An interesting term that is widely interpolated, Doctor’s Lady has a very simple explanation. It was a small mammoth ivory sculpture of a reclining semi-nude or nude lady which the traditional Chinese doctors carried with them. It was used when diagnosing female patients the specific location of the pain or discomfort when then pointed out on the sculpture instead of showing it on he own body. Though it was practical figurine which was used for diagnosis of female illnesses and discomforts, today it is more of a collectible. It was not just carved from mammoth ivory but resin, soapstone and even semi-precious stones were used to carve it. The typical figurine is about 12 cm to 25 cm and is portrayed as reclining on a bed or couch.
The repressive Chinese society made it impossible for the doctors to physically check the location of discomfort and based on the symptoms and pinpointed location of the pain on the Doctor’s Lady, the ailments were diagnosed and medicines prescribed. Usually, mention of the Doctor’s Lady and numerous excavated figurines can be seen during the Qing and Ming rule which had the highest social repressiveness.
Though different materials were used to carve the figure, mammoth ivory or elephant ivory was the preferred material as it was solid yet soft material which could be carved to show intricate details. While the gloss, luster and color was unmatched with any other material. Over time and the demand for erotic mammoth ivory carvings has led to artists carving the Doctor’s lady as netsuke and amulets. No longer does it serve any practical function yet the allure of traditional symbols of grandeur and modesty remain firmly etched in the minds of the collectors.