Sunday, December 27, 2009


Q: I wanted to make up some Indigo ointment to use for my few patches of psoriasis, but I have been unable to find a recipe. Do you have such a recipe or sell a book which gives a recipe? Do you sell a ready-made ointment into which I could put the indigo, and how much would I stir in? Thanks. ----S.F.
A: Indigo can be mixed with shampoo or skin creams. Please see this link at for more information.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chinese Pears for Cough

If you have ever read about using Chinese pears and sugar for coughs but don't know how to prepare it you've come to the right place.
First you need Chinese pears which you may find at a Chinese market or perhaps at your local grocer.
1). Imagine that you are going to make a little hat for the pear and cut the top off about 1/2 - 3/4 inch below the stem.
2). Remove the seeds by hollowing out the pear.
3). Fill with honey.
4). Put the top of the pear back on.
5). Put the pear in a bowl and fill about halfway up with water.
6). You will cook the pear in a double boiler, so put the bowl in another pan of water and heat the outer pan.
7). Turn the heat on low so that the water outside the bowl is warm and steamy.
8). Put a lid on it and cook for 60-90 minutes
9). Eat the pear.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dit da jou or dit da chiu?

Q: Where can I get dit da jou or dit da chiu? Are these good for arthritis pain in the knee?

A: Dit ja jou or dit da chiu are different spellings of "dit da jow". Basicallythe name translates as "injury medicine" or "hit medicine". Here are several links to products in that are considered Dit Da Jow's.
While the formulas are generally used for a recent injury, many do help give relief for chronic pain like arthritis.


Iron Hand Liniment

Zheng gu shui

Five Photo's

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tai Chi Demo

For our speaking class final exam Zhao Laoshi had us talk on a subject. Ten minutes before our exam we were given our topic. I drew sports. One of the questions we were to address in our topic was "What is your favorite sport?" so in the course of my final I told Zhao Laoshi that tai chi was my favorite sport and that I had practiced it for over 30 years.
At class the next day Zhao Laoshi started talking about the exam and how everyone did. I didn't realize it at the time of the test but she was taking notes on what everyone said. When she mentioned my exam she told the class I practiced tai chi and asked me to come to the front of the room to demonstrate.
I didn't realize it at the time but fellow student Xiang Siow made a video. He recently posted it on youtube. Click the link if you would like to see it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

China's National Performing Arts Center

One evening Wang Leyan and Wu Ceng bought tickets for all of us so that we could attend a muscial performance at the National Performing Arts Center. The music was excellent (violins, Cello, piano) and we really enjoyed the performance. The building was also amazing. Later we went back to take pictures of it.

This is a view from the front. The walkway and water that you see in the picture is actually part of the roof over the entrance. The entryway is behind and below from where I stood to take this picture. Once inside, the pool of water (seen in the foreground here) becomes part of a transparent ceiling. You look up and have flowing patterns of water above you. It's quite an amazing building. Ultramodern and with excellent acoustics. I wish I was better at describing it. They also jam cellphone reception in the building which ensures that some thoughtless person doesn't disturb the performance.

May I have your picture?

Often when we travel people who don't encounter westerners very often like to have their picture taken with us. Hannah is especially in demand since she has light hair and fair skin. On this day at the Temple of Heaven I was taking a picture of Hannah when a Chinese girl moved in very close to her and Hannah looked over to see what was going on. Either they just happened to be in the same place at the same time or the Chinese girl may have wanted a picture with her and stepped in close to get it. Anyway, we laughed about it and ended up sharing some nice pictures with her!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dragon Boats

Our first weekend in China was spent sightseeing. Close to the university is Yi He Yuan or The Summer Palace. There's a big lake and lots of interesting things to see. It is a very nice place to go to.

Here's a picture of some boats on the lake and the dragons on the front of the boats.

Shi Mao Tian Jie. The largest outdoor video screen

At Shi Mao Tian Jie, (in English, known as "The Place"), there is a huge courtyard between some large office buildings. In the center is a huge video screen. Do you remember watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and they rolled out the large video screen on the floor? This is very similar to that only it is suspended in the air and you look up to see it. My guess is that it is at least the length of a football field, maybe even longer. It is like a park underneath and people eat, have drinks or children rollerblade and play. When we arrived they had a listing of people's cell phone messages on the screen. Apparently you could call in and have them posted. After that there was a show about the solar system that was pretty amazing. Hannah said it was ironic that we'd sit outside on the ground and look at a video screen to see the stars.
The picture to right is from the front as you walki in off the street. The screen curves upward.
Video below is taken approximately from the second of the last two sections seen in the picture.

