To be candid, sometimes I’m not 100% if what the Chinese people are telling me is what they think or what they believe. I guess I receive the impression that what the people here do sometimes shows what they believe. Let me explain. I have a very good Chinese friend who has different logic from me on a few issues though he has worked around foreigners for years and has been (somewhat, I guess) influenced by them.
Example 1: If your hands are cold in the winter, eat a lot of meat for one whole winter. Your hands won’t be cold in winter ever again. The proof he has, he explains, is simply his wife.
Example 2: If one has a stomachache, drink some 老酒 (“old wine”). I’m not sure if it’s actual old wine or if that’s just the name the Chinese have for it. My friend again had his wife drink it for a certain amount of days in a row, and she became better. Interesting, freaky, or both?
Example 3: Another foreign teacher was sick last week, and he had tried a couple different kinds of Chinese medicine. They didn’t work. So I provided him with some American medicine, and he thanked me the next day for the immediate effect it had. (I’m just hoping it wasn’t the placebo effect.) Come to find out later, the same Chinese friend said that the Chinese medicine that this foreign teacher tried before wasn’t real. “You need to go to a Chinese doctor, and he will give you real Chinese medicine. You know… the kind that’s stirred in a pot…” To which I responded, “Oh, and where you don’t know what’s in it?” I’ll never forget what he said. “Yes, you just need to take a step of faith and trust it will work.” He was being quite serious though the other teacher and I were chuckling in disbelief about this. Later on, that teacher, my wife and I concluded that Chinese medicine merely takes a while. The thing is we foreigners aren’t very patient, and we’d like to actually know what’s in the medicine.
It’s very possible that I’m having a hard time with this because it could be a form of culture shock. At the same time, I really wonder how someone could honestly believe these things. Where’s the proof? Where are the ingredients? Where’s the research behind this? That happens to be a connected, yet whole other ballgame in our discussions. When it comes to research, my friend thinks Chinese consider it unnecessary in life or teaching. In my mind, it’s what we wait for and pay attention to in order to live better, healthier lives. It is indeed intriguing thinking back on all the various items that doctors and commercials have told us to be aware of. Somehow, I am still here, alive and well. I don’t think I could say the same if I had the horn of a rhino in my meds. Then again, I haven’t had that before so I guess I wouldn’t know what real medicine is like.