Excavations of a Western Han tomb at Shuangbaoshan in the vicinity of Mianyang, Sichuan, in 1993 have uncovered a black lacquered wooden carving of the human body. Naked, hairless, and roughly anatomical in character, the figurine is understood to be the earliest extant three-dimensional medical model in Chinese culture.
Ten red lines are drawn on the figurine. This article undertakes a preliminary examination of the figurine and offers an interpretation of the lines from two different perspectives. Firstly, the authors compare and contrast the lines with the eleven anatomical pathways of the mai “channels” as described in the medical manuscripts excavated at Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan. From this point of view the figurine adds to the sources that bear upon the early development of theories of pathological physiology which were first formulated in Han times and eventually became central to classical acumoxa theory. Secondly, the lines on the figurine are considered in their relationship to yangsheng “nurturing life” practices popular in elite society of this period. Certain features of the figurine that set it apart from ideas of pathological physiology seem better clarified by reference to contemporary texts, also excavated from the Mawangdui and Zhangjiashan tombs, that treat of yangsheng practices such as massage, therapeutic gymnastics, and breath cultivation.