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Drinking Urine and Other Bizarre Chinese Medical Remedies

Chinese man gets bee sting as a health care treatment.

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From QQ:

Health Madness/Hysteria

Recently, the media reported that there are individuals in China drinking urine with the claim that it can cure disease, and that there exist nearly 10,000 loyal followers. The head of the “Chinese Urine Treatment Association” claimed that drinking urine can treat many illnesses, and can even help patients regrow lost lung tissue. Looking at the domestic healthcare trends in recent years, miracle treatments, miracle medicines, miracle health therapies, and the like have been commonplace, with various healthcare products promoted under the pretense of being traditional Chinese medicine, resulting in frequent episodes of hysteria. Photo is of 2004 August 8, where 30 middle-aged to elderly individuals gathered at a hotel in Guangzhou and, after discussing the “health benefits of drinking urine” one after another entered the restroom with a cup to fill with their own urine that they then happily drank in front of others.

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A major example of healthcare hysteria can be seen in the appearance of various peculiar therapies, most of them exploiting the name and theories of traditional Chinese medicine and exaggerating claims to attract customers. Diet therapy in traditional Chinese medicine is considered a type of treatment and prevention method, but old wives’ tales and folk remedies have distorted it into “eat something to cure/supplement something.” In 2001, a hotel in Hangzhou held a live ant tasting event, inviting ant farming “experts” to taste-test in front of the guests, claiming that they are rich in protein, good for nourishment and anti-aging.

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Many alternative remedies cannot guarantee their effectiveness, and can even be dangerous, as businesses rely on exaggerated claims to attract the attention of the masses. For example, many health clinics promote “fire treatment” and claim it’s traditional Chinese moxibustion. In 2005, the Ministry of Health and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine issued regulations regarding traditional Chinese tuina, massages, guasha, and cupping practices, but it did not include “fire treatments.”

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”Bee therapy” is a folk remedy that uses the unique medicinal properties of bee stings to “fight poison with poison”. It can effectively treat rheumatism, arthritis, headaches, stomach aches, hyperlipidemia, hyperglycemia and other ailments. Yet the state has yet to approve “bee therapy” as a traditional Chinese medical treatment. Experts claim that the biggest risk is allergies, as severe allergies [to bee stings] without quick treatment can lead to death. In April of this year, a 60 year-old senior from Fujian had an allergic reaction from “bee therapy” and died. Photo is of August 2013, where a Beijing patient is receiving the “bee sting treatment.”

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These so-called “unique therapies” are targeted at those who have periarthritis, arthritis, spondylosis, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases. On 2013 October 30 in Nanjing, a new healthcare concept called “Xiyu Sand Therapy” was introduced. The patients are completely immersed in hot sand until it makes them sweat. The business claimed this combines “magnetic”, “heat”, “light” and “massage” therapies into one single comprehensive treatment.

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Some merely use “healthcare” purely to get eyeballs [attention], having other goals, the notion of healthcare merely a pretense. This photo is of 2008 July 13 at a hot spring in Hubei. A artist is using ink made from herbs to draw Olympic mascots on two girls. This business claimed this kind of medicinal painting therapy can improve the skin.

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The recently controversial urine treatment had a strong following within the country, and even established a “Chinese Urine Treatment Association” in Hong Kong. However, experts proved that drinking urine has no benefits and can even be harmful. Although the urokinase in urine can have the effect of thinning the blood, it isn’t necessary to drink urine. The “Chinese Urine Treatment Association” was discovered to have no legal representative, and the president of the association responded that “those who have not drank urine have no right to speak”. This photo is of 2014 from June 24 in Chongqing, where two seniors with a decade’s experience in urine treatment drank fresh urine in front of reporters.

