Illustration: Compendium of Materia Medica Snakes Page

Snakes Page From the Compendium of Materia Medica

Snakes Page From the Compendium of Materia Medica

license: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
source: Wikimedia Commons
author: Wellcome Images

A page from the Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu) bears illustrations and descriptions of seven types of snakes, including Chinese water snake and Halys viper. They are split into a grid and accompanied by Chinese characters detailing their medicinal uses.


Artifact: 14th–17th century AD

Photo: 2014


This page is from a 1st edition copy of Bencao Gangmu (translated “categories and principles of roots and herbs”), a 16th century AD Chinese medical text referred to in English as the Compendium of Materia Medica. The text, split into 53 volumes, contains entries on 1,892 substances and their medicinal uses.

According to Wellcome Images, the snakes depicted on this page, accompanied by their medicinal uses, are asjin she (“gold snake”), huanghan she (“yellow chin snake”), chilian she (“red chinaberry snake”), liangtou she (“two-headed snake”), shui she (Chinese water snake), fu she (Halys viper) and qiansui fu (“thousand-year-old Halys viper”).

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Shizhen, L., & Luo, X. (2003). Compendium of materia medica: Bencao gangmu. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.