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Herb Gallery

Chan Tui (Cryptotympana pustulata)

  • Botanical name: Cryptotympana pustulata
  • Common name: Cicada moulting
  • Family: Cicadidae
  • Part used in Chinese medicine: moulting
  • Major Chinese medicine actions:
  • Disperses wind, clears heat, extinuishes internal wind,
    stops spasms, vents rashes, alleviates itching
Cicade moulting

Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Cicade moulting; 08/2007; author Pdgilles: permission under GFDL

Collecting and Preparation

Chan Tui is the exuvium, or cast-off shell, of the nymph form of the insect. It is shed once every seven years by the cicada. The empty shell is shiny, translucent, and yellow-brown in color. As it would appear in a living cicada, the shell has three portions: head (with two eyes), chest (with wings and a crossed gap), and abdomen (with three pairs of feet).

After collecting the cicada moulting, it is important to clean it with boiling water to wash out any residue that might be left in the shell. For medicinal use, the moulting should be whole, thin, and clean.


Cryptotympana atrata, or Cryptotympana pustulata, is a winged insect that makes a distinctive chirping sound, and belongs to the Cicadidae family. Cicadas are commonly found in China, Taiwan, and Japan. They had religious significance in ancient China symbolizing reincarnation or immortality, comparing the cicada’s periodic molting of its shell with a person leaving the physical body behind at the time of death. It was also regarded as a symbol of the many stages of transformation a person must achieve before all illusions are broken and enlightenment can be attained.

The Chinese phrase “to shed off the golden cicada skin” refers to the military strategy of using deception to escape danger. In particular, the use of decoys to lead enemies in the wrong direction was symbolized by leaving the cicada moulting behind.