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From stove ash to ... many more


[Li] Shizhen says, “Winter ash is firewood ash from the stove over winter months, not necessarily referring to the ash of artemisia or goosefoots specifically. Originally it is also known as “goosefoot ash” that is produced in valleys and riversides, which does not quite make sense. This is ash, [so] it is not logical to talk about riversides, and how can it be found only in valleys? Nowadays people make a paste out of ash to get potash for washing clothes, proving doughs, brightening [the skin], treating sores, eroding decayed flesh, and soaking indigo [plants] for blue-green dye.[1]


* From Li Shizhen 李時珍 (1518-1593) Bencao gangmu 本草綱目 (Compendium of Materia Medica), Wenyuange Siku Quanshu 文淵閣四庫全書 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987) edition, vol. 772, 7.31a:


[1] For an overview of jian 鹻/鹼 and a series of closely related terms in ancient China, see Needham, Joseph, Nathan Sivin, Peng Yoke Ho, and Gwei-Djen Lu, Science and Civilisation in China. Vol. 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology. Part IV, Spagyrical Discovery and Invention: Apparatus, Theories and Gifts (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1980),180-81.

Hanging scroll by Wu Wei 吳偉 (ca. 1459-1508)


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