June 25, 2015

Codex of Mexican History from 1221 to 1594

This manuscript is an 18th-century copy of an original that has since been lost. It recounts the history of Mexico from 1221 to 1594. Among other events, it mentions the mythical discovery of Tenochtitlan (forerunner of Mexico City) by Cuauhcohuatl and the death of Emperor Moctezuma (also seen as Montezuma). The document is in Nahuatl, the main language of the indigenous population of Mexico. The copy was made in Mexico on paper imported from Europe, most likely by Father José Antonio Pichardo (1748−1812), who created many other copies of Mexican manuscripts held in the collections of the National Library of France.

Codex Azcatitlan

This manuscript, known as the Codex Azcatitlan, most likely dates from only a few years after the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. It recounts the history of the Aztecs (also known as the Mexica), including their migration to Tenochtitlan (forerunner of present-day Mexico City) from Aztlán, the ancient or mythical birthplace of Aztec civilization. The codex depicts the succession of Aztec rulers, the arrival of Spanish troops headed by Hernán Cortés, and the introduction of Christianity. Of all the known manuscripts recounting Aztec history, the Codex Azcatitlan is probably the most valuable and important. In contrast to other histories written later in the colonial period, it is known for the unique way in which it records indigenous memories from the pre-Hispanic past. Like other Aztec codices, it is written in pictograms. These are very carefully drawn, by a scribe who obviously was very skilled. The codex is copied on 25 folios of paper imported from Europe to Mexico in the 16th century. Each episode in the history is presented on a double folio for easier reading. On the first folio, the author introduces a group of people whom scholars have not yet identified. They could be tlatoanis, or high-level Mesoamerican rulers or heads of state. From folio 2 to folio 25, the scribe describes the migration of the Mexica tribes to the promised land of Tenochtitlan.

Codex Ixtlilxochitl

Codex Ixtlilxochitl is a ritual calendar that presents all the main ceremonies and holidays that were celebrated at the great teocalli, the terraced pyramid of Tenochtitlan (forerunner of present-day Mexico City) during the Mexican year. The Aztec calendar consisted of two systems. This codex presents the Xiuhpohualli (the first, or solar, calendar) of 365 days, divided into 18 months of 20 days, plus an additional period of five empty or unlucky days at the end of the year, called the Nemontemi. The manuscript begins with the first month of the year, Atlacahualco or Atlcahualo (want of water), which is represented by a drawing of a person opening his arms and bending his knees, seemingly making an offering to the sun. Each holiday is represented by a pictogram: a human form, an animal, a building, or some offerings. Under the pictogram for each holiday is a commentary in Spanish, handwritten by one of the owners of the manuscript, as a translation or explanation of the image. This document is particularly valuable, in that it includes, on folio 112 verso, a representation of the great teocalli. The series includes 21 painted images. The document is in excellent condition, as can be seen in the brightness of the colors.

Matrícula de Huexotzinco

Matrícula de Huexotzinco is a census of the villages in the province of Huexotzinco (also seen as Huejotzingo). This very large document originally was comprised of more than 440 folios, six of which have since been lost. The census is divided into three parts: a text in Spanish introducing the census, the pictorial census, and an analysis in Spanish of the results. Each part starts with a page containing the glyph of the village name, followed by a registry of all married men, the elderly, widows and widowers, the sick, and those who had died since the previous census. Each page depicts a tecpan (the official administrative building of the tribe) and 20 heads, to which notes in onomastic glyphs were added. After every five pages (or tecpans) is a figure representing a particular family or group. The occupations of the people listed also are noted and the names of people given in Spanish and Nahautl. A text in Spanish summarizes the results of the census. The Matrícula is an extraordinarily important document for the study of Mexico in the early colonial period. Its figures and glosses in both Nahautl and Spanish have proved extremely useful in deciphering other Aztec pictorial documents. The census also contains much detailed information about the economy, social organization, language, history, people, and art of Mexico in this period.

Aubin Tonalamatl

The Aubin Tonalamatl is a pictorial codex that reads from top to bottom and from right to left. It originally included another two folios that have since been lost. The Tonalamatl (bark paper [or book] of the days) was used by Aztec priests in a divination ritual. Tonalli means “day” and amatl refers to paper made from the inner bark of trees of the genus Ficus. The work contains a religious calendar of 260 days, the Tonalpohualli, which was used as a ritual and daily devotional for the celebration of holidays and served as the basis of astrological birth-chart predictions. This liturgical calendar was part of a collection owned by Lorenzo Boturini Benaducci (1702−51) that was confiscated on his expulsion from New Spain in the mid-1740s. The codex appears to have passed through several hands before it was sold for 2,000 francs to Americanist Alexis Aubin on October 24, 1841, who purchased it from Frédéric de Waldeck; Waldeck had owned the manuscript since the early 1800s. Eugène Goupil, of Mexican and French origin, purchased Aubin’s large collection of Mesoamerican manuscripts, including this work, in 1889, and his widow donated it to the National Library of France in 1898. This precious manuscript was subsequently stolen and is currently in Mexico. Mexican authorities, who are refusing to return it, have entrusted it to the country’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Codex Mexicanus

