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Chinese Medicine or How Dragon Bones cure Impotence

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1108614.  Fri Jan 02, 2015 7:55 am Reply with quote


Picture this: you are a man and you live in a small village of Zhoukoudian (Choukoutien, meaning The Dragon Bone Hill) some 50 km south-western from Beijing. Lately you have been suffering from impotence. You want to prove to your wife (and yourself) you are still a young and virile man you used to be and go in search of a cure. As there is no »modern« doctor in the village, you end up in a local drugstore, where a practitioner of so called traditional medicine gives you the cure: powder from dragon bones.

Dragons have always had a special role in Chinese culture. They were celestial creatures who brought rain and provided water (Mayor 2007, 246). The dragon bones were constantly found by farmers as they ploughed their fields (Kahn 2005, 106).These divine beings and their remains are believed to cure not only impotence, but also many other illnesses and deceases (Mayor 2007, 246), such as osteoporosis (Boaz 2004, 52), dysentery, biliary calculi, fever and convulsions of babies, boils in the bowels and internal ulcers, paralysis of the legs, illnesses of pregnant women, remittent fever and abscesses. Bleeding of the nose of ears is stopped by blowing powder of dragon's bones into them (De Visser 2008, 92).

In traditional medicine, dragon bones and their
(De Visser 2008, 92) powers have long been recognised, although their preparation varied slightly. 5th century author Lei Hiao writes how the bones first have to be bathed twice in hot water, then pounded to powder and finally be put in the bags of gaze together with cooked odorous plants.
make a few swallows and, after having taken out their intestines and stomach, put the bags in the swallows and hang them over a well. After one night take the bags out of the swallows, rub the powder and mix it into medicines for strengthening the kidneys
(ibid. 92). Other contemporary authors, such as Li Sci-Chen suggest a slightly different preparation
roast them on fire till they are red and then rub to powder, or use fresh bones
« (ibid. 92). In 10th century the bones were soaked in spirits for one night, dried on fire and rubbed to powder (ibid. 92).

When Western palaeontologists visited some of these places where dragon bones were usually found, whey often heard of dragon bones being sold at local drugstores. In the 20th century the explorers recognised the bones as fossilised remains of dinosaurs and extinct mammals and although their usage has decreased in the past decades, dragon bone powder is still prescribed as a tranquiliser by traditional Chinese doctors (Mayor 2007, 246; Mayor 92).


Boaz, N. T. 2004. Dragon Bone Hill: An Ice-Age Saga of Homo Erectus. Oxford University Press.
De Visser, M. W. 2008. The Dragon in China and Japan. Cosimo, Inc.
Kahn, C. 2005. World History: Societies of the Past. Portage & Main Press.
Mayor, A. 2007. Place names describing fossils in oral traditions. In Piccardi, L. and Masse, B. (eds.) Geological Sociery. Special publication 273. 245 – 246.
Mayor, A. 2013. Fossil Legends of the First Americans. Princeton University Press.

1114931.  Wed Jan 28, 2015 8:10 am Reply with quote

Thank you for this article, I had a good laugh reading it! I know now where to send my husband :)

dr bartolo
1241226.  Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:03 am Reply with quote

Speaking of Dragon bones, it is worth mentioning that they played an important role in our understanding of Early Chinese writing.

In the last decades of the 19th century, a number of scholars noticed that certain "dragon bones" bore markings that resembled the writing on ancient Chinese bronze-ware. After much research and digging, the true origin of these bones was discovered.

These bones were records of divination of the earliest dynasty of China, the Shang. The bones ( being mostly the shells of turtles of scapulae of cows) were carved with the question asked, and a heated object applied to them. The pattern of the resulting cracks was interpreted to give an answer.

Incidentally, being ground into "Dragon bones" is one of the possible fates of the fossils of the celebrated "Peking man"......


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