Wuhan Diary #13: The Seventeenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 8, 2020

Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao

February 8 – Seventeenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure

Today is Lantern Festival. Today marks the end of the Lunar New Year.

I’ve never bought flash-frozen tangyuan dumplings before. Its hard to get anything fresh now. Normally we would make our own at home but now we lack for most everything. Everything except for time. Yesterday evening I used the grinder to grind black sesame and peanuts. This morning I added oil and caster sugar and then boiled it to make black sesame filling which together with the family we put into the tangyuan and then boil them. This is the first time we made them this way but the taste is good, the aroma is tangy, and they were delicious.

While eating the tangyuan, friends sent me the news that a former colleague had died from the new type coronavirus pneumonia. This colleague was not old so his death came very unexpected. Not surprising though given what we have here in Wuhan today. Today I saw online that a professor who taught graduate students at Huazhong University of Science and Technology [Note: Profesor Hong Ling — obituary in Chinese below. Mentioned in Washington Post article as well. End note ] has passed away. Sometimes the foolish idea comes to my head that the virus is really quite “fair”. No matter whether you are rich or poor, noble or base, young or old, no one is exempt.

Sitting at my desk, listening to the twittering of the birds outside my window seeming to welcome the Spring, it feels like they live in a completely different world from us. As I think about it, I decide that it is a ridiculous thought. People have great difficulty sharing the sorrow and happiness of another. How much less this must be true for creatures of different species!

According to the latest news, the pangolin may be an intermediate host for the new coronavirus.

I feel that this is very depressing news.

The Pangolin is a protected species. The Chinese pangolin has been listed as “critically endangered” on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature

(IUCN) which means that they are just one step away from extinction. Chinese do a lot of pangolin hunting not only to eat wild game but also for Traditional Chinese Medicine which uses pangolin body parts to made medicine. It said that Traditional Chinese Medicine made from pangolin body parts helps “stimulate the circulation of the blood and helps muscles and joints relax” as well as for “stimulating menstrual flow and promoting lactation”. This is because, it is said, that pangolins are good at digging holes, Thus liquids can flow through through the body without causing pain.

What idiocy! Anyone of normal intelligence could not believe such a thing!

But that’s what Traditional Chinese Medicine says so some people believe it!

Recently many people in the neighborhood WeChat group have been sharing so-called Traditional Chinese Medicine prescriptions for preventing new type coronavirus pneumonia. Even my own mother has talked to me about this a few times. Whenever I just get indescribably angry. There is really to argue about on this matter. It’s just common sense. However could Traditional Chinese Medicine “prevent” problems that modern medicine can’t solve? When you drink the Traditional Chinese medicine does it go down to your stomach to do diplomatic negotiations with the virus? I don’t think Traditional Chinese Medicine even works as well as drinking more warm water – and drinking water doesn’t have side-effects.

Anyways doesn’t Chinese medicine argue that its great strength is finding “the particular prescription suited to each individual person?” Then how can it offer one prescription to everyone online? That is very simple logic.

This just enrages me!

There are always people claiming that their relatives terminally ill with cancer prolonged their lives by taking Chinese medicine. This makes me think of the “placebo effect” one reads about in popular science publications. Even more astounding is that some people say that Traditional Chinese Medicine is unfathomable to ordinary people because it is philosophy. No, it isn’t “philosophy”. Its metaphysics! !

That’s how some ordinary people see it. Now Chinese officials as well are promoting Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat patients with mild cases of the new type pneumonia. This is even more annoying. Shuanghuanglian is a farce.

[Note: Shuanghuanglian oral liquid consisting of honeysuckle, scutellaria baicalensis and forsythia. According to a PRC anti-rumor website, it is being studied, but no evidence of effectiveness in preventing coronavirus pneumonia and people should not take it. See article copied below from Hong Kong newspaper website [东方日报] according to which an unnamed official of the Chinese Academy of Science said there have been encouraging lab results and the next step will be clinical trials. End note ]

Does pushing this medicine have to end up not only defrauding people but taking their lives as well?

I do not completely reject Traditional Chinese Medicine. If one considers the matter carefully, the classifications “Chinese medicine” and “Western medicine” are not rigorously objective ones. The difference is really between “traditional medicine” and “modern medicine”. Traditional medicine has analyzed and refined by modern medicine. By reasoning, we arrive at correct principles. One hundred years ago, the Chinese New Culture Movement promoted “Mr. Democracy” and “Mr. Science”. Why do we still use the those theories which “belonged to our ancestors” to fool people today? That is not medicine, that in not modern civilization. Promoting these things is just making people stupid and foolish. The end result: just look at the pangolins, just look at us in Wuhan. Is that lesson not already painful enough?

I only hope that pangolins do not share the fate of the civets – many of these were killed during the SARS epidemic.

The Chinese have already harmed this species too much.

However, maybe there are not many wild pangolins left at all to hunt down and kill.

 Finally, I want to tell about how I went out the evening before last to throw out the garbage. Suddenly I noticed that there were plastic trash barrels were placed a result intervals on the street with a sheet of paper on them reading “Special barrel for medical face masks”.

From the placement of this trash barrel on the main road and not in the centralized garbage collection area in the community. The trash barrels is very large and has no cover so that the contents will be exposed to the air.

This arrangement, first of all, makes it harder to throw out the trash since residents will have to go off in two different directions to throw out the trash that they have separated. Second, how long have these barrels been sitting there? How often are they picked up? Our community has not put out any notice. If I didn’t happen to see them, I wouldn’t have know that they were there. Even if I had seen them, the trash I carried out would already be sealed in a bag so I wouldn’t be able to separate it. Next, if some people in cars passing by threw face masks into the barrel, the air current might carry them away. Even if they don’t, the face mask may have virus on it that is in direct contact with the air. Wouldn’t that make the virus spread even further?

When you take all that into consideration, wouldn’t it have been better to dispense with this kind of doing things for appearances’ sake?

Chinese text:

2月8日 武汉封城第17天





















Obituary for Professor Hong Ling of Huazhong University of Science and Technology.


2020-02-08 18:30 来源:澎湃新闻·澎湃号·媒体字号科技日报关注据澎湃新闻2月8日报道,华中科大三级教授、博士生导师红凌不幸于2月7日23时左右因新冠病毒感染,医治无效在武汉去世,年仅53岁。

1988.9:美国亚利桑那大学(University of Arizona)攻读生化博士学位(导师:著名 RNA 专家Dr. Richard B. Hallick,研究领域:叶绿体的基因结构与表达)
1994.12:获得美国亚利桑那大学(University of Arizona)生化博士学位
1995.1:美国加州大学伯克莱分校(University of California at Berkeley)分子和细胞生物学系的实验室作博士后研究(导师:著名遗传学家 Dr. Gerald M. Rubin 研究领域:果蝇的结构和功能基因组学)
1999.2:美国加州伯克莱、劳任斯国家实验室科学家(Scientist at Lawrence Berkerley National Laboratory);研究领域:哺乳动物功能基因组学

On Chinese medicine Shuanghuanglian

From Hong Kong Dongfang Ribao 东方日报 website date February 2, 2020

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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