38.2 Degrees Celsius

Lying down with an acute bronchitis in China sure has its entertaining aspects. One of them is the medicine they will sell you in the big, ubiquitous pharmacies. (Remember, the wealthy protagonist of the great erotic Ming novel Jin Ping Mei, Xi Men Qing, also is a pharmacist, with appropriate access to all the necessary aphrodisiacs.)

Chinese medicine has all those qualities you might have read about in 19th century literature: it is bitter, it looks scary, and it makes you feel utterly re-assured that your whole body is beneficiently poisoned by some highly efficient agents. Just then I had to take in a cough syrup that tastes like dissolved ammonium chloride licorice (those vicious little candies we Germans call “Salmis”). But the really challenging part was some powder to be emulgated in hot water, producing a dubious greyish-brownish mud you are supposed to swallow. It might be some plant root, but could also be grated crocodile teeth as far as I can tell.

These people really have raised the art of placebo to considerable height. (But I’m still happy that I’ve brought some Codeine and Aspirin along.)