Dog Fashions

While we were at a large market we saw a man walking this lttle dog. I ran after him to get a picture and snapped this just before he picked him up and disappeared into the crowd.

The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

We visited the Olympic Park and saw The Bird's Nest stadium and Water Cube. The visibility that day wasn't very good as you can see from the pictures.

Simatai Chang Cheng (Great Wall)

My friends, Wang Leyan and Wu Ceng, escorted us to Simatai Chang Cheng (Great Wall). Of the three sections of the Great Wall you can see in the Beijing area, Simaitai is, in my opinion, the most spectacular. With the help of Leyan, I hired a car and driver and off we went for the day. The weather was cooler and slightly rainy that day which was ideal since the previous week had been very hot and humid. Simatai is on a mountain ridge and the general feeling, when you are at the top, is that you are in an airplane with the valley far below. After our hike we had a nice lunch and drove back to Beijing.
-Having Leyan and Ceng as friends in Beijing made the trip extra special. Leyan met Hannah and I at the airport when we arrived and helped us get settled in at the University and they took us to restaurants and places that we never would have know of ourselves. Their help was very much appreciated.
Top Left: Wang Leyan and Wu Ceng
Top Right: Picture of the Great Wall from inside a tower.
Note: The main picture on The Riverlands blog (at the top of the page) is from Simatai when I first went there 11 years ago with another friend, Dong Qiang. Tourists are not allowed to walk that section any more as it is too narrow and dangerous.

Temple of Heaven Musicians

Here's a video of some musicians playing classical instruments. As with the singers they are just another group of people who get together and have fun.

Temple of Heaven: singing

Here's a short video of some singers at the Temple of Heaven Park

Tian Tan: The Temple of Heaven

One of our first weekend excursions was to the Temple of Heaven (Tain Tan). The Temple is amazingly beautiful but also a lot of the fun was going through the side entrance and seeing people enjoying their weekend by dancing, singing, and playing musiic.

Top right: A lady playing with a ribbon in the park.

Top leftt: Man writing calligraphy with water and a giant brush on the sidewalk near East Entrance to Temple of Heaven Park.
Bottom: The Temple of Heaven (and lots of tourists)

The Bird's Nest and Water Cube

One of my classmates told me Beijing is a architect's dream. They can design and build world class projects in relatively short periods of time as compared to other countries. The Olympic stadium and Water Cube are two examples. The day we went there the air quality was poor and it was very hot but it was very interesting actually be there.

Our Dorm

Here's a picture of our dorm. There's 10 stories. We were on the fourth floor and walked up the stairs 3-4 times a day. It was good exercise- and we needed to exercise to prepare for going to the Great Wall. Occassionally we were lazy and took the elevator.

BLCU Classes

We took an intensive class in Chinese language. Hannah was a beginner in Level A3. I started in a "C" level class but dropped to "B4" level the first day because it was too difficult for me. Two days later I dropped from B4 and ended up in B3 level which was just right. Class levels range from A-F and there are intermediate and advanced classes within those levels. We spent 30 hours a week in class and probably another 4-5 hours a day studying and preparing for the next day. We both learned more than 300 new words in Chinese (Average 25 new words a day. Many days we had to learn much more).

This was my second time at BLCU. Almost ten years to the day I was in the beginning level class there. It was fun to go back and see how the University has grown.

Top: Hannah at the entrance to our building, The College of Intensive Chinese Studies. (Making a "V" sign is very popular there when taking pictures. We have fun adopting that pose.)

Top left: My class. Zhao Laoshi (teacher) (blue shirt) is just right of me and Jiang Laoshi (teacher) (white & blue dress), our grammar instructor, is next to her. Both were excellent teachers. We also had two other teachers for listening and conversation classes. Students came from many countries including Sweden, England, Iran, Russia, Japan, Spain, South Korea, and Malaysia to mention a few.

Bottom: Speaking teacher Zhao Laoshi and student. She was very nice and very patient with us as we stumbled over the words and pronunciation in text we had to read outloud. The blackboard in the background is typical of our class work. Zhao Laoshi never spoke English and it was very rare for the other teachers to speak in English also.

