top of page
Moxa manuscript.jpg

A Manuscript of a moxibustion instruction, Jinjyu-Chojyu-Kyu, as a Divine Charm for Longevity, with depiction in colour of three Dutchmen, the Dutch delegation to the Shogun in 1767

Signed and dated: Respectfully recorded at Takasaki by the 81-year old Urano Higashie, in the third month of the twelfth year of Kansei (i.e. 1800), year of the monkey with seal (Higashie Kansei 12nen kanoe saru sangatsu shirushi Takasaki hachijũichi-õ Rrano Higashie kinroku)

Ink and pigments on paper, one sheet

H. 56.8 x W. 72.5 cm

The three figures to the right are, from left to right are: Opperhoofd Herman Christiaan Kastens (kapitan Heruman Kasutensu, Opperhoofd at Deshima in 1766-1767, and again 1769), the bookkeeper Willem Juris (yakunin Ueruremu Yũrisu, dispatched at Deshima i 1766-1767), and the senior surgeon Jan François de Haut (Yan Furansu de Hõto, from Arlon, serving in Deshima in 1766-1769, and making the court journey twice, in 1767 and 1768).

The text above the figures asserts that “This moxa practice was in ancient times transmitted by the founder of a Zen sect who went to China, upon his return from abroad.” And further down “Being myself accustomed in that the way of healing and to help people that suffer from an illness is a doctrine of sacred wisdom, I publish this so-called teaching just to propagate it among those who have no trust or interest.” The left half of the document explains some principles of moxa and how this is applied differently for men and women.


Moxa or moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy which consists of burning dried mugwort on particular points of the body. It is difficult to say whether it were Kastens and De Haut who showed some interest in moxa during their stay in Edo where they would be visited by numerous Japanese scientists. If so, this might have been inspired by what Engelbert Kaempfer, surgeon at Deshima in the years 1690-1692 (see Uit Verre Streken, March 2020, no. 46) writes in his “Verhaal van de Moxa, een uytmuntend brandmiddel der Chineesen en Japoneesen, benevens eene schets, aantoonende welke gedeeltens van het menschelyk lichaam met deze plant in verscheide ziektens moeten worden gebrandt” (De Beschryving van Japan, Amsterdam, Jan Roman de Jonge, 1733 pp. 463-472).
On the occasion of the 1767 court journey from Nagasaki to Edo, where they arrived on 27 March, Kastens and his party had a meeting with, among others, the medical doctor Sugita Genpaku (1733-1817). Sugita is probably best-known as the one who would, in 1771, with some colleagues, such as Maeno Ryõtaku (1723-1803) and Nakagawa Junan (1739-1786), assist in one of the earliest anatomical dissections of a human corpse, to find that anatomy as it was explained in many Western books was correct. As a result of this exercise, they published the epoch-making New Book of Anatomy (Kaitai shinsho, 5 vols., 1774) which, according to some, marks the beginning of Dutch Studies, Rangaku. Many years later, Sugita would also publish the equally important Beginnings of Dutch Studies (Rangaku kotohajime, 1815). Kastens, born in The Hague and in the service of the VOC from 1758, served on Deshima as second in rank in 1762/63 and as storehouse master in 1763/64, to be appointed Opperhoofd in 1766. He is believed to have provided the sundial in the centre of the vegetable and herb garden at Deshima, that is marked “HCK.” In 1769 he was appointed Opperhoofd for a second time but went missing on his journey to Deshima.


When the surgeon François de Haut accompanied Opperhoofd Jan Crans, Kastens’s successor, on the next court journey, from February 3rd to June 9th, 1768, he didn’t feel well during most of the journey, and eventually died on May 17th at Kusatsu on the return journey.

As for Urano Higashie from Takasaki, who signed this manuscript, no further information could be found. Takasaki is a town in Kõzuke Province, present- day Gunma Prefecture.

We are grateful to Prof. Matthi Forrer for his assistance in writing this catalogue entry

bottom of page