Born in 1634 at Kassel in Germany, Andreas Cleyer first served the Dutch East India Company as a soldier, then as a pharmacist and botanist at its eastern trading and administrative headquarters in Batavia (now Jakarta) on Java. He took a keen interest in the native medicinal plants, collecting medical and botanical information from as far as Japan and sending botanical specimens back to scholars in Europe.
Being interested in Chinese medicine, in 1669 he wrote to Philippe Couplet, a Jesuit missionary in China, seeking out manuscripts on the subject. Couplet sent him the manuscripts of a fellow Jesuit, the Polish Michael Boym, son of a Polish physician and the first westerner to have gained a scholarly understanding traditional Chinese medical works, which he translated into Latin.
Cleyer edited Boym’s translations, together with some other treatises and two series of drawings of uncertain origin, into the book he published under his own name in Frankfurt under the title Specimen medicinae sinicae (Examples of Chinese medicine). The book, focused on pulse diagnostic, was the first European presentation of Chinese Medicine and remained influential for centuries, even though disputes immediately erupted about alleged plagiarism of Boym’s work by Cleyer.
The illustration given here about the ways of diagnosing the pulse comes from the series of thirty drawing inserted in the middle of the book, sequentially numbered and with some Latin explanation in the drawing, but with no specific reference to the text.
The upper illustration shows “pulsus hominis allerius explorandi ratio” (the way to diagnose the pulse of somebody else). It contradicts the evidence from contemporary China, where doctors would always use three fingers simultaneously when taking the Pulse, even when they pressed them down independently of each other.
The lower illustration shows “pulsus propri explorandi ratio” (the way to diagnose one’s own pulse). The index fingers on the right wrist detects motions of the Heart, on the left motions of the Lungs; the middle fingers on the right wrist detects motions of the Liver, on the left motions of the Spleen; the ring fingers on the right wrist detects motions of the Kidneys, on the left motions of the Gate of Life.Sources
- John Dallas, “Andreas Cleyer's Examples of Chinese medicine"
- http://www.rcpe.ac.uk/journal/issue/journal 38 3/ex libris.pdf (18 April 2009).
- Hsu, Elisabeth , Towards a science of touch, part I: Chinese pulse diagnostics in early modern Europe. Anthropology & Medicine. Aug2000, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p251-268
- Lu Gwei-djen and Joseph Needham, Celestial Lancets - A History and Rationale of Acupuncture and Moxa, Cambridge University Press, 1980, pp. 269-285
- Boleslaw Szczesniak, The Writings of Michael Boym", Monumenta Serica XIV (1949-1955) pp. 481-538.