Desperate Father Teaches Himself TCM to Treat Dying Daughter


From NetEase:

Girl Unable to Afford Surgery, Father Teaches Himself Compendium of Materia Medica to Treat Daughter With Fumes

2014 November 25th, Yunnan province Wenshan county. With a saw, some wood, a copy of the Compendium of Materia Medica, and a pile of herbal medicine picked from the mountains, a group of photos were posted online this morning of a father, Wei Shufu, using such simple tools to build in his home an outdoor herbal medicine bed, using fumes from burning herbal medicine to treat his 6-year-old daughter afflicted with β-thalassemias (major). Despite not knowing whether or not this treatment method introduced to him by a kind-hearted hospital patient actually has any effect, but in the face of being unable to pay the hospital the 300,000 yuan required for a bone marrow transplant, Wei Shufu nonetheless wanted to give it a try, hoping for his daughter to recover as quickly as possible, so she can go to school like other normal children.


At 34 years old this year, Wei Shufu is a villager of the Yunnan Wenshan Zhuang and Miao autonomous prefecture. Husband and wife are both farmers and together with their children’s paternal grandparents, they live as a family of six in a brick and wooden house no larger than 60 square meters. In 2013 October, his daughter Wei Jinqiu’s skin suddenly completely went pale, lost appetite, and fell into a poor psychological state. During a health examination, it was discovered that his daughter suffered from anemia, and laboratory tests showed that her illness was extremely serious. The hospital diagnosed her with beta-thalassemia major.


In November, Wei Shufu and his wife took the several tens of thousands of yuan borrowed from relatives and friends to take their daughter to Guangzhou and were told by doctors that she would need a bone marrow transplant requiring a deposit of 300,000 yuan. If the bone marrow transplant is not done, then she will need blood transfusions all her life, with annual blood transfusion expenses being roughly 50,000-60,000 [RMB].


For a peasant household that makes less than 4000 yuan a year, 300,000 [RMB] for surgery is an astronomical sum. Wei Shufu says he’s willing to spend the entire family’s savings or even die if it could save his daughter’s life. Now, his 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter have been confirmed to be a match, but for the hospital to do the surgery, they have to wait in line for five years until it is their turn. Under the doctor’s advisement, Wei Shufu also checked with various major hospital, but they too would have to wait a long time at each before the surgery could be performed. Left without a choice, the couple could only bring their daughter back home. Wei Shufu knows too that bringing their daughter back home simply means waiting for death.


Over the past few days, Wei Shufu suddenly remembered an idea given to him by a patient they had met in the hospital — fume therapy, where some illnesses can be treated with the fumes released by burning herbal medicines.


Wei Shufu purchased a copy of the Compendium of Materia Medica, and searched for herbal medicine that could be burned. Apart from mugwort, there are many other herbs that can be burned for their fumes as medicine. More importantly, for someone like Wei Shufu who lives in a mountain village, these herbs are very commonly seen and extremely easy to find. For safety, Wei Shufu build a herbal medicine bed in an open space, with the intent of having his daughter lie on it while burning herbal medicine below her so the fumes rise up to his daughter.


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Wei Shufu had his daughter lie on the herbal bed and then he lit the mix of herbs and dry firewood beneath her. Very quickly, the thick smoke emitted from the herbs enveloped his daughter lying on the bed. His daughter choked a bit on the smoke but Wei Shufu said it wasn’t too bad, even joking that the smell of the herbal medicine smoke was different from that of ordinary firewood, and smelled a little fragrant.


With regards to treating his daughter with this sort of burning of herbal medicine, he himself says he doesn’t know if there is any actual efficacy, but he’s still willing to try, in hopes of saving his daughter, so that she can be healthy again as soon as possible, and be able to go to school like all the other normal kids.



Comments from NetEase (1 & 2):

wxx7311 [网易天津市网友]:

Tears fell from my eyes. If it were me, I’d always be waiting for death.

解放后给你们自由民主尊严 [网易吉林省长春市网友]:

Zhao Baige, have you died yet??

[Note: Zhao Baige was the vice chairwoman of the Chinese Red Cross Society who vowed to rehabilitate the organization’s public reputation after the Guo Meimei controversy, previously mentioned in these translations.]

