efore the advent of the toothbrush, how did ancient Chinese go about cleaning their teeth? Our cover photo of this issue provides a clue—the oddly looking man is going to clean his teeth with a willow twig, after softened it by chewing first. The photo comes from a fresco in Cave No. 164 of the renowned World Heritage site Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, Gansu Province.
Considering the construction of Mogao Caves reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), we can presume that the fresco is revealing how ancient Chinese brush their teeth at least 1,000 to 1,500 years ago. In fact, from a distant past, ancient Chinese were aware of the significance of dental hygiene, and thus they invented tools including chewed willow twigs, and crude “toothbrushes” with handles made with bronze or animal bones, and horsehair or bristles on their heads. Besides, various natural materials from salt, minerals to herbs were adopted as “toothpaste” to enhance the effect of the cleaning tools. And this issue will present the intriguing history of the development of the ways ancient Chinese brushed their teeth, along with the evolvement of diverse tools they used.
The other cover options are: No. 1: the jade dragon ornament unearthed in Inner Mongolia No. 2: the scales of a butterfly’s wings under microscope No. 3: a pair of great purple emperor butterflies in their courtship flight No. 4 : a fresco of Dunhuang depicting a monk brushing his teeth No. 5: a display of Bashu hieroglyphic seals discovered over the years No. 6: the 3D reconstructed illustration of the Fanghu Shengjing in the Old Summer Place No. 7: the 3D reconstructed illustration of the Huifang Shuyuan in the Old Summer Place No. 8: the Wuluke Volcano of Ashkule Volcanic Group No. 9: people of the Changbai Mountains drying harvested mushrooms No. 10: the Wangxiangtai Waterfall in the Simian Mountain No. 11: the honey fungus growing in the Changhai Mountains.