Netsuke showing a doctor and patient, Japanese, late 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A netsuke is a form of miniature sculpture developed in Japan over a period of several hundred years. They were often beautifully decorated with elaborate carving, lacquer work, or inlays, and were attached to the end of a cord and tucked into the sash of the kimono. This example is signed by its maker, Chikaaki, and depicts a doctor taking a patient's pulse. Physicians in the Far East felt 12 pulses, six in each wrist, before treating the patient. The pulses corresponded to the meridians for chi energy. Their features were described in poetic terms such as 'like water dripping through a roof' or 'smooth as a flowing stream'. To the doctor's side is a leather bag which would have contained acupuncture needles, herbs and other medicines.