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The Cover
September 23 2009

The Physician Hua Tuo Scraping the Bone of Guan Yu to Treat an Arrow Wound

JAMA. 2009;302(12):1262-1263. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1257

In April 1853, two months before Commodore Perry steamed into the harbor of Edo (modern Tokyo), opening Japan to the West, artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi produced the print The Physician Hua Tuo Scraping the Bone of Guan Yu to Treat an Arrow Wound (cover ). The result is a story of a board game linking 4 characters, only 2 of whom are visible in the print.

The first character is Guan Yu, a Chinese general who contributed to the downfall of the Han dynasty in the third century CE. Although history blends with mythology, it appears that Guan Yu was captured by the cruel warlord Cao Cao, who admired him and appointed him a deputy general. The next year Guan Yu voluntarily left, but almost 20 years later was again captured and executed, his severed head buried by Cao Cao with full honors. Guan Yu, often portrayed with red skin, is sometimes considered a God of War, but one wishing to avoid conflict when possible. He models loyalty and righteousness in battle.

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