Printed in 1895, the Newly Expanded Druggist’s Ten Thousand Treasures Encyclopedia (新增懸壺萬寶全書) contains far more than medical advice.

Even if you can’t read a word of Chinese, the charming illustrations alone lead me to recommend that you take a couple minutes to browse through the work anyway. There’s a lot more going on in it than just recipes for prescriptions – a star chart, a map of China and its surroundings, illustrations of mythical races, the twenty four filial exemplars, a pictorial homophone dictionary, and math problems!

Also, a chart telling you the meaning of various physical phenomena when they occur at different times of the day. For example, what does it mean if your right ear is starts ringing between 11pm and 1am?

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You’re about to lose your wealth.

A few of my favorites:

Filial son saving his father from a tiger
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Filial legendary emperor Shun plowing the field with an elephant
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A native of the nation of winged men, where children are hatched from eggs
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A native of the land of cyclops. So cute!
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Various Taoist charms
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The homophone dictionary towards the end is fascinating because it’s not giving homophones in modern Mandarin. The book itself has no location given for its publication, but I bet someone well versed in varieties of Chinese languages could tell us where it’s from. Most characters do rhyme in Mandarin, but see below for a few that don’t. Any guesses as to what language these represent?

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金 and 根 ?
船 and 全 ? (These are homophones in Taiwanese.)

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尺 and 七 ?
升 and 新 ?
印 and 雲 ?
墨 and 麥 ?

Animals! Can you identify what they’re supposed to be?
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象 and 上 ?
猫 and 苗 ?

——-
I came across this text while looking through the collection of morality texts held by the Museum of World Religions in Taipei, which were scanned by Taoyuan Innovation Institute of Technology in a project also sponsored by Taiwan’s National Digital Archives Program and the Nanya Institute of Technology. This project, while a blessing for someone like me working on these texts from afar, could still have used a little more care in the texts’ digitization. Some scans have missing pages, while others, including this encyclopedia, have mistakes in the page division coding in the latter half that make them difficult to read. But the intention is great, and I’m much rather have them as they are, imperfect, than not have them at all.

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12 thoughts on “Ten Thousand Treasures of 1895

    • Interesting! The words are close, mostly, just not actually homophones in modern Mandarin. It may also be the case that the dictionary was supposed to represent Mandarin but written by someone who wasn’t very good at it? I’ve come across incorrect pronunciation guides in late Qing popular texts before.

      I’m surprised that she says 猫 should be written 狽. The Dictionary of Character Variants says it’s a variant of 貓。

      But she’s right, the animal picture looks nothing like a cat, and far more like a wild dog (狽)!

      • “It may also be the case that the dictionary was supposed to represent Mandarin but written by someone who wasn’t very good at it?” That would be hilarious. As you say, combinations like 象 and 上 are fairly similar phonetically, so I could see a persistent mispronunciation being the case there.

        The 狽 is traditionally spotted, I guess (maybe it’s an extinct hyena relative?).

        There’s an idiom 狼狽為奸 (wolf-bei-do-evil) which describes collusion between two parties for nefarious goals.

        There’s a funny story behind the idiom, as well. For some reason, 狽 is translated as “jackal,” though jackal is usually 胡狼 or 豺.

      • Both 猫 and 苗 seem to have been written without one of the strokes (the bottom horizontal one).

        I had the same thought about the lion looking more like a lion dancer lion than a real lion. And the dog picture looks more like a goat.

        Pretty entertaining, overall.

  1. What a fascinating post! Also, are 船 and 全 only homophones in southern-accented Taiwanese? My dad’s from Taipei, my mom from Tainan originally, and they say words like 豬 and 雞 differently, too. My dad would read 船 as chûn, while my mom would say chôan.

    • Oh, good point!
      There are two kinds of Taiwanese spoken in Taiwan which originate with whether the immigrants in the Ming and QIng came from Quanzhou or Zhangzhou in Fujian. Can’t remember which had more influence on northern Taiwanese and which had more on southern, but there’s definitely a difference.

