Feature: How Chinese couple in S. Africa turned traditional Chinese medicine dream into reality

2021-06-07 12:55:12 GMT2021-06-07 20:55:12(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

JOHANNESBURG, June 7 (Xinhua) -- In a quiet neighborhood not far from Chinatown in Johannesburg lies a traditional Chinese medicine clinic.

Oriental Medical Center is small but with an endless stream of patients including celebrities from neighboring countries. It even once treated an Oscar-winning actress.

Dr. Sun Qingfu together with her husband Dr. Xu Youqiang has been operating the clinic for more than 20 years, although hardships were rampant at the beginning.

Dr. Sun said establishing a clinic at a time when traditional Chinese medicine was not legally recognized in South Africa was extremely difficult.

"It was in 1991 when we first arrived in South Africa," she said, "We could not even speak the simplest English word and have to communicate with the patients with body language."

"Local people knew little about Chinese traditional medicine. Once a lady came here for cupping. After the treatment she found some dark marks on her body and said she would sue us for first-stage damage."

Dr. Sun said a lack of funds was another problem. They had to engage in international trade to earn money in order to support their medical practice.

In 1998, Oriental Medical Center was finally established after three failed attempts. Since then, the number of patients has grown, and some even fly from Namibia, Somali, Ethiopia and Mozambique.

Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow was one of Dr. Sun's patients. She visited the clinic several times to soothe her back pain. She even walked down the red carpet with cupping marks on her back.

South African media reported the story and introduced Dr. Sun's clinic to the public.

The couple doesn't advertise the clinic, yet business is booming.

Some local doctors recommend patients with infertility issues visit Oriental Medical Center first and try some traditional Chinese medicine. After that, if necessary, the patients could go back to a common hospital for further treatment.

Since 2000, the couple has helped China register more than 800 kinds of Chinese patent medicine in South Africa, leading traditional Chinese medicine to gain a foothold in the country.

In 2015, the two established Southern African Chinese Traditional Medical College. Two years later, they helped China's Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine establish the university's branch college in South Africa.

Influenced by his parents, the couple's younger son Ivan, a Bioinformatics major at the University of the Witwatersrand, one of South Africa's top universities, is now also learning traditional Chinese medicine.

"I will do some research based on traditional Chinese medicine, in some fields, trying to combine traditional Chinese medicine with Bioinformatics," Ivan said when discussing his future plans.

"I believe maybe in the future ... the whole world ... will believe that traditional Chinese medicine is one of the most helpful treatments," he added. Enditem