Pinyin with tones on labels at a TCM research facility

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(TCM = Traditional Chinese Medicine) 

Photograph of a small portion of specimen jars at the Won Institute of Graduate Studies northeast of Philadelphia in Warminster, Pennsylvania:

I was delighted to see that, not only did the curators provide pinyin on the labels, they included tones.  What's more, they made the pinyin larger than the characters.

Even more impressive in terms of scholarship, they read 蒼朮 (Atractylodes lancea) as cāngzhú, instead of as cāngshù, which most people would mistakenly do.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Jay Zhang and Zihan Guo]


  1. Rodger C said,

    October 13, 2022 @ 10:13 am

    Meanwhile, what on earth is Aromatic Transform Dampness?

  2. Chuck said,

    October 13, 2022 @ 11:31 am

    @ Rodger C: "Aromatic Transform Dampness" is one of many categories used to describe medicaments in traditional Chinese medicine. Search for "TCM herb categories" to see various lists. N.b., not all of the things that show up on the lists are plants, but using "herb" in the search gives good results.

  3. Jonathan Smith said,

    October 13, 2022 @ 2:17 pm

    on the language side, "transform dampness" etc. are bad, literal translations which nonetheless have become standard in English and have indeed rather by virtue of their badness come to constitute a weirder and more esoteric argot in the second language than they do in the first. hua4 shi1 化濕 should be "relieve/neutralize/quell dampness," while sticking "aromatic" in front also just thoughtlessly reflects the Chinese arrangement as opposed to being meaningful/informative in English; these are "aromatics" [generally herbs] considered to "neutralize dampness". Cf. say stock menu translations of Chinese dish names….

  4. amy said,

    October 14, 2022 @ 8:38 pm

    Aromatic Transform Dampness sounds more like witchcraft or some other sort of magic spell to me.

  5. Rodger C said,

    October 15, 2022 @ 6:07 pm

    Or maybe one of those hipster beers from a more recent post.

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