China Studies

Yesterday, Hannah and I left Beijing at 12 noon, flew 11 hours, then arrived in San Francisco at 8:30 am the same day. We saw the sun rise and set twice this day. I had to wait at the San Francisco airport until 5:00pm until my plane left on my final leg to Redding.
It is now Sunday, 2:00am and I'm wide awake. There's a 15 hour time difference from Beijing and my body says I should be up - so I am.
What follows are some pictures and video clips from our Language Study trip at Beijing Language and Culture University.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

China 2009

On Wednesday, my daughter Hannah and I will fly to China. We have enrolled in Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) for a one month intensive in Chinese language taking place in the month of August. Classes are five days a week, six hours a day. We are looking forward to living in Beijing as residents instead of as tourists.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Q: I am trying to find the formula Jianpiling which I read about online. The article is entitled " THE USE OF JIANPILING IN TREATING ULCERATIVE COLITIS"
by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon.
Can you help me find it?

A: I don't know when this article was written but the most recent reference in the bibliography is 12 years old (1997).

If you go to the Institute for Traditional Medicine website they say:
"The articles on the ITM website are reviews of literature and not descriptions of work done at ITM; that literature may include traditional Chinese medical reports as well as modern medical reports...."
"The claimed results in Chinese medical journals are often attained through treatment strategies that are unacceptable or impractical here..."

It is my understanding that Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, ITM, has no formal training in Chinese medicine. His PH.D. is in biology. He is not licensed to practice medicine and is primarily a researcher.
His bio on the website reads "Subhuti Dharmananda received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of California in 1980. He traveled to China several times, the first visit in 1977 and most recent in 2001, and has collected a large library of books and journals involved with traditional medicine."
Smart man with an interest in Chinese medicine, yes. A doctor, no.

So, the point is that many authors like to get people excited about something that is next to impossible to obtain and as I mentioned before, the information is very old.
The article does not give dosage for the herbs, only vague reference to the amounts of each one. It's possible that the herbs could be mixed up for you but you would have to boil them and drink as a tea. I think that's the best you will be able to do and the results the same as in the article.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mystery Herb

Q: Can you identify this herb?

A: This herb is not commonly used and probably not found in most references on Chinese medicine. The herb is Tian Xian Zi or Hyoscyamus niger, or henbane (Stinking Nightshade) and is toxic. I do not believe it is commonly available and even if it was I would not recommend using it.

For more information, see this Wikipedia article:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Natural Compounds Alleviate Insulin Resistance in Mice

Compounds increase production of an insulin-sensitizing hormone from fat cells

THURSDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Two compounds isolated from herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine increase the production of an insulin-sensitizing hormone from fat cells and improve hyperglycemia, glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in obese mice, according to study findings published in the February issue of Endocrinology.
Aimin Xu, Ph.D., from the University of Hong Kong, and colleagues screened 50 herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine for compounds that enhance adiponectin production by adipocytes.
The investigators identified two structurally related compounds, astragaloside II and isoastragaloside I, from the medicinal herb Radix Astragali. Both compounds increased adiponectin production by adipocytes without affecting other adipokines and had an additive effect on adiponectin production when given with rosiglitazone, an insulin-sensitizing drug, they found. Chronic administration of either drug in obese mice was associated with higher serum adiponectin and improvements in hyperglycemia, glucose tolerance and insulin resistance, the researchers report.
"In conclusion, our results suggest that pharmacological elevation of circulating adiponectin alone is sufficient to ameliorate insulin resistance and diabetes and support the use of adiponectin as a biomarker for future drug discovery," Xu and colleagues write.

