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Calendar Newsletter X. Even among the Chinese doctors who maintained their traditions, many opted for an American marketing style so as to reach a wider audience Marcus, Chen, , p. The use of advertisements in newspapers in California has been extensively studied. Various historians have stressed the use of texts written in English or Spanish to deal with local and Mexican patients, along with a photo of the herbalist s in typical Chinese costume so as to appear skilled and competent in the medical field. These advertisements also establish the type of medicinal herbs available and the types of treatment offered, especially pulse diagnosis and the use of herbs Bowen, , p.
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Often, the advertisements were accompanied by testimonials of successful cures, above all by Caucasians who had undergone treatment and been cured by the herbalist in question. Thus, advertisements in the newspapers are a valuable source for finding out who the patients were and what main diseases were being treated by the Chinese doctors.
April 25, In the case of Peru, we know that the first advertisements for herbalists started to appear in the press from on, and they bear many similarities to the ones in California. In the nineteenth century, advertisements contained lengthy texts specifying the diseases cured by medicinal herbs. In the decade after , they started becoming more attractive and including images of herbalists dressed in western clothing, emulating the style of professional physicians see Figure 2.
While these strategies were successful in terms of attracting patients, they also drew the attention of professional physicians, who were seeking to put an end to herbal medicine in Peru. Dora Mayer stated in that the local authorities should not deprive herbalists their traditional embrace of the healing arts.
Mayer , p. The owners of the herbal dispensaries also resorted to hiring local receptionists or cashiers who could act as interpreters and assistants. As Liu argues, in southern California, herbalists commonly hired young Mexican women as secretaries or nurses to help with local clients. Apparently, herbalists used the same strategy in Peru. Although the herbalist accepted that she had worked in his store, he declared that she had left the job of her own accord.
An interesting piece of background information revealed by this case is that the rise in racism against the Chinese community in the late s was affecting leading members of the community. Thus, the strategies used by Chinese doctors were very similar to those of western physicians: eye-catching publicity in the press, testimonials of successful cures, and opening businesses in important areas of the city. While in the s various members of the new nationalist government in China proposed abolishing traditional medicine, considering it the antithesis of modernity Lei, , p.
There were various commonalities in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine in both contexts, mainly in the strategies used to expand outside Chinese circles and the use of similar medicinal products. Isabel Lausent-Herrera , p. Nevertheless, there were important differences, mainly in the way the Chinese healing system adapted to local conditions. In the nineteenth century, there was a difference between the US and Peru in terms of the legality of practicing medicine without certification by a healthcare organization.
From the time it was established in , the School of Medicine in Lima was in charge of monitoring the profession and reporting anyone who practiced medicine without legal credentials to the authorities. Certified physicians argued that Chinese herbalists were practicing medicine and pharmacy at the same time under the umbrella of their commercial establishments, without having the qualifications to practice either of those healthcare professions Villar, In San Fernando started a campaign against the herbalists that ended in with the latter winning a decisive victory.
Undeterred, the School of Medicine launched a campaign to clamp down on the Chinese herbalists, reporting any who publicly advertised their medical practice and calling on the City of Lima to fine establishments that offered healing practices. Yet, Chinese herbalists and doctors managed to practice for many years in Peru by exploiting the ambiguous status of their profession.
While they presented themselves in the press as Chinese doctors, they told the police and health authorities that they were simply selling herbal remedies, and that their activities were protected by the right to free enterprise Municipalidad de Lima, The ambiguity is obvious in one of the best definitions of the status of Chinese herbalists in Peru in the early twentieth century, by Dora Mayer , p. Nor is he a doctor in the sense of European-style academies - far from it. Nor does he belong in the category of faith-healers, who mix quackery and fraud in their treatments … rather, he is skilled in a healing art that differs from the European therapeutic approach.
In the US, there was a wide variety of medical treatments in the nineteenth century and Chinese medicine was just one of many natural healing alternatives available to patients. It was practiced alongside homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and hypnotism, among other systems. Unlike in Latin America, where the medical community urged the state to enforce its professional status and its monopoly over medical practice, until the early twentieth century, university-trained physicians in the US were not endorsed by the state, which adopted a non-intervention, free-market policy Haller Jr.
Chinese herbalists, who were a product of this freedom to practice, were able to operate in the nineteenth century without any problems, as long as their establishments paid the necessary taxes. In the early s, the American Medical Association AMA managed to join forces with representatives of state and local governments to crack down on non-licensed doctors, legitimize scientific medicine and present it as superior to other medical practices.
