In a modern scene, the salesmen shuttle in and out with black suitcases to sell medication to hospitals. In the early days of China, we can spot some counterparts of such figures— the so-called medicine sellers, who traveled from one province to another with brown wooden chests such as this one to distribute pharmaceuticals.
The Rise of Medicine Sellers in the Qing Dynasty
In the Qing dynasty, patients could turn to either doctors or local official pharmacies for medical treatments. However, the price for private medical therapies could be unaffordable, and the official pharmacies often declined as the government ignored the importance. Therefore, some people relied on the medicine sellers when suffering from illness.
Those medicine sellers were not professional doctors; they could only be referred to as medical workers. The boundary between doctors and medicine sellers was ambiguous. But for the people living in poor townships, the sellers were the only survival chance they could seize— even if the sellers often exaggerated the efficacy of the medicine and could not guarantee a cure to the disease.
The Boxes Traveled Around China with Medicine Sellers
The sellers from Jiangxi and Hubei were the most dynamic dealers. With the irresistibly persuasive eloquence and the brown wood cases filled with Chinese medicines, they voyaged through the vast land of China. By serendipity, some, like this one, settled down in Taiwan in the showroom of Baiwin.
The door of this medicine box is equipped with a brass lock (and a key). Inside are five drawers of various sizes. Chinese pharmacists and medicine sellers used it to store stationaries, common medications, acupuncture utensils, and appliances for cupping therapy.
Wooden Medicine Box, Qing Dynasty
Period: Qing dynasty
Dimension: 28.6 X 25.4 X 27.9 (H*W*D)
The box was produced with mortise and tenon joinery, revealing the delicate craftsmanship of the time. The drawers are dotted with foliage-shaped pendants so the chest gives a joyful jingling sound when being opened.