Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Japanese woodblock prints on health-related themes


The University of California, San Francisco has an amazing collection of health-related illustrations in ukiyo-e manner. For those not familiar, ukiyo-e were woodblock prints and paintings that became wildly popular in 17th -19th century Japan. The prints in this collection includes drug advertisements and illustrated guidelines for the treatment and prevention of diseases like smallpox, measles, and cholera, as well as sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea and syphilis.

According to the UCSF:
"The majority of the prints date to the mid- to late nineteenth century, when Japan was opening to the West after almost two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation. Thus, they provide valuable pictorial evidence for the effect of Western medical science on traditional beliefs and practices. 
Five subject areas broadly define the collection. The treatment and prevention of three contagious diseases — smallpox, measles, and cholera — are topics for eighty of the prints. A related category includes prints in which Buddhist or Shinto deities intervene to ensure a cure. Pregnancy and women's health issues form a distinct theme, including several images of the stages of gestation. Because foreigners were thought to carry disease to Japan, the collection also includes several maps of Nagasaki, where the Dutch were confined during the Edo period, as well as prints depicting foreigners and their ships. Drug advertisements from the nineteenth century make up the largest category."
[h/t: Dangerous Minds]

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