Here's a source of Astragali (astragalus):

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tonic wine may pose health risk

From Viet Nam News:

HA NOI — Consumption of medicinal liquor is on the rise as an alternative to home-made wine, despite concerns over the quality and health benefits.
Medicinal liquor, which has origins in traditional Chinese medicine, is believed to treat disease and improve health. The wine is a mixture of alcohol fermented with herbs, including ginseng and jujube. Seahorses, snakes and termites are also used.
Because of the perceived health benefits, many consume more units than the daily limit recommended by doctors.
Vu Quoc Quan, 62, is a dedicated medicinal liquor drinker. He buys his booze from a shop on Ton That Tung Street. Today, he is washing down his lunch with bee wine.
"This wine is good for you and I can drink as much as I want without worrying about being poisoned," he says.
Shop owner Nguyen Thanh Huyen backs him up: "This wine is very tonic. I made it at least five years ago. The ingredients include rare herbs, gecko, deer horn and snake soaked in alcohol. The wine can help cure many diseases and is very cheap, only VND30,000 (US$1.8) – 60,000 ($3.6) per bottle."
She points behind her to six big glass jars full of snake wine, saying this is more expensive, but good for different diseases.
"I choose the ingredients very carefully and make it myself," she says. "The alcohol comes from a well-known distillery in Nam Dinh Province, so there’s nothing to worry about."
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Health, out of the approximately 20,000 distilleries nationwide, only 10 per cent meet quality standards.
The director of Bach Mai Hospital’s Detoxification Centre, Pham Due, says although the number of people suffering alcohol poisoning is small, patients usually arrive in a critical condition.
"The two most recent cases of alcohol poisoning were due to medicinal wine," Due says. "One drank bee wine, the other termite wine. They both recovered."
Nguyen Dang Bao, owner of traditional medicine shop named Bao Thuan Duong on La Thanh Street, says tonic wine usually has a hallucinogenic effect.
"I myself don’t believe tonic wine is good for your health," he says. "Animal organs disintegrate after fermenting for three years. You would be lucky if the wine didn’t make your health worse."
According to traditional medicine practitioner Nguyen Van Duc, from Binh Duong Traditional Medicine Hospital, every animal or insect has different toxins which alcohol can kill but only over a certain length of time.
"In some cases tonic wine has health benefits. However, like any kind of medicine, users must choose the right wine to suit their ailment, or they could risk doing themselves harm," Duc says.
Only knowledgeable wine-makers should sell medicinal liquor, says the head of the Toxic Centre, Due. "It’s difficult to control the quality of medicinal liquor. A wine-maker who has little knowledge of herbs, could mix the wrong combination or make other mistakes in the wine-making process."
Can Tho City’s Market Management Department recently confiscated over 700 litres of medicinal wine produced by Long Giang Company after it was found contaminated with formaldehyde. Herbs and certain animals were also sold without a hygiene certificate. The company were fined VND4 million ($243). — VNS

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Update on the Free China preservation effort

This is an update from Dione Chen who is spearheading the effort to save the Free China.

Thank you for your interest in saving the Free China, a historic Chinese junk that will be lost forever unless preservation efforts succeed.
We appreciate—and need—your support. We'd like to provide you with a brief update on preservation efforts, and let you know about the areas of greatest need. Any assistance will be valuable. Please visit our website for more information.

Emergency Short-Term Preservation Strategy:
With the Dec. 31 deadline for destruction fast-approaching, in mid-December, Chinese Junk Preservation was able to first "buy time" by negotiating to pay for a 3-month extension for continued temporary storage of the junk. The owner will not extend this new deadline, which is fast approaching.
We have developed a pragmatic, emergency preservation strategy to give the junk a chance at survival. The strategy includes these essential steps:
Pay for interim storage of the junk at another location in the San Francisco Bay Area, and transport the junk there (by sea/land), while efforts continue to secure a long-term home for the junk.
Commission a professional survey and documentation of the junk's construction and original and current (altered) condition.
Collect and save the rich array of documentation, photos, news clippings, and film that exist—but need to be preserved as they are currently vulnerable to deterioration.
Support Critical to Saving Junk
Chinese Junk Preservation is a small group of volunteers with a dream of saving this historic vessel. Here are the areas of greatest need:
* Help find a home for the Free China. Do you know of a potential long-term owner and/or home for the Free China? We are seeking a long-term home for the junk where it may have a secure, public life, that is, where the junk will be safe and be exhibited in a way that will generate public awareness and understanding about maritime, Chinese and American history and culture, as well as immigration. A critical short-term need is for an interim home while a long-term home is found and readied. The ideal interim home will be in the San Francisco Bay Area, on land immediately adjacent to the water.
* Volunteer. You can make a difference! Join our crew of supporters today. We are looking for volunteers to assist and/or take a leadership role in the following areas: outreach to prospective supporters, partners and donors, fundraising and grant writing, public relations, historic preservation and boat restoration, nonprofit management, Chinese-English translation and online communications.
* Donate. The Chinese Junk Preservation group operates on a shoestring budget and relies on volunteers. We need to raise $50,000 to implement the emergency short-term strategy that will give the junk a last chance at survival. This money will be dedicated to securing an interim home for the junk, preparing exhibition/educational materials, conducting outreach to current and potential supporters and partners, and obtaining a professional survey of the junk and documentation of its construction and history. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the group via its fiscal sponsor, the Chinese Historical Society of America (, which is the largest and oldest Chinese American historical society in the U.S. Information on how to donate can be found at the group's website We also seek an experienced fundraiser to lead fundraising efforts, and volunteers to assist with outreach.
* Spread the Word: Chinese Junk Preservation welcomes interest and support in this preservation project. The more people who know about the junk, the better our chances of finding a new home, potential sponsor or talented volunteer! Please tell people about this preservation effort. Invite them to visit this website and join our mailing list for future updates. We welcome everyone who would like to be added to our mailing list to send an email stating their interest and contact information to us at: To find out more, help spread the word about efforts, or to make a donation, please visit . Emails may be sent to:

