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Ivory figure of a man massaging the back of another man who is reading, Japan, 1701-1900

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Massage is used in Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine to help the flow of qi or energy around the body, which is considered essential for wellbeing. The carved ivory figure may have been used as a netsuke. These toggle-like ornaments hang objects such as medicine boxes or tobacco pouches, from the sash of a kimono, the Japanese national dress.

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Glossary: massage

The rubbing or kneading of parts of the body especially to aid circulation, relax the muscles, or provide sensual stimulation.

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.