My trip to Traditional Chinese Medicine
At 6:00 a.m. on July 11, 2016. a group of special guests arrived at Tianjin West Railway Station. They are ten undergraduate representatives from nine countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium. They will go to Cangzhou, Hebei, to experience Chinese medicine culture with ten Chinese undergraduate volunteers. To every one of them, it will be a new journey.
–The first day of journey–
“Chinese medicine, right? Yes, I’m interested in Chinese medicine, I wanted to know more about Chinese medicine, I feel that it’s a very interesting topic to learn more about. We always understand a lot about Western medicine, and we don’t know much about Chinese medicine, so it’s something to look forward to.”
Among them, a special girl is called Charlotte from the Netherlands. Different from others, she comes here for a wish.
“My mom once went to her Chinese medicine doctor, but I don’t know what she went for. So, that’s how I heard of it.”
Charlotte heard of TCM for the first time at the age of 13 because of her mom’s treatment experience， that unique treatment way stimulated her strong interest, she hoped that she could learn this ancient Eastern culture closely one day.
“Because I want to get to know something about Chinese herbal medicine.”
After more than one hour drive, 20 Chinese and foreign volunteers arrive at Sun Guangzhou’s workshop in Cangzhou.
“She is from the Netherlands and she is with Yaming”
Sun Guangzhou, 81 this year was born in a TCM family of generations, he is the fifth generation of the inheritor of the family. They will start this experience activity from his workshop.
Just after they enter, before they carefully enjoy the ancient atmosphere of Chinese medicine culture, Charlotte and her classmates are attracted by a special drink prepared by Mr. Sun.
“It’s nice, it’s sweet, and it tastes like tea.”
“I like the flavor and the smell, it’s also a bit special”
Well, what on earth is the drink that Charlotte and her classmates are so interested in? Mr. Sun gives the answer.
“This is our family’s secret recipe. After the beginning of summer, our family makes it for a drink, when we are back home from work, we sometimes drink this to quench thirst, it has a very strong health-care function.”
The drink for them is the soup for clearing heat and relieving summer-heat specially decocted by Mr. Sun with nine materials such as small red beans, the seeds of Job’s tears and honeysuckle to remove students’ fatigue.
“They were very tired to come here, it can prevent them from heatstroke, and treat heatstroke.
Experiencing such a way of health care for the first time, Charlotte feels it is very new, and initiatively asks Sun Guangzhou for decoction method. Knowing that Mr. Sun made the soup for relieving summer-heat till 2:00 a.m. by decocting for two times and filtrating for three times. Charlotte is a bit touched besides feeling new.
“I think herbal medicine is difficult, it’s not as artificial as normal medicine.”
“This person is Bian Que, his hometown is here, he was a great physician. Hua tuo was a TCM physician and a TCM surgeon.”
Sun Guangzhou was born in a family with five generations engaged in TCM, his ancestors were famous for treating villagers’ diseases by collecting prescriptions. His grandpa’s generation even developed a school of their own in TCM warming and nourishing. Sun Guangzhou’s father Sun Jiantao was great as well. His family has been good at treating difficult miscellaneous diseases for more than 200 years so far. The profound inheritance history offers good conditions for Charlotte and her classmates to experience Chinese medicine culture.
The long history of Chinese medicine culture attracts Charlotte deeply. The 19-year-old Charlotte is a student from Radboud University Nijmegen of the Netherlands, to get more experience chances, this time, Charlotte specially chooses to live in the home of Sun Yaming of Nankai High School. Sun Yaming is precisely Sun Guangzhou’s granddaughter. As one of the interpreters and planners of this experience activity, Sun Yaming did a lot with her grandfather for the arrival of Charlotte and her classmates.
“They’re willing to come here and I’m willing to receive them. I’m very pleased that they come and gather here happily to communicate Chinese medicine culture with each other. In particular, I’m an old man at the age of 81, in the countdown period of life, I am also willing to seize every chance to contribute my skills to the society.”
After a one-day journey, Charlotte comes back to Mr. Sun’s home, she has been looking forward to this journey, but she is still a bit nervous when living in a Chinese home for the first time.
“I was really enthusiastic because a host family is like the real China, if you stay in a hostel or at a hotel, it’s just being you on a holiday. That’s what’s really nice, I was also pretty nervous because a host family can work out, like, really well or it can work out really badly.”
–The second day–
Today is the second day that Charlotte lives in Mr. Sun’s home. To enable Charlotte to enjoy Chinese delicacies in this journey of China while feeling the TCM culture. Mr. Sun, in his 80s, makes his special noodles for breakfast.
“Pepper should be fried, uncooked pepper can’t be used. After heating the oil, fry the pepper, scoop it up, and then fry seasoning.”
Charlotte tastes the Chinese-style noodles carefully made by Mr. Sun for the first time and sings the praise of it.
