Wed, Jan 23, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Taiwan’s traditional medicine stores on life support
全台傳統中藥房 面臨生存危機

Lee Ching-chang, left, and his daughter Lee Chia-ling work at their Chinese herbal medicine shop in New Taipei City on Dec 25.
李進長(左)及其女李佳玲(右)在所開設的中藥房配藥。去年十二月二十五日攝於新北市。

Photo: AFP
照片:法新社

Traditional medicine store owner Gu Cheng-pu knows her dispensary can only stay open as long as her ailing father-in-law lives, their careers hostage to a quirk in Taiwanese law that is killing off the industry.

At the back of her shop in New Taipei City, Gu tips a plate of freshly cut Chinese liquorice roots into a wok of boiling honey, the first step in preparing one of her many traditional remedies.

Shops like hers are dying out, however — with some 200 closing their doors every year — even though traditional medicine remains wildly popular in Taiwan.

Authorities have not issued any new licenses since 1998, to better regulate the largely artisanal industry and bring traditional remedies into the purview of the professional medical community. Those licenses that exist cannot be passed down to younger generations.

Things did not turn out as planned. The lower pay and profits struggled to attract young doctors and pharmacists while patients kept going to the mom-and-pop dispensaries they trusted.

Gu’s father-in-law is the license owner but he recently suffered a stroke and she now fears the worst.

The average age of a traditional medicine store license holder is now 61 while the number of remaining stores has halved in the last 20 years to just 7,900.

According to the Compendium of Materia Medica, the sixteenth-century text that is the lodestar for traditional practitioners, there are more than 1,500 different kinds of herbs used in Chinese medicine. The average store might stock between 200 and 500 herbs, roots, animal parts and minerals — 355 of which are classified as medicine in Taiwan.

Lee Chia-ling, 42, has worked alongside her father in their family shop for more than 10 years, learning remedies from him.

TODAY’S WORDS
今日單字

1. dispensary n.

藥房 (yao4 fang2)

2. liquorice root phr.

甘草根 (gan1 cao3 gen1)

3. traditional remedy phr.

傳統療法

(chuan2 tong3 liao2 fa3)

4. license n.

執照 (zhi2 zhao4)

5. herb n.

藥草 (yao4 cao3)


“It was very hard work in the beginning,” she said. “You need to get your hands dirty. Sorting, washing, chopping and slicing, lots of work goes into processing raw herbs and roots ready for use,” she said.

Her father Lee Ching-chang, 69, said it takes three to five years to learn to distinguish the basic ingredients and how they react with each other.

“This is very much a profession where experience counts,” said the older Lee, who entered the trade when he was 15 years old. “If the government will not issue any new licenses then the second generation cannot carry on with the shop,” he lamented. “If this situation continues,” Gu warned, “there won’t be any Chinese herbal stores left in Taiwan.”

(AFP)

中藥房老闆娘古承蒲明白,只要她那體衰的公公還活著,她的藥房就能夠繼續經營下去。他們的生計受制於台灣弔詭的法規,這法規正使中藥房這行業逐漸消失。

古承蒲在她位於新北市的店鋪後頭,將一盤剛切好的甘草根浸入一鍋煮沸的蜂蜜。這是製備多種傳統療法藥材的第一個步驟。

然而,像她這樣的店鋪正逐漸消失──每年約有兩百家關門──即便傳統醫藥在台灣仍廣受歡迎。

自一九九八年以來,政府就沒有再頒發任何新的許可執照,來把這極度仰賴手工的行業做更妥善規範、將傳統療法納入專業醫療的範圍。而且以前所發給的執照,並不能傳給年輕一代。

政府的計畫趕不上實際的變化。中藥房的低工資和低利潤,很難吸引年輕一代的醫生和藥劑師;而患者求醫,還是習慣去自己信任的、父母輩去的中藥房抓藥。

古承蒲的公公是許可執照持有者,但他最近中風了,古承蒲現在擔心最壞的情況發生。

目前中藥房許可證持照者的平均年齡是六十一歲,中藥房的數量在過去二十年中減少了一半,僅剩七千九百家。

十六世紀的文獻《本草綱目》,是中藥行業的指南。據《本草綱目》記載,中醫使用的草藥種類超過一千五百種。一般中藥房所販售的,大約有兩百至五百種藥草、植物的根、動物部位及礦物──其中的三百五十五種,在台灣是被歸類為藥物。

四十二歲的李佳玲跟隨父親李進長學習傳統療法,已在家族經營的中藥房工作了十多年。

「一開始這工作就非常辛苦」,李佳玲說。「你都得親自動手,去分揀、洗滌、剁碎和切片,藥材的加工和製備很費工。」她說。

她六十九歲的父親李進長說,要學會區分藥材的基本成分、其相互作用,需要花費三到五年的時間。

「這是非常重視經驗的行業」,年長的李先生說,他十五歲時進入這一行。「如果政府不發新執照,那麼第二代就無法再繼續開店」,他感嘆道。「如果這情況再繼續下去」,古承蒲警告說,「台灣就不會再有中藥房了。」

(台北時報林俐凱編譯)

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