年华暗换 [网易江西省赣州市网友]: (responding to above)

She’s dead, but even if others take her place, it [Chinese Red Cross] will be the same. [Or “Even if she died and someone else took her place…”]

淡水鱼莫笑海水鱼 [网易广东省深圳市网友]:

Red Cross Society

芙小小4世 [网易四川省泸州市网友]:

Black Cross Society nowhere to be seen.

[Note: “Black” is used here to remark about the corrupt or unconscionable failure of the Chinese Red Cross Society as an organization intended to help those in need, and whom these netizens regard as the organization that should be addressing such cases as this.]

昔拉xila [网易河南省郑州市网友]:

Just who has been provided for by Social Maintenance Fees?

[Note: The Social Maintenance Fee is a fee/fine paid for having more children than legally allowed, intended to compensate for increased social infrastructure costs associated with overpopulation.]

Can we understand it as having to pay a fee first before being allowed to be born in this country? So odd.

送子和尚 [网易河南省郑州市网友]:

A certain company built a huge hundred million ton ship with a magnificent exterior, named “孟国忠号”. The ship was very large. Its horn when blown could be heard throughout of all Asia, its steam whistle when pulled sounded in both the East and Western hemispheres. Is that larger or what?!
Then, when 1.4 billion passengers waited two years without seeing the ship move half an step, they went to ask the ship’s captain.
The ships captain tilted his head, shrugged his shoulders, and spread his hands, saying:
“Sorry, I’m really sorry, all of the ship’s power has been used on the ship’s horn and steam whistle…”

我是松果 [网易江苏省苏州市网友]: 2014-11-25 17:34:04 发表

Where’s the Red Cross???

一枪毙了他可好 [懂车帝]:

In our China today, the government and people are doing well. In the midst of rapid development, after encountering various developmental bottlenecks, we will definitely find a path for development [future] suitable for ourselves, and this sort of perplexing current situation is also just temporary. Through time and social survival of the fittest, the future China will definitely be a civilized, rich and powerful, and modern country. To this end, we must believe firmly that our homeland’s future will be even better.

梧桐花飘 [网易广东省深圳市宝安区网友]:

After this child grows up, she won’t thank the country [state, government], nor will she be brainwashed! Because it is paternal love like a mountain that is the most important wealth [one can have]! In the face of such a cruel social welfare system and healthcare system, not a single one of us can ask her to love her own country, because the country has sought to care about her.

山东经贸学院院长 [网易上海市网友]:

Seeing this, Li Shizhen [the author of the Compendium of Materia Medica] too would silently cry.

忍无可忍的良民 [网易福建省漳州市网友]:

Where’s the Red Cross?

何立言 [网易福建省网友]:

A heartbreaking piece of news. At this very moment, I am filled with an indescribable grief. We used to have confidence in this country, people, society, but in the face of a family’s hardships, other than being extremely moved, what else can we do?

九格牙陆 [网易广西南宁市武鸣县网友]:

If it is a good piece of wood, the government will quickly come.

网易韩国网友 ip:112.165.*.*

Help this child. As a father, my eyes are already moist.

Summerwoter [网易广东省东莞市网友]:

I love my country, but my country doesn’t love me!
300,000 to save a life, and 400 billion in crash spending!
A joke, a joke that costs lives.

广州叶师傅 [网易广东省广州市网友]:

There’s hope!

faceljh [网易云南省昆明市网友]:

When one has medical insurance, one’s heart doesn’t tremble [fear].

秤砣下的瓜农 [网易河南省商丘市网友]:

Medical insurance.

Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

  • 300 000 rmb = around 50 grand

    If we can find 50 000 people who sympathize and have each one of them donate a single dollar, we can save this girl’s life
    or the local village cadre could quit maotai for a week

    • Alex Dương

      Someone’s been taking a page out of Wikipedia’s donation tactics, I see.

      • Xia

        We should create a page like Kickstarter, where people like this little girl may tell their stories and ask for donations to save their life. Would be more meaningful than many joke projects that are currently circulated on crowd funding sites. And this would go around intermediary organizations that would only cash on charity.

