July 18, 2012

Nang Chong Stories : Pearl Powder for children


Do you remember how your mother and the neighbourhood aunty would try to get you to take some pearl powder?

I still remember such goings on along the streets where we used to live. Ah Hang's Mother (Mrs. Lau) would suggest that it was a good cure for post fever besides a good bowl of duck soup to revitalize the body after a long illness. I did suffer some long illnesses when in primary school. So I had my share of pearl powder and a few expensive ducks.

Pearl powder( 珍珠粉pinyinzhēnzhū fěn) has long been prepared and sold in the Sibu Chinese medicine shops since the beginning of Chinese sinseh's appearance. One of these  sinseh was my great grandfather who had a small practice as a sinseh who could select herbs for his "patients" after he "felt their pulses". In his later years he enjoyed the company of Western doctors according to family elders.

When my brother and sister suffered from fits as a result of high fever my mother would prepare a small teaspoon of pearl powder mixed with some water and forced the teaspoon into their mouth as a home cure or as a complimentary medication to the fever medication from the Western Doctor...Pearl Powder according to our elders would readily lower  body HEAT and control the fits and fever.

 Fits (or kee soong) were quite common in Sibu in the 1940's and 1950's in Nang Chong and most families would keep packets of pearl powder ready in their bedroom drawers for emergencies. In those days medicine like Panadol and first aid kits were non-existent. Only tables like 693 and Iodine were available in homes which could afford them.

 Every parent or grand parent would have other home cures like Foochow Tea Flower Oil or simple alcohol bought from the Sibu shops.. It would take a slow boat journey to bring a sick child to see a doctor.

It was a sad or even tragic era because of the slowness of motor launches in those days many children died from fits and high fever before they reached the hospital. One of my aunts actually had her life shortened by fits when she was giving birth Both mother and baby died.( According to the medical records the Infant Mortality rate in the Rajang was quite high in the 1950's.) As a result of my aunt's demise my grieving maternal grandmother " volunteered to look after her children  until they were old enough" while their father continued his career in the government service. Grandma thus lived in a government house in Race Course Road sacrificing a lot for my cousins. Relatives from Nang Chong and especially my first uncle and third uncle and all of my siblings and mother often visited her there. She did all the cooking and the washing while the children were in school. Third Uncle would bring a good duck for her to cook and she would prepare a lot of longevity noodles for all of us. Those were amazing days!! Later this uncle remarried and my grandmother went back to Nang Chong again. These children would visit Nang Chong during the holidays.

In actual fact the medical journals do document the functions of pearl powder as "an anti-inflmmatory and detoxification agent. It is also used as a relaxant."

When we were young we did not know that pearl powder actually came from the milling of fresh water pearls. Today many Chinese medicine shops continue to sell pearl powder (prices range from RM 4.50 to 10.50 per packet of 10 gms). The popularity of pearl powder as a medication for children's fever continues.

Indeed many of my friends still think that a dosage of pearl powder once a week leads to excellent complexion!! It has been used as a cure for acne in many cases.



close up of fresh water pearls
Pretty pearls which promise to give young ladies beautiful complexion
Authentic fresh water pearls
Small packets of pearl powder....Not too much of this should be used to help babies "reduce"  their body heat.
Many beauty products like face powder contain some pearl powder. Creams which promise whitening elements contain small traces of pearl powder. But as consumers we will never know how much pearl powder has been used in the manufacturing of these products.

Did I give pearl powder to my babies? My own mother had a good laugh when we discussed this over the phone....she said may be only if THEIR paternal grandmother were Foochow..then they would have had some pearl powder as babies....





Do Cantonese mothers believe in Pearl Powder?

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I remember pearl powder can be used tro treat mouth ulcers. I, myself, put some pearl powder on those painful childhood mouth ulcer and I remember the pain gone in a short while and also it accelerate the healing.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for telling me that..yes indeed pearl powder is very good for mouth ulcers..and that reminds me..I must go and get some for myself...God bless.

Anonymous said...

Where is Nang Chong actually since u keep mentioning the name so often in ur blog.

wenn said...

I gave to my son as he is a rather heaty person..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Anonymous..Nang Chong is a stretch of land on the West Bank of the Rajang between Lee Hua Sawmill and Tanjong Kunyit...Nang Chong is divided into three parts also..Upper Middle and Lower.. My maternal grandparents and their very close relatives were in Lower Nang chong..I have categorised many of my stories related to them or originating from Nang Chong under this name. I visited my grandmother until she died in 1984. She also visited us in Sibu 1956-1984. I moved away from Sibu in 1987.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn...thanks for visiting and letting me know...It is part of our culture.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sarawakiana@2 abt the info regarding Nang Chong..does Bukit Lan come under it?

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Bukit lan is on the opposite bank..and we call it around the bend on the other side...If you can get a copy of Wong Meng Lei's book about Sibu villages you can see the spatial distribution of the various Foochow villages ...available in Methodist Book Room or Methodist Message Office...

vbabe said...

So true.. I am not a Chinese, but my daughter's Ah Ma who is Foochow gave her her 1st pearl powder when she was a baby. Indeed a Foochow remedy.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Vbabe..thanks for substantiating my tales!!

Anonymous said...

Pm

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