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The Case of the Disappearing Blue Women: Understanding how Meaning is made in Desi Sangye Gyatso's Blue Beryl paintings

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image of Asian Medicine

This article dives into the idiosyncrasies of the life of the body in the world and the physician's encounter with it. It asks the reader to patiently probe the images found within a set of seventeenth-century medical paintings, to seek the clues they provide to better understand the variable conditions of different bodies and, finally, to reflect upon how the details of the paintings themselves train the viewer to see the body in a very specific way. The paintings employ particular modes of expression, referred to here as 'modes of representation', to generate meaning. In reflecting upon the relationship between image and meaning in these paintings, it will become clear that it is the manner in which the idiosyncrasies of the body are depicted, the ways in which they are framed and patterned and the ways in which the viewer learns to make sense of them, that are ultimately meaningful.


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