After breakfast, Charlotte and her classmates will have new TCM experience. Next, what interesting things will come?
“Feel the pulse with three fingers, chon, gwan and cheok.”
TCM treatment stresses inspection auscultation-olfaction, interrogation, and palpation. Inspection refers to observing complexion, auscultation-olfaction refers to listening to breath and smelling the odor, interrogation refers to asking symptoms, palpation refers to feeling the pulse.
“This one, press it，this is connected with the lung. Which part should we feel mainly? here, here, here, this is the part we feel mainly, feel his pulse.”
Today, Mr. Sun is going to teach them knowledge of feeling the pulse. Diagnose and give treatment to the patient by feeling the pulse only without any apparatus, what is the feeling? Charlotte will feel it personally.
“This is a bit stronger, what?”
Though Charlotte can’t learn how to feel the pulse in a short time, she has a certain understanding of feeling the pulse finally.
“I think it’s really interesting that Chinese herbal medicine can do it which is 6 points on your wrist and doesn’t have to be like all the fuss around it, just like that, that’s what the difference is to me.”
After feeling the pulse, students have new questions, where do medicines include, what do they look like. To enable Charlotte and her classmates to learn and understand Chinese herbal medicine better, Sun Guangzhou leads them to the TCM pharmacy.
“Do you know what it is?”
“You don’t know. This is the root of common peony, it has red flowers. It is a Chinese herbaceous peony, generally, it’s less than 1 meter tall, about 0.5 meter，the roots of common peony.”
From the introduction of Sun Guangzhou, Charlotte learns that Chinese herbal medicine is divided into several kinds like tuber class, flower class, resin class and fruit class, each medicine has a unique effect on human body.
“This is smoked plum which can treat throat, it can treat dry throat, sore throat, and hoarse voice.”
It’s the first time that Charlotte has come to such a pharmacy with various plants animals and fruits, so all the things are inconceivable in her eyes.
“It might be simple but if it’s effective it doesn’t really matter, because Chinese herbal medicine is more natural.”
Charlotte even feels that the small scales used to weigh medicine are rather fresh.
Lift it with one hand, place this hand here, lift it like this, lift here, control the height with this hand here. If it’s light, push it inward, if it’s heavy, push it outward.
“You know immediately and it’s I think it fits well with Chinese herbal medicine, If you put it in a fully electric scale, everything is electric and it’s not Chinese herbal medicine, the traditional way, because what I’ve not seen is like a really modern version of the Chinese herbal medicine when you sort of upgrade like that, but you still use traditional recipes use traditional skills, use traditional ingredients, so that’s what makes it special to me.”
–The third day–
“It can detoxify.”
Every morning, Mr. Sun will get up early to take care of a small vegetable garden around his house. Yaming introduces that it’s a good place to study Chinese herbal medicine. Charlotte who lives in the house insists on getting up early to check it out.
“This is the grapevine, cut and decoct it, decoct it to thicken it, after that, add some borneol, apply it to the waist.”
It turns out that there are over 30 plants in the small garden, though they’re commonly-seen plants and trees, each of them has unique medicine value.
“This is pepper, pepper tree, it’s fried quickly in hot oil, its fruit can warm the kidney and invigorate the stomach, it’s fried quickly in hot oil. Mulberry leaves are used to treat cold in autumn.”
Sun Guangzhou plants medicine materials which can be used for medicine, food and ornamental in his own small yard broadening Charlotte’s horizon.
“There are a lot of medicines made here, so I think it’s very smart that he also uses his graden for it.”
Seeing that Charlotte is greatly interested in them, Mr. Sun decides to use the material in the yard, to make a kind of special soup to maintain the beauty and keep young for her.
“Eating raw pumpkin flower can clear throat and refresh oneself, I add honey, honey is sweet and can moisten the lungs, it tastes different. Put the tassel here, add honey to flowers, cook soup, add them to the soup. If you have freckles on your face, you can remove them with those flowers, moreover, they can improve our looks, they’re full of nutrients.”
How will Charlotte respond to the food cooked in the way for the first time?
“Western-style food is prepared today, right?”
Worrying that Charlotte can’t get used to Chinese food, Sun Guangzhou, and his wife prepare Western-style breakfast today specially.
“Taste this flower, how to eat it, pick it up and eat it in this way.”
“Sweet. He uses medicine and food in one thing, because when you have western medicine you could never make food out of it, I like the way that he used something that’s good for you as medicine, and also find a way to make it taste nice and look nice.”
Though Charlotte still can’t get used to the taste, she admires and wonders at the cooking wisdom of Mr. Sun, and thanks him for his care. In fact, this bowl of soup not only can preserve their health effectively but also embody Mr. Sun’s best wishes.
“Flower is a symbol of beauty, she is a young girl.”
After this meal, Charlotte has a deeper understanding of TCM health preservation, moreover, the hospitable and considerate Sun Guangzhou and his family make Charlotte who was worried about the homestay before coming here feel much warmer.