      When I lived in Taipei, I thought my Taiwanese must have gotten particularly terrible after being in America for too long, but it turned out that at least some of my confusion was due to the dialectical difference. I went back to Tainan for a weekend and suddenly could understand so much more!

  2. It’s great that you take interest in these matters. So do I as I grew up there. Those homophone words have same (or similar) pronunciations if you say them in Taiwanese. All of them. Ask your Taiwanese friends to say them. Taiwanese language came from Min-nan, or southern Fujien province, China, which in turn originated from Hoklo 河洛, which may be abbreviated from 河圖洛書 (where I-Ching’s original diagrams were surfaced), or 河南洛陽 or 黄河洛陽. They all point to a geographic area at the very center of China. Due to wars throughout the Chinese history, many fought between the Northern and the Southern Chinese (dividing line maybe was the Yellow River) where the northerners prevailed, the war refugees went down further south and you have the central Chinese language spoken down in the southern provinces. While Mandarin is actually a northern dialect related to Manchuria, as Mandarin, or Man-Da-Ren, is 满大人, or Manchurian nobles of the Qing dynasty. They came from the northeast of China bordering Russia and Korea. Because the Hoklo language was the language spoken in central China that migrated down south, you will find that many classic Chinese poems that do not rhyme in Mandarin will rhyme in Taiwanese, as Taiwanese language was descended from Hoklo.

    猫 and 苗: I came across some Hmong people (苗族 or Miao ethnicity) in Northern Vietnam when I traveled there. I’m not sure, but I might have heard that some of them eat cats. Again, I’m not sure at all about this.

    • I’m glad that you enjoyed this post. I grew up in Taiwan too.

      It’s right what you say about classic poems in Mandarin not rhyming. In high school, one of my teachers had me memorize 春曉 by 孟浩然 in Taiwanese as well as Mandarin. The Taiwanese version sounded so much better, probably because it sounded much more like what the poet himself was speaking in the Tang. When I took a classical Chinese poetry class in Hong Kong years later, even though the class was taught in Mandarin, sometimes the professor would as a local student to read the 詩經 in 廣東話 instead. Even such an ancient text still rhymed almost perfectly when you read it in a language that still has p-t-k endings and other ancient features that never made it into Mandarin.

      Like you, I think it’s important to challenge the politicized narrative of Mandarin as the sole representative of Chinese language, history, and culture.

      I do, however, disagree with you about your suggestion that the Miao people were named as such because they ate cats. If we’re going with that theory, wouldn’t it make more sense that they ate young greens and shoots, like 豆苗? As such, I’ve removed the link you gave me because I don’t think a google image search of “Hmong + cats” adds anything to the conversation about what you might have heard.

      • How wonderful that you had a class in Chinese Poetry. I still remember a few from the elementary and middle school years. But only a few. They are like aged wines that made older folks like me very fond of them. As a matter of fact, I find western sinologists’ translations of classical Chinese texts much easier to understand than what I learned in my Chinese classes. Except the poetry though. The music in poetry becomes strange when translated.

        I was noticing that in the google images there were some reference to cats in where the Hmong people resided. Of course you are right that 豆苗 is bean sprouts, and 苗 means young greens and shoots in that context. But you know Chinese words can mean different things in different contexts. If you do a google search on 貓 苗族, there is an entry titled 起源 – 村寨網—-中國西南少數民族 that says something about it. Also, search on “What is the Hmong word for cat?”. It says ‘miv’, which sounds like ‘meow’. And ‘meow’ was what I heard when I approached a group of men (I thought they were the Hmongs) in norther Vietnam who were roasting something. If you can stomach it, I have that trip photos in flicker
        https://www.flickr.com/photos/54684593@N08/with/17231018426/

        I don’t mean to say I am sure about 猫 and 苗. Just that these thoughts crossed my mind when I saw that illustration page on homophones. And it’s been very nice talking with you. Your blog is wonderful.

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