Frequently Asked Questions

I read Chinese characters, but don't recognize Doc Hay's handwritten characters and herb names.

Doc Hay not only wrote in cursive using a brush, but also wrote many herb names in shorthand. Some characters were replaced by other characters of the same or similar pronanciation. Some were written in his own way of writing simplified characters.

An example of Doc Hay's shorthand: Da Huang / 大黄 was replaced by Da Wang / 大王.

In the Kam Wah Chung Medical Archive, standard herb names are noted in brackets following the transcription of Doc Hay's writing in his formulas. For example, 只壳 [枳壳] means that the first two characters are Doc Hay's shorthand, followed by the starndard name (Zhi Ke) in the brackets.


I don't read Chinese characters. How do I find information about each herb in Doc Hay's formulas?

On a Prescription (Herbal Formula) page, you will find: Transcribed Chinese Text; and Related objects (Prescription of herbs).

In Transcribed Chinese Text, herb names are transcribed as written by Doc Hay (in his shorthand), followed by standard herb names noted in brackets. For example, 只壳 [枳壳] means that the first two characters are Doc Hay's shorthand, followed by the starndard name (Zhi Ke) in the brackets.

In the Transcribed Chinese Text below the image, Doc Hay's shorthand is followed by a standard herb name in brackets. Preparation methods and weight of each herb are also translated if written on the formula.

Related objects (Prescription of herbs) has a list of links to detail information of each herb. The list basically follows the order of herbs in the Transcribed Chinese Text, but some are out of order.

Related objects (Prescription of herbs) are a list of the herbs used in that formula linked to detailed herb information pages.

The list basically follows the order of the herbs as written on the formula, but sometimes in out of order. If you can't find the link to a herb, copy the STANDARD herb name inside the brackets (e.g. [枳壳]), and use your browser's search function (i.e. copy 枳壳 and paste into the search window [Ctr or Command F]) to find the link in the list. Please note that there are unidentified or illegible herb names that don't have any information linked.


Did Doc Hay's formulas indicate the amount used for each herb?

Yes, the characters below each herb's name in Doc Hay's formulas indicate the quantity (weight) used. The counting system for numerals is the Suzhou numerals. For reference to handwritten units, see here.

The weight units are the ancient form of measurements such as Qian, Fen, and Lian. In order to convert them to modern standards of measurement, one needs to consider which standard applies. (i.e. 1 liang was 37.301g in the 1915 standard, but was reduced to 31.25g in the 1929 standard). Most of the formulas in the Kam Wah Chung Medical Archive were written between 1904 and 1907.

 1 qian           25 qian

分 fen
匁 (钱) qian
两 liang
斤 jin
件 jian (packet, item)
条 tiao (item, strip)
多 [?] (a lot?)
大只 (big)

*There are other units and numerals that have not been translated or identified.


What years were these formulas created?

Many of the formulas include the year and date it was prescribed. Doc Hay's description of year is based on the Lunar Calendar. For reference to the years that apply to Doc Hay's lifetime, see here.

Most commonly identified years in the formulas in the Kam Wah Chung Medical Archive are: Jia Chen / 甲辰 (1904), Yi Si / 乙巳 (1905), Bing Wu / 丙午 (1906), and Ding Wei / 丁未 (1907).


Did Doc Hay's formulas indicate preparation methods for herbs?

Yes, some preparation methods are written right side of a herb name. The following is commonly used preperation methods that have been identified in Doc Hay's formulas.

An example of preparation methods: 酒炒 (wine fried)

炒 (fried)
炒焦 (fried charred)
畧炒 (slightly fried)
酒炒 (wine fried)
酒炒焦 (wine fried charred)
醋炒 (vinegar fried)
醋盐炒 (vinegar salt fried)
醋面炒 (vinegar flour fried)
面炒 (flour fried)
姜炒 (ginger fried)
姜酒炒 (ginger wine fried)
蜜炒 (honey fried)
蜜酒炒 (honey wine fried)
蜜姜炒 (honey ginger fried)
盐炒 (salt fried)
盐酒炒 (salt wine fried)
盐蜜炒 (salt honey fried)
有利炒 (You Li [Mu Li / 牡蛎?] fried)
海石炒 (fried with Hai Shi [Fu Shi]?)
米甘炒 (rice sweet fried?)
甲一片 (shell 1 slice?)
存性 / Pao Zhi (stir fry the herb until it is scorched and darkened on the exterior but only slightly in the interior)
兑服 (add into liquid for drinking)

*There are other preparation methods that have not been translated or identified.


Why do some herbs have no image?

Many of the herbs written in Doc Hay's formulas were found in the Kam Wah Chung building, stored in old cigar boxes and paper bags with handwritten labels. They have been cataloged and photographed by the KWC Museum (indicated by the Museum's ID numbers such as KWC2007.1.3000). The Kam Wah Chung Medical Archive project has added medical data to those herbs. Those herbs with no image are the ones that were not identified during the translation project; therefore, medical data is not linked to the Museum's data/image. However, they might exist in the Kam Wah Chung Collection in the Museum.


Did Doc Hay write prescriptions for the 1918 flu epidemic?

Doc Hay's formula documents that have been digitized for the archive are only about 10% of the documents held at the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site in John Day, OR. While the Kam Wah Chung Medical Archive project has not yet located a prescription that was written for the flu, it is known that Doc Hay successfully treated the symptoms during that time. Read more about Doc Hay on the Friends of Kam Wah Chung site.