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Medicine chest, China, 1801-1985

Medicines used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) were stored in this beautiful wooden medicine chest. It is decorated with Chinese characters inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The chest originates from China and was bought at auction in 1986. It has five drawers, each with two rows of characters. TCM originated in China well over 2,000 years ago. It has since been formalised and spread almost worldwide. Central to TCM is a belief in the energy force known as qi (chi). This flows smoothly and strongly through a healthy body, but Illness is likely to occur should qi become weakened or blocked. TCM therapies include acupuncture, moxibustion (burning a herb on or near the skin) and combinations of herbal medicines. Many such herbal medicines are likely to have been stored in this chest.

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    Glossary: medicine chest

    Small chests fitted for bottles and intended to hold medical supplies; of a type made in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

    Glossary: Traditional Chinese Medicine

    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical tradition originating in China, but now used worldwide. Treatments include herbal medicine, massage and acupuncture, which are combined to create a therapy tailored to the patient.