        • terroir

          Yes. Because there aren’t enough people who would try to take advantage of other people’s charity, which coincidentally are the other type of story you read here.

          • Guang Xiang

            And this is why we can’t have nice things

        • Dolph Grunt

          I’m with you on this. If you have any knowledge on how to do this, I’d be happy to help and donate.

          I agree China (and many countries, for that matter) need better health care systems, but waiting for that isn’t going to help this child.

          • David

            If anyone could find a reliable way to donate, I would be glad to contribute.

    • Rick in China

      Naive. There are hundreds of thousands or millions of people suffering dying children – unable to pay the medical expenses required to save them..even though the technologies and knowledge exists to do so, all over the world. The solution doesn’t revolve around donating money to help individual cases that make the media – but by improving healthcare systems globally and decreasing medical costs through political reform, governing profiteering in the medical care business..and by improving/decreasing the costs and time involved in medical solutions themselves – as well as key initiatives like preventative care for many preventable illnesses leading families into the same circumstances.

      • Probotector

        Agreed, but the response (and not just in China) will be “sorry, but there’s profit to be made”.

      • Paul Schoe

        Rick, I whole hearthy agree with you (and as such upvoted), but a society becomes a caring society by what people do for the people around them.

        Many people use the ‘naive’ argument only as an excuse not to do anything at all (this is NOT pointed at you, just a general observation), while Our Sexy Cousin Rex says that in addition to policies, there is also a personal touch. The touch that we take care of those around us.

        It is what we ourselves do, for our neighbours, that changes a society into a caring society. So I applaud her comment and hope that she can match it with action.

        • Rick in China

          That’s true. That’s why we need to support organisations like UNICEF, who work to influence governments and societies on whole as well as fund root-cause altering activities where they’re needed to make positive changes for children’s welfare and health, not just throw petty cash at problems as a way to cleanse ourselves of guilt and add a “I’m a good person” vibe. I just came back from Beijing and am proud to have learned a lot about their inner structure, and it’s more positive than I thought – although it also seems like a huge and constant struggle. I by no means was implying not to do anything, or that it’s a hopeless cause, I was implying that a little bit of energy can be better used elsewhere – on a grander scale – although I am also not saying that it’s not noble or worthwhile to donate to individuals as well…..that’s wonderful of course, just it’s also important to realize it’s not really solving _the_ problem, only 1 instance of millions.

          • Ryo Saeba

            “not just throw petty cash at problems as a way to cleanse ourselves of guilt and add a “I’m a good person.”

            Took the words right out of my mouth. It’s easy to give a dollar and think “I did my good deed for the day!” NO! You only made it worse!

            There are now organized panhandlers all over China. If people wouldn’t give money, but instead offer to buy them a pork bun or whatever food nearby, then you can easily weed out the fakes from the real. Oh but of course, taking them to actually buy food is a lot more work then just handing them a few bucks.

      • Evan

        Not being able to save all the kids is a rotten reason to not save the ones you can. you’re the naive one if you think pontificating about government policy in other countries has some kind of positive effect on these problems.

      • Karze

        You are not aware that officials and powerful Chinese business people live on the misery of poor people in China through nepotism, rampant corruption and Western corporates nexus with Chinese business and officials.

      • x1sfg

        That’s naive. Thinking political reform and regulation decreases costs AND improves the quality of care. Good one.

    • Kai

      Maybe not a week. I thought Maotai prices have plummeted with the corruption crackdown, since their highs like two years ago? Shrug.

      But hold that thought on crowdsourced funding…

    • Raymond

      There are countless people in this world who are waiting to die because they can’t afford medical care and she is just one. Would you save her and not the others? How much are you willing to shell out to save them all? The solution would be a socialist society like that of Denmark where they are taxed 60% of their income. On the other hand they get excellent and free medical care. That would be equivalent to 50,000 people willing to donate to save her. It’s ideal and easy to think that if everyone just paid a dollar, she could be saved, but for that to be an effective method to save all those who can’t afford to, you would need a socialist government.

    • Jahar

      why not find 2 people who can be saved with 25k each? or 5 for 10k each? or 5000 or so kids who are gonna die from shit that can be treated for $10?