Keep in touch. We value your interest and support in this inspiring preservation project. Please join our mailing list to receive occasional email updates about our progress. To join, please send an email to, including your contact information and a brief note letting us know of your interest. Please be assured, we will not share your email address and you may unsubscribe at any time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

American publisher to issue Chinese Medical Science book by UMAC's professors

University of Macau (UMAC) revealed that Nova Science Publishers, Inc from USA, has recently published “Pharmacological Activity Based Quality Control of Chinese Herbs”, written by Associate Prof. Li Shaoping and Prof. Wang Yitao, from the Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences (ICMS) of UMAC. Following the growing trend of “Getting Back to Nature”, the Chinese herbs have become more and more popular because of its security and effectiveness characteristics. Associate Professor Li and Professor Wang's book was written based on the recent research results of the quality control of Chinese herbs conducted by UMAC, as well as invited experts from the Mainland, Hong Kong and Singapore to write and edit the book. Meanwhile, the concept of “Pharmacological Activity Based Quality Control of Chinese Herbs” not only represents the research direction of the quality control of modern Chinese medicine, but is also conducive to the international expansion of Chinese medicine. Nova Science Publishers, Inc (USA) is one of the most influential publishers of scientific and technical books in the world, and is well-known to publish the newest advancement in scientific areas. It publishes more than 500 types of book and 45 types of academic periodicals every year. The publication of the book has indicated that research on the quality control for Chinese medicine conducted by UMAC is international acknowledged.

For full article see:

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Question: What do you think of Colorpuncture?

Answer: Colorpuncture...Hmmm... I've heard of it but don't know much about it so I looked it up. After reviewing the colorpuncture website, here's what I think:

There's a lot of people who have unusual, non-traditional takes on acupuncture and this is one of them. One of the claims on their website is "Colorpuncture therapy uses precisely targeted light treatments to gently unlock and release emotional trauma and blocked soul information which often underlie our illnesses."
Personally I don't believe that someone can "unlock and release...blocked soul information". In fact, I don't think there is such a thing as "blocked soul information". The key though is can it make you well? A lot of things get better all by themselves so a good test, in my opinion, is getting rid of pain fast. My experience with acupuncture is that if you chose the right point you can have an instant change in the level of pain. I doubt colorpuncture can do this.
If you try it you'll have to tell me if it works but you might be better off going to someone who is good at using acupuncture needles.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Achyranthis "Niu xi" and Achyranthis "Tu niu xi"

Question: What is the difference between Achyranthis "Niu xi" and Achyranthis "Tu niu xi"?

Answer: There seems to be some confusion about this herb but the clearest explanation is found in Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. See link below:

Basically, both herbs invigorate the blood and direct downward but Niu Xi tonifies the Kidneys, strengthens the lumbar area and knees. It does not drain fire or resolve toxicity. Tu niu xi has no ability to tonify deficiency, but does drain fire, resolve toxicity, clear heat toxin and unblock painful urinary dribbling.

As far as the prepared forms of niu xi are concerned, this is something you would do yourself by dry-frying, salt-frying, wine-frying, or charring. See Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica for full information.

You can buy Achyranthis (Niu Xi) at, see: