Magic Brews

I love these parcels. There’s something about them that makes me feel like a kid. The way the white paper crackles, the way they’re stapled shut with little notes attached, their pungent and mysterious smell.

Apart from enforced discretion as a literary judge, another reason I’ve been hibernating over the past month is that I’ve been knocked around by a couple of nasty lurgies. Most winters, I am immune to the most virulent of bugs and cheerfully skip through the coldest days but this year I haven’t been so lucky.

Last week, I finally took my coughing attacks seriously and decided it was time for action. Having seen my GP Western style doctor and told to take pain killers and keep warm, I knew I needed a more full-on approach. So I’ve been getting stuck into various cures, including traditional chinese medicines. The little paper bags above contain herbs that my Chinese doctor, Dr Huang, gives me to brew into dark and heady tea. I cook them up in the ceramic pot on the right. It may look like the sweepings from the forest floor but it makes a mean brew of medicinal potion.

This post has nothing to do with reading but it does make me wonder about books that include references to TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). I included a couple of brief scenes with a Chinese doctor in my book Bridie’s Fire. Isabelle Allende wrote beautifully about a Chinese doctor’s experiences of immigration in her novel Daughter of Fortune, though the doctor wasn’t the central protagonist. I love how Allende fused so many cultures in that book and Tao Chi’en, the doctor, was a fantastic character. I wonder if there are any other portrayals of Chinese doctors in fiction. Any suggestions?

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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