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However, the decline of Chinese medicine did not come in response to a state policy - as in Peru - but because of obstacles in importing Chinese products in the mid-twentieth century. As a result of the Second World War , and the embargo on Chinese goods after the Korean War , it became increasingly difficult to obtain medicinal herbs, which led many dispensaries in San Francisco and Los Angeles to close down and forced herbalists to practice as chiropractors Liu, , p.
In Peru, the decline of Chinese medicine was caused by the ban on Chinese herbal shops in December , enacted after the fall of President Augusto B.
McKeown , p. Chinese medicine disappeared from the public sphere in the s, but the sale of Chinese herbal medicines continued on a smaller scale thanks to the pharmacies in Lima, which kept this lucrative business running. Another of the differences between the two areas lay in the type of therapies offered by Chinese doctors. Unlike California, in Peru many fewer products were imported directly from China, so Chinese herbalists in Peru resorted to other methods of healing - besides the use of herbs - such as needles, known nowadays as acupuncture.
As Bowen has shown , p. Nevertheless, acupuncture was not an unknown technique. In December , the Los Angeles Herald published a report on the use of acupuncture in China during surgery.
The article stated that this technique had been used traditionally to relieve fractures, constipation, and even cholera, but the doctors at the Peking College of Medicine had discovered its benefits for the human body when used during surgery Acupuncture…, 11 dec. Despite the benefits, this technique was not systematically used outside Chinese circles until the s, with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the US and China, which led to the return of Chinese medicine in California Bowen, , p.
In Peru, Chinese doctors had been using acupuncture since the nineteenth century, and the first reports of it are from the yellow fever epidemic of Local press coverage of the epidemic noted the presence of a Chinese doctor using a technique not seen before. We do not know how widespread the practice was, since most of the references to Chinese medicine in subsequent years deal with herbal dispensaries. However, it is interesting to note the early adoption of this healing method in the Americas. Lastly, there was a major difference between Peru and the US in the type of patients who went to see Chinese herbalists and doctors.
Although in both cases Chinese medicine spread beyond Chinese circles from on, the cost of consults and medicines determined what kind of patients had access to these healers. In the nineteenth century, the press in Lima shows how expensive it was to go to an herbalist. However, in the twentieth century, Chinese medicine became a healing system used mainly by low-income patients. As the intellectual Dora Mayer states , p.
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Although some people did go to see professional physicians, very few could complete the treatments they recommended, because of the high fees and the costliness of the medicines they prescribed. Thus, a major part of the public debate about herbalists in Lima in the early twentieth century had to do with a wider debate about the role of the state and its inability to provide healthcare for a growing population.
Some therefore defended Chinese medicine as a necessary evil given the high cost of professional medicine, which mainly affected the most vulnerable sectors of society. Chinese doctors charged for each consult and the price of the prescription depended on the ingredients, a system that became costly because treatments never lasted less than three months p. Mass migration by Chinese people to the Americas from on meant not only the arrival of a human contingent willing to do the hardest jobs, but also the introduction and subsequent spread of Chinese medicine. The study of Chinese doctors, their practices and herbal shops allows us a more nuanced analysis of the lifestyles and interactions of one of the largest immigrant communities on the Pacific coast.
While the herbalists were a minority in their own community, their presence forces us to be more cautious about generalizing that all members of the Chinese community in the Americas lived in precarious circumstances or were subject to physical or property attacks as a result of the racism rampant in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
This study suggests that while Chinese medicine was an ancient healing system that was brought to the Americas by the Chinese diaspora, its trajectory in the two contexts analyzed here was very different. In Peru, where there was more state intervention in social matters, herbalists had to practice medicine cautiously because they lacked professional credentials.
In California, on the other hand, there was an affluent middle and upper class able to use Chinese medicine as a luxury commodity. This did not happen in Peru, where the precarious state of the healthcare system meant that herbalists found an important niche among the lower and working classes.
The study of Chinese medicine in Peru and California sheds light on various social and political processes that were occurring in both contexts, including the difficulties encountered by professional physicians in their fight to oust other competitors from the public health sphere and to legitimize their own profession. Patients and the political authorities were not unaware of the medical discourse seeking to eradicate certain healers; several of them publicly defended and thanked Chinese herbalists for their work.
Los Angeles Herald , v. Breve historia de la esclavitud: una herida que no deja de sangrar. A day in Chinatown. Lippincott's Magazine , v. El Comercio , 2 oct. Boticas de chinos. El Comercio , 10 sep. The five eras of Chinese medicine in California. In: Lan, Susie. The Chinese in America: a history from Gold Mountain to the new millennium. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, p. The Americanization of Chinese medicine : a discourse-based study of cultural-driven medical change. The Chinese-American heritage. New York: Facts on File.