Distinguishing superstition from real TCM

By Wang Xiaonan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/6 23:16:52

Illustrations: Luo Xuan/GT

A video showing visitors lying on Danbi Bridge at dusk in Beijing's Temple of Heaven Park has recently gone viral online.

As the night falls, throngs of local residents from the elderly to middle-aged couples and even toddlers seem to enjoy lying on the 360-meter-long, 30-meter-wide, white marble-covered bridge. In the short video, they lie either on their backs or with their faces down, in the most comfortable postures they can muster.

Despite repeated pleas from the park administration staff, the superstitious residents strongly believe that the white marble in the bridge can cure a wide range of ailments like minor aches and pains, terminal cancer and even gynecological problems. They also claim just lying on the sun-scorched marble delivers better effects than acupuncture.

Originally built in 1420, Danbi Bridge, a walkway stretching from the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests to the Circular Mound Altar, is the oldest overpass in the capital city. It is a significant part of the Temple of Heaven Park, the largest surviving masterwork among China's imperial sacrificial compounds. The bridge itself leads to the sacrificial altar, adding to the mystery of its healing properties.

The scene of randomly-dressed crowds lying on the culture relic in a variety of unseemly poses is in itself ridiculous.

The phenomenon started a dozen years ago. Park administration personnel told them that white marble is just ordinary stone without any physiotherapeutic effect, but in vain. The heat that residents consider useful for pain relief is no more than the heat of the day's sunlight escaping.

Superstition in folk remedies has long been a habit from generation to generation, perhaps dating back to remote antiquity. Even in today's modern world brimming with enlightened ideas and science-based solutions, this phenomenon has hardly changed for the better.

Too many people turn to folk prescriptions whether they feel under the weather or fall critically ill. It seems that they can always find peculiar remedies for almost every symptom from migraine headache, toothache, asthma, bronchitis, stomachache and rheumatism to types of tumors. Their beliefs that supernatural power can cure ailments are ironclad.

In their mind, the "panaceas" are part of famous Chinese medical practices with a long-standing history of thousands of years. Owing to improper guidance and backward medical conceptions, they have mistaken genuine traditional Chinese medical theories and approaches for mystical or magical healing arts.

When they get better, they attribute it to the superstitious treatment methods. But if they get worse, they will naturally turn to other "superpowerful" means.

In some villages, inhabitants still believe monkey's gallbladder has an overwhelming effect for curing eye infections, stomachaches and many other disorders.

Yu Juan, a PhD and lecturer at Fudan University who died from breast cancer, revealed in her book An Unfinished Life that she resorted to a diet folk remedy which only exacerbated her condition. A hunger cure is a therapy many cancer patients turn to in hope of getting better.

Years ago, crowds swarmed to supermarkets to snap up mung beans after watching a health and lifestyle TV show. That buying spree was stirred up by a guest named Zhang Wuben who boasted mung beans could cure every disorder in human body. Zhang also encouraged 20-somethings to pinch their muscles to grow tall. The so-called miracle-working doctor was diagnosed with a cerebral infarction later and his hoax was exposed, but he still has many followers even today.

It seems there is a long and arduous way to go for the public to do away with all the medical superstitions and turn to science-based healing methods.

The author is a Beijing-based freelancer. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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