Medicinal powder puffer or insufflator, Chinese, brass, maker unknown, China, .
This Chinese brass instrument consists of a hollow tube attached to a round drum and was used to administer medicated powders topically. The powders were transferred into the drum and the sides pressed to blow the powder down the extended nozzle. A small attached handwritten cardboard label in English has the wording: 'For taking powders by nose and throat. Chinese medical practitioners processed the raw materials for medicinal powders, gathered in the wild or cultivated in herb gardens, by drying them on racks before grinding them into powder with a mortar and pestle. The medicinal powder puffer or insufflator probably dates from the turn of the 20th century.
The powder puffer is among Chinese medicine related objects held at the Asian Studies Department at the University of Sydney since the late 1950's and later donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1994. They are part small collection of Chinese artefacts thought to have been collected in China in the beginning of the 20th century by an Australian protestant missionary J. Whitsed Dovey, as examples of traditional cultural practice and used as a display and study collection to educate missionaries. The powder puffer was collected during a period of modernisation in China where missionaries might have considered the future of traditional medicine uncertain. Following the collapse of Imperial China the missionaries had found increasing interest in their medical activities from a Nationalist government embracing Western science and enthusiastically promoting biomedicine whilst sidelining traditional Chinese medical practice in their plans for medical development.
Taylor, Kim, Chinese Medicine in Early Communist China, 1945-63: A medicine of revolution, New York, 2005, p123
Unschuld, Paul U, Medicine in China: Historical Artifacts and Images, New York 2000, p197
Presumed to have been made in China.
This Chinese powder puffer of insufflator, together with other Chinese medically related objects, was held at the Asian Studies Department of the University of Sydney since the late 1950's, and later donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1994. It was part of a small collection of Chinese artefacts and medicinal substances related to traditional cultural practices, thought to have been collected in China in the first half of the 20th century by an Australian protestant missionary J. Whitsed Dovey (1887-1956) for missionary education.