Codex Mexicanus is an oblong-shaped manuscript that contains calendrical and astrological information, some of which is related to the practice of medicine. The manuscript shows signs of wear, probably because this small-format book would almost always have been carried in the pocket of its owner. The first eight pages contain a series of circles within which letters of the Latin alphabet have been inscribed, most likely designating the days of the month. Images of Catholic saints and apostles also are included. The book includes a history of the Aztecs, or Mexica, from the time of their departure, held by some to have occurred in the 11th century, from the mythical or ancient land of Aztlán. It covers the Aztec migration to the Valley of Mexico and continues to the year 1590, with information on the Spanish conquerors and their Christian faith. The book is on amate paper, which was produced from the beaten fibers of Ficus bark and was widely used in the Aztec Empire.

Map of the Grand Canal, Source of Water Conservancy, in Shandong Province

This map, folded as in accordion pleating, a style also known as sutra binding, has no frames on the pages. Executed in the traditional Chinese painting style, the map depicts the Grand Canal in Shandong Province during the middle of Qing dynasty, with south on the right and north on the left. This section of the Grand Canal began from Huanglin Zhuang, the juncture of Pizhou, north of Jiangnan (present-day Jiangsu Province), and Yixian, south of Shandong. It meandered northwards, passing on its way more than 30 cities and counties, beginning with Yixian, and then Tengxian, Laiwu, Sishui, Yutai, Zouxian, Qufu, Yanzhou Fu, Taishan Zhou, Jinxiang, Jining Zhou, Ningyang, Danxian, Jiaxiang, Feicheng, Chengwu, Pingyang, Wenshang, Caozhou Fu, Dongping Zhou, Yanggu, Yuncheng, Boping, Tangyi, Jiping, Guantao, Qinghe, Xiajin, Wucheng, and Gucheng, and ending, at the juncture of Dezhou and Zheyuan Zhen, with Jingzhou (a city administered directly by the capital). The canal flowed into Weishan Lake at Tengxian, then Zhaoyang Lake, and many other lakes. In its path were many small and large tributary rivers, such as the Wenhe and Sihe, with some of their courses depicted as densely woven as nets. Also indicated are numerous springs, all named, spreading around the tributaries. All the tributaries as well as lakes, mountains, forests, cities, villages, bridges, monasteries, pagodas, temples, sluiceways, dams, sandbanks, sluice gates, distances between locations, and depths of water are noted. For example, a brief note at the beginning reads: “The Shandong Canal begins at Huanglin Zhuang, bordering Pizhou, south of Jiangnan, and ends at Zheyuan Zhen, bordering Jingzhou. The distance is measured at 1,125 li [1 li = 576 meters] and 180 bu [1 bu = 1.6 meters].” These words summarize the entire map. Such notes appear at other places on the map, written in very small characters, in orderly and aesthetic brush strokes. The very detailed descriptions indicate that the map was made by the river-transport authorities of the Shandong branch of the Grand Canal. Very few maps exist from the Qing dynasty, especially maps of the Grand Canal. This map depicts only the Shandong section of the canal, but it is treasured for its precision and detail.

The New Book on Prolonging Parents’ Life and Nourishing the Elderly, in Four Juan

This work has four juan in three volumes. It was first compiled by Chen Zhi of the Song, later supplemented by Zou Xuan of the Dade reign of the Yuan, and edited by Huang Yingzi. It was first issued in the 11th year (1307) of the Dade reign, with a preface by Wei Chesun. Copies of the original edition are now very rare. This copy, of which the table of contents and juan one are shown here, was printed by Zhang Shihong in the second year (1342) of the Zhizheng reign of the Yuan dynasty. Zhang Shihong’s family owned a copy of the work in their collection. He adhered to the tenets of the book in caring for his mother Li, who was reported to be over 80 and still in very good health. The characters of Zhang’s copy became faint and blurry, and some parts were lost. In 1341 he acquired a complete copy of the work from Li Zizhen, which he had engraved and printed at the academy. Chen Zhi wrote juan one, entitled Shou qin yang lao shu (Book on prolonging parents’ life and nourishing the elderly). Little biographical information about Chen Zhi is available. He was the magistrate of Xinhua Xian, Taizhou Prefecture during the Yuanfeng reign (1078−85) of Emperor Song Shenzong. The main subject of Chen’s work is nurturing the life of the elderly. It contains 15 essays on proper nutrition, examination of symptoms and pulse diagnosis, strengthening medications, personality and hobbies, feasts and daily life, social standing of rich and poor, warning against vices, an introduction to nourishment of the elderly throughout the year, recipes to tempt the sick and treat illnesses, and simple but effective formulas for emergencies. During the Dade reign (1297−1307), Zou Xuan of Taining (now in Fujian Province) supplemented the work, adding three more juan and changing the name to Shou qin yang lao xin shu (The new book on prolonging parents’ life and nourishing the elderly). Zou Xuan’s style name was Binghe and his self-styled name Jinzhi Laoren (The old man who respects Zhi). His grandfather, granduncle, and two mothers all followed the regimen prescribed in Chen’s work, and all lived beyond the age of 90, while Zou was already 70 when he wrote his work. Zou’s additions to the original work are wide-ranging and varied. Juan two contains essays on health maintenance, medication, and other subjects. Juans three and four discuss daily life and drinking and eating, formulas for dietary treatment for women and children, qigong exercises to enhance energy for life, cultivation of the inner nature, and other topics. Zou also discussed other means of nurturing, including tea, wine, incense, outings, vehicles, keeping turtles, collecting paintings, and playing the zither.

