Important Cultural PropertyBronze doll

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  • 1 piece
  • Bronze
  • H 143.9
  • Edo period/17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • C-544

In the early Edo period, an acupuncture learning method was established, where paper or wooden dolls, on which meridian lines and acupuncture points (commonly called "tsubo") were drawn, were used. These dolls were called "bronze dolls" and it is said that they were introduced into Japan from Ming by Takeda Shokei in 1378. The meridian lines are a basic element of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment, which is administered by applying acupuncture and moxibustion on acupuncture points located on meridian lines in which blood flows and which are responsible for the physiological function of the body. This is one of the important concepts that constitute the basics of Chinese medicine.
The inscription carved on the sole of this doll says that its medical authenticity was ascertained by Iimura Gensai (? – 1699), a physician of the Wakayama feudal domain, and others and created by Iwata Denbei and others in 1662. The body surface is cast in bronze in a net-like structure and inside the body, there are colored wooden internal organs and wooden bones, which can be seen through the outer net-like structure. The inside can also be viewed through three windows that can be opened located on the front and back of the body and on the back of the head. Judging from the configuration of the wooden bones, it seems that this taps into the collective knowledge of Western medicine at that time. The Hamburg Museum of Ethnology in Germany owns a similar bronze doll, whose inscription on the sole says that it was created by Iimura Gensai in 1669.
 According to a note attached to the lid of the box, repairs were done in 1797 before an inspection by Yamasaki Soun, a physician serving the Shogunate. This doll was donated to the Museum Department, Ministry of Home Affairs (predecessor of the Tokyo National Museum) by Matsudaira Yorihide, former feudal lord of Saijo, Iyo no Kuni, in March 1877.