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Healing tradition

Yang Tengzhou,75,has provided 365-day traditional Chinese medicine service for villagers over the past 25 years. [Photo provided to China Daily]


An elderly doctor nurtures the small community under his wing, on any day, at any time, Mo Jingxi discovers.

For Yang Tengzhou, a 75-year-old doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, this Spring Festival seemed no different from the previous 25.

It was the third day of the Chinese Year of the Horse, and most people living in Shaliwan, a mountainous neighborhood of Anhua county in central Hunan province, were busy visiting relatives and friends.

As usual, Yang got up at 6 am and went out for a 1-kilometer walk after breakfast. Then, he put on a pair of black-framed glasses and sat at a dark wooden desk to wait for his patients.

At 2 pm, Li Jinjie rushed in with his 4-year-old granddaughter Xun Xun.

"Doctor Yang! Doctor Yang! Could you please take a quick look at my granddaughter? She is having a bad cough," the 65-year-old man shouted as he worked his way through the crowd.

Li, a local farmer who lives only 500 meters away from Yang's house, has relied on Yang's doctoring since Li was in his 40s. After a careful check of the little girl, the TCM doctor quickly scribbled out a prescription, so the two could be on their way to visit relatives for the holiday.

Li passed the slip of paper to an old woman in the pharmacy next door, and he got some medicine that cost him 8 yuan ($1.32), which Yang's 21-year-old grandson Xia Heng says was "less than what it would cost to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola".

Yang is famous for his medical skills, low fees and 365-day service.

He continues to work until the eve of the lunar New Year. Even the family reunion dinner can only begin after the last patient of the year has left.

Over the past decades, thousands of people from a 50-kilometer radius have visited his clinic, which is tucked in the mountains and is also his home.

The quiet woman in the pharmacy, Wang Maolan, is Yang's 73-year-old wife. She has served as his assistant since Yang retired from the health center in town, where he worked as a doctor for 30 years. He opened the clinic at home in 1989.

The couple has a son and three daughters. The son and one daughter work and live in the county town Dongping, about one and a half hours from the village by car; the other two daughters have settled down in Wuhan and Shanghai.