With Astrological/Medical Volvelles

Manuscript on paper, entitled on label on upper cover “Asai sensei kirigami koju” (“Teacher Asai’s Kirigami Theory, Passed On”).

Two manuscript volvelles, each with a rotating paper disc & diagrams in the text. 51 folding leaves. 8vo (230 x 165 mm), orig. aubergine wrappers, new stitching. [Japan: mid- to later 18th cent.].

Shuhaku Asai (1643-1705), was a fellow student with Ippo Okamoto of the prominent doctor Sanpaku Ajioka. Asai was the court doctor to the fiefdom of Owari and was considered to be one of Japan’s leading authorities on traditional Chinese medicine. His secret writings on acupuncture have all remained in manuscript, and his private lectures were copied by several generations of students.

This manuscript begins with a discussion of the yin and yang of the five organs and the acupuncture meridians. There is an explanation of kotsudo (how to determine the pressure points by measurement of the bones). In ancient China, bone length measurement was widely used as the basis for positioning of acupuncture points, a system called the bone length method. This process of using body landmarks and a relative unit of measurement called a “body inch” was developed in ancient China and has remained in use to the present day.

The second part of the text is a synopsis of and commentary on the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), the fundamental work of Chinese medicine, written nearly two millennia ago. Asai’s writing on this text is considered to be one of his most important works.

The volvelles are a most unusual solution for explaining complex medical concepts. The first volvelle, entitled “Shitenno junishi no zu” (“Illustration of Twelve Earthly Branches”) depicts the six elements of qi, the vital force forming part of any living entity. It is the central underlying principle of Chinese traditional medicine. The moving disc shows the six kinds of yin and yang. Together they reveal the permutations of the zodiac with yin and yang. There is an outer explanation of alternating months of the year and the four directions.

The second volvelle, again with one moving disc, is entitled “Goun’rin jikkan no” (“Deliberation of the Five Elements on the Ten Heavenly Stems”). The outer circle shows the ten heavenly stems, and on the moving disc we see the five elements. Outside are the four directions.

The word kirigami in the title means “cut paper.” Clearly, it has a deeper meaning, but we have not yet “cracked” it. This manuscript deserves much further study.

Some worming, touching the text in many instances, but absolutely legible. In fresh condition.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 6838