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Image of the Week: Tongues

24 Jan, 2014

This week we aim to leave your open-mouthed – not only with our choice of image, but with news that Wellcome Images has this week made 100,000 of its historical images free to use under a Creative Commons attribution (CC-BY) licence. That means you can access the high-resolution images and use them for your research, blogs, or even just your general entertainment.

Hopefully we’ve got you salivating at the thought of all those images, so we thought we’d share this image of tongue diagnosis from the collection.

L0039596 C14 Chinese tongue diagnosis chart

We use our tongues to taste, to speak and lick the odd envelope, without giving it much thought, but in traditional Chinese medicine the tongue has special significance. It is believed to offer a window into a person’s body and a unique way of understanding a person’s health.

This week’s image is an extract from a rare manuscript written in 1341, which claimed to help the reader examine, diagnose and treat patients with different types of damage to their tongue. The full manuscript has over thirty-six different images and descriptions of tongues and the associated illnesses. In the image above, the second includes a description of “black tongue” (to be treated with “stomach regulating Qi” and a “poison-removing solution”) as well as “worm-eaten”, so named because the irregular red spots gave the impression worms have started eating the mouth! (Shudder).

It’s just one image from our Wellcome Images treasure trove, so explore the collection online and see what diamonds you uncover. Those prone to procrastination beware! The collection of images is vast and fascinating, ranging from ancient medical manuscripts and an Egyptian prescription on papyrus, to etchings by artists like Vincent Van Gogh.

You are free to copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon any of the 100,000 images that we’ve released under the CC-BY licence, just be sure to acknowledge the Wellcome Library London.

So what will you find on Wellcome Images to tickle your imaginative tastebuds?

Image credit: This image – Wellcome Images, London. Original manuscript – Library of Zhongguo zhongyi yanjiu yuan (China Academy for Traditional Chinese Medicine).

One Comment leave one →
  1. Margi Macdonald permalink
    24 Jan, 2014 10:10 pm

    Reblogged this on some energy thing and commented:
    You must see this! Really. You must!
    I’ve spent the last couple of evenings meandering around the absolute treasure trove of historical images over at Wellcome. There’s an abundance of Eastern and Western “medical” images, and it’s all so interesting and awe-inspiring. Some are laugh-out-loud funny.
    And in case you were wondering, yes, we still practice the art and science of tongue diagnosis. It’s a useful addition to the picture we build when we’re assessing a patient’s condition, and monitoring progress as we go along.

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