordered the recommendation and fair selection of those who were expert both at medicine and literature. I've also confirmed the chosen authors dedicated themselves to the compilation day and night, annotating with black and red inks and collaborating to contribute to the successful accomplishment of the work. They did deserve a reward as compliment and for encouragement. But, I can't decide what and how to award those officials and staff who had participated in the project. Respectfully look forward to Your Majesty's decree. December 12th (lunar calendar), the 9th year of Qianlong (1744 A.D.)

The imperial edict: According to the former rules of authoring and compiling books, all those officials who had contributed to the project were granted a one-grade promotion to the previous positions, with a bronze model in addition to a set of the series as special rewards. Hope all the staff will make more endeavors to adapt themselves to the future changes of medicine. Others shall follow this decision. His Majesty's Order.

The words on the bottom of the brocade case were recorded as follows:

The subject of E'ertai, Chancellor Taibao, Grand Secretary, Third-class Earl and charge of affairs in medical book department, abided by His Majesty's edict and discussed with Qian Doubao, the assistant official of the Imperial Academy of Medicine. All the departments participating in the compilation should follow the former rules and award corresponding staff.

Now, it was confirmed the subject of Fu Hai, endowing assistant governor, had acted as a transcriber, so in addition to one-grade promotion of his previous position, he will be awarded a bronze model produced by Emperor's order and a set of the series.

The next day, all the officials awarded should be gathered and be led to express gratitude to His Majesty.

Assistant official of the Imperial Academy of Medicine and director of the Banqueting Court, subject of Qian Doubao had issued the rewards, Doubao (signature).

Right leading official and endowing assistant governor with one-grade promotion, subject of Fu Hai had received the rewards, Fu Hai (signature).

The Rebuilding Record by Zhen Sheng reveals the orderly collection and spreads this bronze acupuncture model. After Fu Hai received the reward, it was handed down in the family through nine generations and then was collected by the antique shop.

From the Record, we know the external silk wall of the brocade case was rotten due to mildew and insect bite, so Zhen Sheng redecorated it with yellow silks following the original style, hoping it would be well preserved and passed down to his descendants. The time when the redecoration was completed was November (lunar calendar) of the 32nd year of Guangxu (December of 1906 A.D.)

The interior wall of the case was not redecorated. Therefore, the words on the interior wall, which kept its primary decoration in the 9th year of Qianlong, were still the original text. On the bilateral gate flaps of the case was written in detail the record of the compilation of the series and how the contributors were awarded, both with the red seal of Emperor Qianlong's. The positions and names of the officials who had participated in the compilation were recorded on the back wall. This bronze model was issued by Qian Doubao (assistant official of the Imperial Academy of Medicine and director of the Banqueting Court) and received by Fu Hai (right leading official and endowing assistant governor with one-grade promotion), with both their signatures. Fu Hai served as the transcriber then. In addition to one-grade promotion, he was also awarded a bronze model with a set of the series of Golden Mirror of Medicine. The next day, Fu Hai went to the royal court to express his gratitude [Figure 3].
Figure 3: Wang Weiyi

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The model was placed in a rectangle brocade case in the figure of an old woman, with large ears and plump earlobes, benevolent complexion and smile, three deep wrinkles in the forehead, uplifting mouth corners, high nose, and crescent-shaped eyes. The old woman's right palm was facing forward and the left palm backward, with the two breasts and navel sunken, the abdomen swollen and thin four limbs, typical of the physiological features of old women. The acupuncture models in woman figures were quite rare in history, especially when awarded to the officials. According to the author's research, it is the only one in this case, which is worth further study on feudal culture. On the surface of the model are meridians and 580 acupoints. It is in dark bronze color and solid, with a height of 46 cm, width of 22.8 cm, and thickness of 16 cm.

According to the record on the gate flaps of the brocade case, the compilation of the Golden Mirror of Medicine was started on February 7th (lunar calendar) of the 5th year of Qianlong (1740 A.D.) by the Imperial Academy of Medicine by the Emperor's order. Over 40 imperial doctors participated in the revision and over 10 officials transcribed, proofread, and illustrated the manuscript. The work was completed in the 7th year of Qianlong (1742 A.D.). “In 1742, it was published based on the Wuying Juzhen Edition and Zunjingge Edition, and then popularized nationwide.”[3] In 1749, it was officially listed as the textbook of the Imperial Academy of Medicine. Wu Qian and Liu Yuduo chaired as the general revising officials, and Qian Doubao and others acted as the managing and dispatching officers. There also involved the positions of revisers, in-effect deputy revisers, proofreaders, collectors, transcribers, in-effect transcribers, and supervisors from Wuying Hall, with Fu Hai as the leading transcriber.

On December 12th (lunar calendar) in the 9th year of Qianlong (1744 A.D.), E'ertai and others submitted a report to the emperor and asked for reward, and thus transcribers such as Fu Hai and other contributors were awarded. To be exact, the acupuncture model was cast in the same year (1744 A.D.) [Figure 4].
Figure 4: Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Translator: Yingshuai Duan ()

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Longxiang H. Study on the bronze acupuncture models collected in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Chin J Med Hist 2005;2:67-73.  Back to cited text no. 1
Jimin D. The story of the bronze model. Natl Med J China 1945;31:5-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Jingwei L. History of Chinese Medicine. Hainan: Hainan Publishing House; 2007. p. 9.  Back to cited text no. 3


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]


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