An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Jiangu tuge 檢骨圖格

Apr 3, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Jiangu tuge 檢骨圖格 "Illustrated investigations of human remains" is a treatise on forensic medicine that was presented in 1770 by Tsengfu 增福 to the compilation team of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書. Tsengfu, courtesy name Lü'an 履菴, from the Manchu clan Tarara 他他拉氏, was at that time surveillance commissioner (anchashi 按察使) of Anhui.

The text is divided into two parts, Jiangutu 檢骨圖 and Jianguge 檢骨格, the first providing illustrations of the human skeleton, the second descriptions of it. Similarly to the illustrations of a human corpse in the book Xiyuanlu 洗冤錄, the skeleton is shown from the front (yangmian 仰面) and from back (hemian 合面). Black dots are used to signify bones an injury of which is lethal, and circles to mark bones whose fracture not necessarily presents a deadly injury. To the former belong, for instance, the top of the head (dingxingu 頂心骨), the parietal or "fontanelle" bone (xinmengu 囟門骨), the zygomatic bones (ejiaogu 額角骨), the sides of the frontal bone (elugu 額顱骨), the "cavities of the Great Yang" (taiyangxue 太陽穴, the upper region of the temporal bones), the "ear cavities" (erqiao 耳竅), the "larynx bone" and "Adam's apple" (sanghou jiehou gu 嗓喉結喉骨), the "turtle bones" (guizigu 龜子骨, the chest), the "heart depression bone" (xinkangu 心坎骨, the xiphoid process), the "blood basin bones" (xuepengu 血盆骨, the clavicles), the back part of the parietal bone (naohougu 腦後骨), the "cushion bones" (chengzhengu 乘枕骨, occipital bone), the "ear bases" (ergengu 耳根骨, temporal bones), the first cervical bone (xiangjinggu 項頸骨), the first thoracic vertebra (jibeigu 脊背骨), the central thoracic vertebra (jilügu 脊膂骨), the upper lumbar vertebra near the kidneys (yaoyangu 腰眼骨), and the "square bone" (fanggu 方骨, the sacral bone).

Unfortunately the descriptions include many points that do not correspond with reality, but because the book was imperially sanctioned it was nevertheless widely spread in district administrations throughout the empire. In practice the book had to be used jointly with Xu Lian's 許槤 (1787-1862) Xiyuanlu xiangyi 洗冤錄詳義 and Yao Deyu's 姚德豫 (fl. 1796) Xiyuanlu jie 洗冤錄解. It can therefore be found in editions to the Xianyuanlu, like Chongke buzhu Xianyuanlu jizheng 重刊補註洗冤錄集證 from 1844.

Gan Gongren 甘功仁 (1990). "Jiangu tuge 檢骨圖格", in Yang Chunxi 楊春洗 et al., ed. Xingshi faxue da cidian 刑事法學大辭書 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 247.
Wu Shuchen 武樹臣, ed. (1999). Zhongguo chuantong falü wenhua cidian 中國傳統法律文化辭典 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 459.