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Ts'ien tung sticks, China, 1800-1920

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Each of the eighteen bamboo sticks is inscribed with a number. A worshipper at the God of Medicine Temple shakes the container while praying until one of the sticks falls out. The stick is taken to a counter for a prescription matching that number, which is dispensed at any Chinese pharmacy. The bamboo cylindrical container is known as ts’ien tung. Gods have always played a role in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Object number:

A117828

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    Glossary: divination

    The practice of seeking knowledge of the future through the interpretation of omens or other supernatural means.

    Glossary: ts'ien tung

    A process of treatment specific to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Eighteen bamboo sticks are inscribed with a different number. A worshipper at the God of Medicine Temple shakes the container while praying until one of the sticks falls out. The stick is taken to a counter for a prescription matching that number which is dispensed at a pharmacy.