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Roses & Rue Antiques

Antique Chinese Carved Wood Diagnostic Doll

Antique Chinese Carved Wood Diagnostic Doll

Regular price $150.00 USD
Regular price Sale price $150.00 USD
Sale Sold out

Diagnostic dolls were used in China and parts of Asia to preserve the modesty of female patients. Social custom prevented them from describing parts of their body directly, so they would indicate on the doll the area of their complaint. Although this is how these dolls have been described in the many medical institutions who have examples in their collections, new scholarship questions their function. It’s been pointed out that many of these dolls are posed in a sexually suggestive manner, which is at odds with the strict social customs that prevented doctors having direct communication or contact with their female patients. It’s possible that many of these were exports, sold with a story that plays on the Western world’s perception of Asian cultures as exotic. 

Here is a recent article by a student at the Royal College of Physicians that I found interesting. 

Diagnostic dolls are hard to find and I’ve only ever seen them carved from ivory, bone, or jade. Occasionally you see an ivory substitute. This one is carved from wood, which I have not encountered before. She’s one of two I recently acquired, and I’d place them around the early 20th century. Refer to photos for size and condition: Very good.

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