    • Dr Sun

      “or the local village cadre could quit maotai for a week”

      first sensible thing you have ever posted

  • Irvin

    Now he’s gonna give his daughter cancer in addition to the illness she have, at least she’ll die high from all them herb she’s smoking.

    • Poodle Tooth

      Bone marrow transplant…she probably already has cancer.

    • Xia

      She probably has leukemia.

    • Jahar

      isn’t the cure for that “sugar cane that has survived three frosts”? No problem for any TCM master.

  • Rick in China

    “A certain company built a huge hundred million ton ship with a magnificent exterior, named “孟国忠号”.”

    This guy…. AWESOME COMMENT.

    • RickyBeijing

      Yeah, I liked that one too. Not often we get a Chinese commenter with such a broad view who doesn’t simply blurt patriotism whenever someone farts.

      • Alex Dương

        They’re more common than you think.

      • sk8erry

        I can tell you are starting to get their jokes, but this is one of the shallow ones. Their “patriotism”, if not from a 50 center, is sarcasm in most cases. If you could understand that, you’ll find so much fun in NetEase comments

  • Kai
  • MuDelphi

    when I read the headline and it was about TCM, I was ready to zoom into the comments with a negative comment, but this is a terribly sad story.

    “With regards to treating his daughter with this sort of burning of herbal medicine, he himself says he doesn’t know if there is any actual efficacy”

    He’d do anything to help her, even if its something he knows might not be effective. The medical system is a failure.

  • Hope Springs Eternal…
    I hope this little girl will beat this, whether it is due to a placebo effect or some treatment.
    I applaud his tenacity to explore all options.

  • It looks like he built a Funeral Pyre…

  • xoxoxo

    Since China is a communist country, shouldn’t health care be free?

    • Charles

      China isn’t communist.

    • SuperLaowai

      China has never been communist, it was socialist at the very beginning of Mao’s rule then became some sort of authoritarian dystopia. Communism is supposedly the final stage of socialism, when after hard work and collectivization of everything the people can finally enjoy a thousand years of properity under the watchful and caring eye of their leaders. The excuse of communists about not everything being free is often “it will be free after the final victory of socialism, when we will become a communist utopia”, if you ask “when will this happen?” the answer is “we don’t know”.

      • Probotector

        You really characterise China as a dystopia?

      • Karze

        From 1950-1976 China was communist to the letter under Mao.

  • biggj

    You don’t own a dragon?

    • If I May

      I have no clue what those things are, but let me guess… Dragon eggs? Musical instrument?

      • terroir

        Where are my dragons? WHeeeeere?

        • Irvin


          • terroir

            I didn’t make the reference to which a fictional queen sends off her deceased husband in a funeral pyre in which she murders a gypsy woman while sacrificing herself (SPOILER ALERT).

            I was referencing the lameness of Season 3, or whenever it was when Dany wasn’t badass.

          • Irvin

            I quite enjoy her journey to badassery but I reckon they gonna kill her off in the next season/book.

        • TheInconvenientRuth

          I got one in 广州 last week. They said it was the last living 蛟龙 in China. It tasted like chewy chicken but went down easily enough with some 辣椒酱 and a beer.

          • Surfeit

            Do you live in GZ or was it a visit?

          • TheInconvenientRuth

            just there to work for a few days

          • Surfeit

            Aww, I love that city.

      • Kai

        Heh, yeah, dragon eggs. There’s a scene involving Dany, her dragon eggs, and a funeral pyre in the Game of Thrones/ASOIAF series, which is what I thought of seeing the photos in this story.

        • If I May

          Got it. Thanks for the scoop, Kai.

  • Amused

    Well I hate to belabor the obvious, but anyone can tell just by looking at this man’s face, that if he becomes a witchdoctor China is going to lose a quality rocket scientist. Sad about the kid tho.

  • lonetrey / Dan

    A child with this situation.

    I feel cold and sad.

  • Bluex

    If only she was born in Cuba, then the story would be less tragic. But again, unfortunately China have no plans of reforming its sad healthcare system at all.

  • post.human

    At least his daughter knows he cares.