Immortal Sun’s Essential Prescriptions for Emergency Use Worth 1,000 Gold Pieces, in 93 Juan

Sun Simiao (581−682), a native of Huayuan, Jingzhao (Shaanxi Province), was a renowned Daoist and physician during the Sui and Tang dynasties. He was called “King of Medicine.” Both Emperor Wendi of the Sui and Emperor Taizong of the Tang wished to recruit him to the court, but Sun firmly declined the offer. When he was a child, Sun’s colds required many visits to physicians. His high medical expenses exhausted his family’s resources. So Sun studied medicine and practiced from a young age. He selected material from numerous classical works and compiled Bei ji qian jin yao fang (Essential prescriptions for emergency use worth 1,000 gold pieces). That Sun considered human life as important and precious as gold is evident in the title. The goal of his work was to enable every family to learn and to pass on its knowledge. The book was completed in the third year (652) of the Yonghui reign of the Tang. It begins with discussions on the medical profession and the absolute dedication it required. It then covers managing illnesses, diagnoses, prescriptions, use of medicinal herbs, and methods of mixing and taking medicines. Sun also expressed his views on medical education and ethics in a way that had a profound influence on physicians of later generations. He placed women first in priority in his discussions of treatments, which differed from the arrangement of earlier medical encyclopedias. Sun stated that “the reason there are separate prescriptions for women is that they get pregnant, give birth, and suffer from uterine damage. This is why women's disorders are ten times more difficult to cure than those of males.” He thus established the basis for traditional medicine for women. After the formulas for women, he discussed, in order, children and infants; the face, mouth, tongue, teeth, and throat; wind-toxin attacks; cold-induced diseases; the five viscera and six internal organs; diabetes; and uvular swelling. Also included are pulse, acupuncture, and cavities. In addition, Sun provided instructions on compounding medicines, diet, and inner-nature cultivation. His formulas were not only for emergency use, but for everyday health maintenance.

Quotations of Ancient Zen Masters

Gu zun su yu lucun er shi wu jia, san shi er (Quotations of ancient Zen masters) is a collection of important quotations by Zen masters of the late Tang dynasty, Five Dynasties, and early Southern Song (circa 700−1150). The expression zun su in the title means respected men of older generations. It is a synonym of zhang lao (elders) and da de (great virtues). Yu lu in the title means a collection of wisdom cultivated by the Zen patriarchs. The work records teachings of Zen masters of special virtue who were greatly respected, and their sayings at various places they stayed, at different occasions, and in different formats, such as in public appearances, handed-down information, or in debates. The work also includes chants, praise songs, divinations, short essays, records of lives, dedicatory inscriptions, and the prefaces to collections of quotations associated with these men. Because the work contains so much detailed information about the Zen masters, it is an important resource for studying these masters and gaining an understanding of the main ideas of the most representative masters. It is also an important document for studying Zen Buddhism at its height. The earlier titles of this work were Gu zun su yu yao (Important quotations of ancient Zen masters), Gu zun su yu (Sayings of ancient Zen masters), or Gu zun su lu (Records of ancient Zen masters). It was originally in four juan. Later additions and supplements extended it to 48 juan, the extent most seen nowadays, and it records quotations of 37 masters. The general view is that Zezang, the Southern Song Zen master, was the editor of the work. This copy is a Song edition, printed, as indicated in the work, at Guangli Zen Temple, Mount Ayuwang, Mingzhou Prefecture. It contains quotations of 25 Zen masters, in 32 juan. Shown here is a preface and the first part of the work entitled “Public speeches by Monk Longmen Foyan, Shuzhou.”