East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Freedom from formality

This is going to be quite freeform, rambling, vague, and probably off-topic.
Bear with me.
A few days back I stumbled on a photograph, while browsing on Pinterest – you know I use Pinterest a lot when looking for visual references.
Now, the picture in question, an old portrait of a popular alternative model (I hope that’s the right definition), struck me as quite interesting, and started a whole train of thoughts.
It would make for an excellent writing prompt, I’m quite certain, but there was something more.

So, here’s the image.
Take a look, then I’ll go on with my story… Continue reading


Dragon bones

And talking about China and fossils… 50 cents per kg is the price of dinosaur bones used as medicine in central China.

I was researching Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald, a German paleontologist that in the 1930s found a tooth belonging to a Gigantopithecus in an Hong Kong pharmacy, and I collected a few factoids about the practice of consuming “long gu” (“dragon bones”) for medical purposes – which is still is still going strong in China today.


The most common afflictions cured by boiling or grinding into powder the fossil bones are cramps and dizziness, but the list of possible applications is long and varied.

“… “dragon bones” are crushed to a fine powder, boiled, and mixed with other ingredients to make healing concoctions. According to an ancient Chinese medical text (dating back around 2000 years) pulverized fossils have been used to treat conditions ranging from diarrhea to epilepsy to “manic running about.” Some ancient “medical” conditions were mystical ailments. For example, dragon bone “mainly treats heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual miasma, and old ghosts.”

In 2007, the BBC revealed that one enterprising bone collector had found, dug out and sold about 8.000 kilos of old bones.
According to online sources, today, more than 100 tons of “dragon bones” are consumed each year in China and Southeast Asia.

All of which is great news not only for my Silk Road book (updates, updates!), but is also excellent fodder for stories.