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Ivory netsuke, Japan, 1871-1900

A doctor is feeling the pulse of his female patient in this small ivory netsuke. Netsuke are toggle-like ornaments used to hang objects, such as medicine boxes or tobacco pouches, from the sash of a kimono – a traditional form of Japanese dress. In Traditional Chinese Medicine and traditional Japanese medicine, the pulse is believed to be an indication of how strong or weak the energy force, known as qi, is within the body.

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    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.

    Glossary: netsuke

    Small ornamental object carved in wood or ivory. Netsuke were used as toggles (buttons) for Japanese kimonos or pouches in the 1600s.

    Glossary: pulse

    The throbbing of the arteries as blood flows through them. The pulse matches the rate at which the heart is beating.