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From stove ash to ... many more

時珍曰:冬灰乃冬月灶中所燒薪柴之灰也,專指作蒿藜之灰,亦未必然。原本一名藜灰,生方谷川澤,殊為不通。此灰既不當言川澤,又豈獨方谷乃有耶?今人以灰淋汁,取鹻浣衣發麵,令晢治瘡,蝕惡肉,浸藍靛染青色。

[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: https://cnkgraph.com/Book/KR3e0079_026?key=%E5%86%AC%E7%81%B0#page_26-31a

 

[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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