Having Chinese as my first language and my mom, who studies and practices Chinese medicine, as a helper, I never thought that there would be any difficulties in working on Chan’s collection, especially not in understanding Chinese. However, I was TOO YOUNG, TOO SIMPLE, SOMETIMES NAIVE (Chinese internet slang). Chan’s prescription taught me: just because I am Chinese and I know a little about Chinese medicine doesn’t mean I could understand everything Chan wrote.
One difficulty was traditional Chinese VS simplified Chinese. Most materials in Chan’s collection are from late 1920s to later 1930s. Although the simplified Chinese was first mentioned in 1920 and was legitimated in 1934 in China, it did not gain widely support; traditional Chinese still dominated. Besides, Chan was born in 1898 and moved to the US in 1916. There was no way that he would know simplified Chinese. In contrast, I was born in 1990s and I have never leaned traditional Chinese in school at all. Even though I have learned traditional Chinese by myself, I still had some problems of understanding many characters : ( The other difficulty was hand writing VS print. Most of Chan’s prescriptions were hand written with ink brush. Therefore, the characters could be different than when they were printed. In addition, Chan as a doctor may have some special marks and ways to record that only for people in the professional field to read. As a result, I did have difficulties in understanding some of Chan’s prescriptions.
Luckily, internet and tools online are very helpful and powerful in high-tech era. I was able to use internet to translate the traditional Chinese and confirm the prescriptions that I am not sure about 🙂 Although I had some difficulties in understanding the prescription, I still enjoyed working on it. I love the way it is because hand written traditional Chinese add more tastes of history and feeling of Chinese tradition in it, just like the rich history and wisdom in Chinese medicine.