Chinese Medicine: Ying, Yang and the Chinese doctor

My throat was closing up on me. After four days of waiting for the pain to go away, and preparing to embark on a one week journey through remote villages in China, I decided it was time to find a translator and visit a Chinese doctor. At the casual mention of this to an English speaking travel guide, and before even finishing my sentence, he was out of his chair saying "let's go!" Nigel and I glanced at eachother wondering if he did this often.

Our suspicions were confirmed later in the taxi -- he told us (with a certain element of pride) that he had been to the hospital with foreigners three times this week alone and knew the procedure well. He led us to the front desk and negotiated the deal. We paid the hospital fee of 2 yuan (US $.25). I had heard that Chinese doctors were cheap, but this was unimaginable. I assumed this was the waiting room fee or entrance fee. Surely an exit fee would follow.

With doctor assignment slip in hand, we headed upstairs to the ear-nose-throat department and took a seat. This was a communal patient room so other patients were sitting around, smoking and peering intently at whomever was being examined. The smoking didn't put me off so much as the jar full of soaking cigarette butts on the doctor's desk.

After a few, quick minutes it was my turn. The ear-nose-throat doctor pulled out a wooden stick and several other metal tools from the dirty brown disinfectant alcohol. He wrapped my tongue in gauze, pulled it out, peered down my throat and exclaimed, "I can see it perfectly and it is nothing." I considered his illogical statement and smiled nervously, trying to keep my lips from quivering.

"You should stop worrying so much," he said sternly. "You are causing your yin yang to be unbalanced and make your throat very hot. It is nothing. A small infection." I couldn't help but compare his stern advice to the sensitive and much more sterile approach of my own doctor in Sedona. The translator emphasized the importance of yin yang to my health, and to the Chinese in general. In short, this is the philosophy of natural balance of the hot male and cold female energy forces in your body. The idea is deeply rooted in Chinese society and extends to all aspects of life: health, architecture, relationships.

So the doctor instructed me to relax, balance my yin yang with as little 'thinking about it as possible' (err .... pink elephants) and take Chinese antibiotics, minty smelling pills packed with herbs and perhaps a few scientifically proven ingredients. 'Take orally, three times a day, once two capsules'. The translator translated the English into English for me.

We exited the hospital and I felt a certain sense of accomplishment, coupled with hope that the Chinese medicine would solve my problems. I reminded myself that it requires patience, balance, and above all belief. Now I'm on the fourth day of the drugs and notice little improvement but perhaps that is my worrying mind causing trouble again. I will continue to wait and believe, and wonder if I got what I paid for -- all that advice really was only $.25.




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