    • Surfeit


  • monster

    so sad!
    bad gene should be over any way.
    or just live as burden of family, cancer of society.

    • monster

      i do not wanna be mean.
      but i know a guy, his wife’s mother died of cancer, his wife died also same reason, he worked so hard for her wife, and who knows if his two sons will get the same cancer or not. what a sad real story. if his wife died early, at least would not ruin other’s life.
      i also know a girl, she got women cancer already, so she wants to find a man marry for kid or she wont have chance to make baby.but she wants to hide her disease, i can not agree her idea, so we can not be friends any more.i told her, you can just find a man for kid, better not marry,even so, she hates me so much, fuck it!

      • Sam

        Why don’t you go ask those two sons if they’d rather be dead.

        This is a very, very stupid line of thinking. I also think it’s exceptionally evil too, the Nazi’s had the same idea and actually acted it out by sending many physically and mentally ill people to death camps.

        • monster

          i wish them die early before they can make kids.
          ok, evil enough!

          • monster

            also i agree with nazi that send mentally ill people to death.

          • mr.wiener

            You might think differently if you were one of the mentally ill people. Gay people use to be thought of as “mentally ill” …where do you draw the line with eugenics. It is a very slippey slope.

          • Surfeit

            We can’t kill the gays. They’ve done too much good work with music and fashion. I couldn’t bare a world without them.

          • Zappa Frank


          • Dr Sun

            sounds like it

  • Jahar

    couldn’t the headline just as easily be, “Unable to afford treatment for sick child, father tries to learn magic”? I think it’s a little more catchy.

  • Sam

    I’m shocked that it only costs 50k USD for a bone marrow transplant. I wonder if they even have a donor though? It requires a very precise DNA match, sometimes even siblings cannot donate to each other. The US has a huge non-profit that takes DNA samples from donors, then gets ahold of them if they’re ever needed.. they also pay for the expenses of the donor and recipient.

    For anyone in the US, I’d urge you to sign up to be a potential donor of blood or bone marrow. If you were needed to donate marrow, the surgery is very simple and is done with a quarter inch cut on your pelvis and a needle. Signing up with the registry is particularly needed from those who are in diverse ethnic backgrounds (even diverse white backgrounds, but especially from other races). They run events in most parts of the US all the time but you can also sign up online.

  • Sam

    In a larger sense this is one of those enormous hurdles that people overlook in China’s rise and their future. To truly become an advanced nation, they need to at least have health care for life threatening illnesses for all people and really should have regular health care for every child. These types of social benefits will put a HUGE strain on the Chinese economy. They’re also going to become a very old nation in about 40 years, it will be interesting to see how they deal with it all.

    Myself, I can’t envision how China is going to create a real middle class with the amount of people they have, let alone with advanced-economy social benefits, even in our great grandchildren’s lifetime.

  • terroir

    Want to get your word out to the Chinese? Want to get China to be on your side (for once)? Don’t use reason, logic or facts–appeal to a sense of theatricality that trumps any other vehicle of expression.

    Reading the facts about this story is sad on its own, but it will never be a hot story on the internet without fulfilling the need for theater. While this can be accepted as the hypetrain in the west, what with its use of headlines with exacerbating adjectives and coming off like personal commendations, the China theater way makes the media complicit in how insidious the manipulation is.

    Into which we breach this story: not only does this guy not know TCM, but he’s going to perform it in the most spectacular way possible that is regarded as bizarre by Chinese standards. But we don’t notice since the vehicle of grief and tragedy has already been delivered.

    It’s sad. It’s tragic. It may even be completely true, right to a word. But with Chinese news, we’re going to be delivered stories (of whatever truth) through these velvet curtains.

    EDIT: Latest news is that this has worked. An operation is slated for next month.

    • mr.wiener

      Coolness! Thanks for the update.

      • terroir

        No worries. I’m also cool with people not accepting my comments as the infallible truth, but as the opinion of some anonymous guy on the internet.

  • FYIADragoon

    As soon as I saw TCM I knew she was DOA, but damn if the father isn’t an admirable man for trying anything he has within his hands to save her. Its amazing how they have a worse funded social security net than the US when it pays so little to the people in need.