“I had a really nice trip, I learned a lot about Chinese culture and mostly the traditional kind with the herbal medicine, I really enjoy being here with the family, the family is lovely.”
Today is the third day that Charlotte and her classmates, after having a deeper and deeper understanding of Chinese medicine culture, they’re looking forward to the next journey.
“We’ll apply acupuncture and moxibustion now and needle warming moxibustion.”
Charlotte and her classmates are observing needle warming moxibustion, this is one of ancient TCM medicine skills. In TCM, moxa stick can warm channel and expel cold, the heat of moxa stick through the conduction of the needle penetrates into the human body and activates the circulation of the blood. After it’s open, one won’t feel pain, so as to relieve pain, such a method is often used to treat a backache and leg ache caused by cold.
“There are many water drops on places where I insert needles, she suffers from cold-dampness in her body, so she feels pain after I insert needles, water drops are stimulated out by heat, and she won’t feel pain.”
Students who have witnessed the treatment effect personally can’t help exclaiming with wonder.
“Surprise, yeah, surprise, because one little needle can cure the diseases, amazing.”
TCM is closely related to martial arts, “The Yin-Yang theory” in TCM is one of the ideological bases for the formation of fitness theory of martial arts. Cangzhou is also called Lion City and it’s the hometown of martial arts, in order to make this journey of traditional Chinese medicine deeper and wider, Charlotte and her classmates go to Chinese Miaodao Cangzhou Tongbi Piguaquan International Training Center out of admiration, to see the famous Miaodao and Piguaquan. Piguaquan has a long history, it was spread in the folk in the mid-Ming Dynasty, it’s one of the top quan kinds in Cangzhou, it’s included in national intangible cultural heritage at present. Its biggest feature is strong combat power. As a taekwondo black belt, Charlotte is interested in martial arts particularly, seeing the coath of martial arts, she can’t help going forward to try her hand.
“Right, Ok. Don’t stretch your left hand outward, stretch it backward, punch in this way at the same time.”
By learning, Charlotte seems to find out the mystery of Chinese traditional culture
“I thought it was nice to see, because I’m used to Taekwondo, and this was so different, it was so much they use way more attributes like the sword, and they also use the hands more and I’m not used to that, so I thought it was really special to see.”
After appreciating Piguaquan and Miaodao, they will leave Cangzhou tomorrow, before dinner, Charlotte specially asks Yaming to take her to the supermarket, to thank Mr. Sun’s family for their care for her in these several days, she who likes cooking wants to make a distinctive dish for them before leaving.
“They’re really nice people, they have a lot of hospitality, they’re really generous people, they invited me into their life with open arms. And I tried to make something from what I thought that I could get in a Chinese supermarket which was crazy, so I want to show them the difference between the Chinese cuisine and the Dutch cuisine.”
“Then what’s the name of this dish？”
Charlotte plans to make a Dutch home-style dish vegetable with Mashed Potatoes, though it is not complicated to make it, because it is full of her gratitude, she finishes every step very seriously.
“Does she have confidence in her own dish.”
“Fine. I hope so. The Dutch dish.”
“Look forward to your next visit.”
Chinese people value kinship most in Chinese traditional culture, they lay special emphasis on the family reunion on special days. Tomorrow is the day to say farewell, the family of Sun’s daughter and son specially gather together to see Charlotte, the special family member, every dish on the table is prepared elaborately. Early in the morning, Mr. Sun asked his family to prepare the most famous specialties in Cangzhou shrimps and crabs of the Bohai Sea. On the table, everyone takes good care of Charlotte, After getting on with them for several days，she not only finally realizes her dream to get close to Chinese medicine culture of China, and have a deeper understanding of the knowledge, but also feels the good local conditions and customs here, which are unforgettable memories all her life.
“They’re very nice, they were worried about me hurting my fingers, I probably would have if nobody helped me. I really feel like my second family in China now, I think I got really lucky with the host family.”
–The fourth day–
“Look forward to your visit frequently.”
Today, Charlotte and her classmates will leave Cangzhou，before parting, Sun Guangzhou who is good at calligraphy gives each of them his painting and calligraphy work for commemoration. What makes them moved more is that he prepares a gift for their parents, the Chinese herbal medicine for the foot spa.
“Ask them to take it back to show filial piety to the old and experience how great the role traditional Chinese medicine plays in health preservation and care.”
They also go to the study of Sun Guangzhou spontaneously to write down the words of farewell and leave their affection and wishes.
“I learned that some kind of medicines is the fit one but also about Chinese herbal treatment, Yeah.”
“I’m really amazed about this trip because I was not expecting something because I had no idea what was really traditional habits were. I get to learn more, and I feel really honored to be a part of their generosity, they showed us, provided us and gave us information and a new perspective about Chinese culture.”