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The masses’ tendency to “seek any cure when ill” not only fattened the pockets of many in the “health therapy” industry, it also gave rise to many miracle doctors. In 2010, “miracle doctor” Zhang Wuben’s popular selling book You Are What You Eat promoted “eating mung beans as a cure-all solution”. In February of 2014, Zhang Wuben was diagnosed with cerebral infarction and entered Peking University No. 3 hospital. During an interview with reporters he instead said “drinking mung bean soup does not cure cerebral infarction”, that mung bean soup does not cure everything, and that he has been drinking it without use.

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2011 April 11 in Taipei, during a media event, Yixingtianxia: Stretching and Slapping as a Cure-all Solution author Xiao Hongci used a beautiful model to demonstrate the healing effectiveness of slapping [or clapping]. Since 2009, Xiao Hongci’s stretching and slapping method became popular across Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, with numerous classes, camps, and slapping sessions being held. “Stretching stools”, books and related products became top sellers, making people fortunes. Later, it was all proven to be blind nonsense/a scam.

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Li Yi was known as a “divine Daoist priest”, claimed to have 30,000 disciples, including Ma Yun and Wang Fei. He claimed to have the ability to harness 220 volts of electricity, and the “medical skill” to use electrical current to stop diseases and treat cancer. In a book titled Are There Supernatural Beings in the World, there is a medical case of Li Yi using electricity to treat a paralyzed patient until he recovered sensations in his hands and feet. Li Yi’s deed was met with skepticism from the medical community, and was exposed by writer Fang Zhouzi on Weibo. Netizens found the video of Li Yi holding his breath underwater, one example of what underpinned his legend, and then proceeded to expose his lies.

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China has never lacked a market for “miracle doctors”. Wang Lin, Zhang Biqing, Hu Wanlin, Ma Yuelin… after one “miracle doctor” falls, yet another appears soon later. What more, these miracle doctors love using famous people, celebrities, and politicians to promote their medical practices and influence. 2010 December 29, CCTV’s Focus Interview exposed the illegal fraudulent medical practices of Liu Fengjun, the head of Beijing Dadaotang. Published in Liu Fengjun’s book The Health Remedies China’s Dragon Culture were many photos of Liu with famous people [above: Director Zhang Yimou].

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“Miracle doctors” exist often by relying on various marketing methods, branding themselves “experts”, publishing books, going on TV, using celebrities and wealthy people or even “fake patients” as props. Under the “bombardment” and “authoritativeness” of marketing information, truth and reason are neglected/ignored. Photo is of 2010 May 30, where all kinds of “health” books were on display at a Beijing Xinhua Bookstore.

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In 2013, CCTV exposed Grandma Gao’s blood sugar lowering patch and Nanyang Miaoyitang Pharmaceutical Company, which peddled “miracle medicines” to consumers through false advertising. In their advertising, a person claiming to be the 8th generation descendant from the Murong clan and a “miracle doctor” was actually played by an actor. Photo is a screenshot of Miaoyitang’s false advertising.

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The reason why various silly health therapies are commonplace, why one falls only for another to become popular with the masses, is ultimately because the problem of it being difficult and expensive to get medical care in China has not been resolved. Therefore, the ordinary common people can only seek alternative methods to improve their health. Photo is of 2005 July in Huaibei, Anhui Province, where hundreds of seniors endured the summer heat and waited in line overnight to get free medical treatment.

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Many people believe in superstitions, and are unknowingly exploited by “false therapies”. With the current healthcare system, many people want to find a easy cures and shortcuts, putting their hopes in certain simple, easy, and inexpensive methods to miraculously and quickly cure their problems, falling for specious statements. The moment someone takes the lead to “try” something, others will follow suit. Photo is of 2012 October 5 in Wenling City of Zhejiang, where hundreds of men and women from Taizhou scrambled over each other to get some of the all-curing “miracle water”. Tests later showed there was nothing special about the “miracle water”.