    • 42

      Social security net in the U.S. is about the same. Not since Obamacare it aint. A lot of americans don’t even buy health insurence because it is too damn expensive. Some health insurence companies wont even cover you when you have pre existing medical conditions, like inheritance heart diseases or cancer. Hell, some american won’t even let their children have preventative medical injections because it’s against their christian believes. So not all brightness and sushine in the States aswell….

  • Foreign Devil

    In contrast. . there is a headline case in Canada where doctors and child advocates took some First Nations parents to court to try and force them to give their daughter chemo (free treatment in Canada). The parents wanted to try traditional or alternative medicine first and chemo as very last resort. The Dr’s argued that would be a death sentence for the kid. The parents did win the case though popular opinion supports the docters. Then in China nobody gives a shit about the kids fate one way or the other. Too many people = not enough compassion to go around.

    • Sam

      Well, you have to keep in mind, that if the GDP per capita of people in China were the same as the GDP per capita in Canada, they’d have a GDP of about 35 trillion instead of 9 trillion. There’s much less money to go around

      This is one of the things that China will struggle with in becoming an advanced nation. If/when China does surpass the US in GDP to become a bigger economy, which would mean they need like twice the GDP, they still have about four times as many people and not just that but their economy is based off of essentially slave labor and a property/construction bubble that’s happened with all the money that’s come in from all the slave labor they have…. and that bubble is cooling right now. I think China’s biggest export right now is shoes and a lot of those are being produced for foreign companies meaning many tax dollars and profit are still going overseas. The US and Canada, and other Western nations, are also much better off in this regard because we have more diverse economies and are centers of innovation.

      Anyway, it’s a complicated situation. From the comments above I think it’s not just that the Chinese don’t care or don’t find the situation sad, but where would the money for social welfare programs come from? And how is China’s political system going to evolve around growing demand for these programs and other things like better working conditions and pay for basic labor? These are going to be the questions of the century for China.

      • Foreign Devil

        They managed to figure it out in Cuba. Cubans only earn a small stipend and are much less materially wealthy than Chinese are. Yet they have free education and healthcare. Also they are economically crippled from ridiculous and longstanding economic sanctions from USA and friends.

        • Alex Dương
        • Sam

          Post-USSR, things have been different for Cuba. Let’s see where they are at in 50 years when Russian built/subsidized/trained hospitals, medical universities and doctors aren’t a factor anymore. Cuba used to be a medical Mecca for Russia, they poured a ton of money into their health care system and did research there and had doctors trained there, they even used to send their leaders for treatment in Cuba.

          20 years ago Cuba had well over 200 doctors per 100k people, now it’s about 50 doctors per 100k. The resources, human and otherwise, have been dwindling down since the collapse of the USSR. In many ways it’s mirrored North Korea, they even had a couple bad famine like North Korea after they were left on their own (although they do get foreign aid). And they also live in a more Lenin/Marx communist system where there’s not really more money to make in other industries or careers because the state controls everything unlike China, which has opened up. Like I said earlier, it’s one of the problems China is going to face because their society, economy and civil/human rights are only going to get better…. and those growing expectations of their citizens are just going to cost them more and more money. Cuba on the other hand has decided to remain waaaaaaay more centrally controlled.

        • 42

          Cuba is a (real) communist country. China is a capitalist (socialist) country, thats the difference.

  • Evan

    why not provide a link to make donations for this girl to travel to an available hospital and have the surgery?

  • David

    Best comment:
    A certain company built a huge hundred million ton ship with a
    magnificent exterior, named “孟国忠号”. The ship was very large. Its horn
    when blown could be heard throughout of all Asia, its steam whistle when
    pulled sounded in both the East and Western hemispheres. Is that larger
    or what?!

    Then, when 1.4 billion passengers waited two years without seeing the
    ship move half an step, they went to ask the ship’s captain.

    The ships captain tilted his head, shrugged his shoulders, and spread his hands, saying:

    “Sorry, I’m really sorry, all of the ship’s power has been used on the ship’s horn and steam whistle…”

  • 42

    Maybe he will cure her, you never know, we need a follow up on this story and a petition to raise funds to help her.

  • Karze

    China dream?