The papers printed on this block would have been the answers to health questions asked of 華佗 Hua T῾o, the Chinese God of Medicine.
Inverell Pioneer Village
TRANSCRIPTIONS AND TRANSLATIONS
Upper inscription on each prescription template
[Efficacious] Hua T῾o Chim Paper.
Line of text running down the side
These chim-paper woodblocks are held by the Kan Man Tong book workshop, She Yan Back Street, Fat Shan.
Text that appears between the lower row of templates
WHERE WAS THIS OBJECT USED?
The answer to this question is not known. The prescription templates all relate to Chinese God of Medicine Hua T῾o, who contemporaneous Chinese-language newspaper reports unambiguously identify as the primary deity of the Emmaville temple. But the Emmaville temple was reported to have been totally destroyed by fire in 1932, and it is not inconceivable that Hua T῾o was venerated at other temples in the region.
籤 “Chim”: The word 籤 “chim” (a.k.a. 籤條 “chim-tiu”) may refer to fortune papers; medicinal prescriptions, as is the case here; or to the sticks that are used to select either, which, in the case of those used to select fortune papers, are generally referred to in English as “fortune sticks”. The word is translated above as “chim paper(s)” for the sake of clarity.
Verso: The back of the printing block appears to be blank.
The “Kan Man Tong” book workshop: The 近文堂書坊 “Kan Man Tong” book workshop is a known firm. As the inscription indicates, it was located on central Fat Shan’s She Yan Back Street. This street was one of the so-called 舍人十三街 “She Yan Thirteen [streets]” that spread out from Fat Shan’s erstwhile 舍人廟 “She Yan Temple”, and also included such streets as 舍人前街 “She Yan Front Street”, 舍人上街 “She Yan Upper Street” and 舍人下街 “She Yan Lower Street”. Fat Shan was, around the time in question, one of the largest hubs of the printing industry in China, and “She Yan Back Street” was one of several key foci for this industry in the city.
Numbering: Each prescription template is numbered. The first, at top right in the photograph, is numbered “91”, while the last, at bottom left, is numbered “100”.
Examples of the prescriptions: Prescription 95 is for a decoction of one mace (around 6 grams) of each of the following four ingredients: white rice; poria (the sclerotium—i.e. truffle-like growth—of Wolfiporia extensa, a.k.a. Poria cocos); Chinese-angelica root (the root of Angelica sinensis); and Chinese liquorice (the root of Glycyrrhiza uralensis). Prescription 97, in contrast, is for a non-herbal remedy: the consumption of a pig’s heart that has been steamed with true cinnabar (a naturally occurring mineral that contains mercury and is therefore poisonous).
Text that appears between the lower row of templates: The number 13 that appears between the lower row of templates is presumably that of the printing block; it is not consistent, however, with there having been 10 prescription templates on each of the preceding blocks.
This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.