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The ineffective or even lack of government oversight, as well as absences of laws, are also one of the main reasons for the growing healthcare hysteria in the country. The country does not have a clear definition and classification for traditional Chinese medicine and medical therapy. There are no professional qualifications, standards, or oversight system for traditional Chinese medical establishments and relevant training organizations, leading to many fake traditional Chinese doctors and fake health remedies. For example, after Zhang Wuben was discredited, his Wubentang clinic was demolished, but the reason cited was that his pseudo-imperial architecture did not match the local sport stadium’s architecture and was thus deemed an illegal structure. Photo is of 2010 June 1 in Beijing, as workers dismantled the Wubentang clinic located at the Olympic Village.

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2005 December 15, a group of traveling salesmen arrived at a remote village in Shaoyang Village in Hunan Province, boasting a cure-all oral supplement. This elderly woman spent 160 yuan to buy the medicine mixture, completely unaware that the whole package cost only 10 yuan. For ordinary people, the correct path towards bodily health must come from scientific understanding, rational execution, conformance to physical and mental needs, and observation of the body’s responses/reactions.

Comments on QQ:

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九日之光:

Drinking urine, so what?! They should eat feces, full of nutrition!

流水无情:

TMD, no wonder foreigners look down on us. With these 2B, wherever we go, we will be sneered at.

鼓得拜:

You know they can be fooled by these snake oil salesmen? Because the hospitals are too fucking shady.

陪迩、想当年:

The reform of the healthcare system is the top priority, because if everyone can afford to get treatment, there would be no market for these so-called miracle doctors.

夢隨心動:

So-called Chinese culture doesn’t seem to have much to be complimented. The kind of people you have is the kind of government you have, which can also be said vice versa.

Stay-磊左边:

I personally feel it is because hospitals cost too much. The common people do have have social security or health insurance, so most cannot afford to go get treatment, and can only go to these so-called “miracle doctors”. Otherwise, who would instinctively [think to] drink urine?

猛虎嗅蔷薇:

What does such hysteria/madness tell us? 1. It shows that the nation’s education policy is a failure; 2, Don’t blindly talk about things you are personally ignorant about and haven’t researched; 3, When the masses ignorantly follow fads/trends, shouldn’t the government be responsible?

化州三好联合通讯:

This is precisely the tragedy of current Chinese society.

云逍遥:

10 yuan medicine that costs 100 yuan, this is China. I refuse to believe the CT scanner in the hospital costs so much money, where just one session costs thousands. These kind of margins are higher than dealing drugs.

一六八:

I have a lot of urine, and can provide it for free! Guaranteed fresh! Interested parties should contact me quickly!

弦断谁人听:

Traditional Chinese medicine has existed for thousands of years, so it certainly has its merits/efficacy. Certain illnesses can be addressed by Chinese medicine, but to use the name of traditional Chinese medicine to con people, that’s just wrong.

隐风云:

A people without belief can only follow superstition, a people without character [education/cultivation] can only chose ignorance. Give the people something to believe, increase their character, give them higher living standards, and I trust all of this [popular gullibility for “miracle” cures and remedies] can be easily solved.

千里之行:

The hospitals and health care organizations are just like the financial organizations, monopolized. Foreign hospitals and health care organizations cannot enter the country, while hospitals run by our own people are blackhearted like bandits. They shut the doors to torment you, shut the doors to fleece you, and you even have to willingly accept it!

小玉:

This only reflects that Chinese people cannot afford to go to the hospital, cannot afford to see doctors, cannot pay the high medical fees, so they have no choice but to believe in these folk remedies. This also reflects the backwardness/disparity in Chinese people’s education.

蜗牛:

These people are mostly born in the ’60s and ’70s, and these people are the main culprits holding back the overall character development [improvement] of China’s population!

二锅头:

Superstitious Chinese people, muddled minds, lost beliefs…a group of people without independent thinking, independent personalities, and independent actions! The sorrow of our countrymen

Written by Joe

Joe is a documentary producer and journalist based in Shanghai

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