“Artisan of Shanghai” 2017, Wu Hao, Pharmaceutist of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Shanghai Lei Yun Shang Pharmacy, Bringing Her Work to Perfection with Full Dedication


(Text by Reporter Xing Beilin/Photograph by Reporter Yu Ruwen) Being clear about the drawer’s position of nearly 1,000 Chinese herbal pieces as the “walking map” of “Materia Medica Hall” in the pharmacy; being accurate in “taking herbal pieces” with an average speed of filling prescriptions about 30% faster than other colleagues and the amount of filled prescriptions once topping 700 a day; knowing very well the properties of nearly 1,000 herbal pieces and recognizing over 200 herbal pieces with her eyes covered - these are unique techniques of Wu Hao, pharmaceutist of traditional Chinese medicine in Shanghai Lei Yun Shang Pharmacy, achieved by hard practices. Recently, this girl, born in 1988, was awarded the title of “Artisan of Shanghai” together with “masters” in other sectors.


Praised by customers for being a “walking scale”


Check the prescription, take herbal pieces, weigh, distribute and package. For Wu Hao, it takes less than 10 minutes to fill a prescription comprising over 20 herbal pieces for 7 portions. In “Materia Medica Hall”, Wu Hao has to repeat this process for over 400 times every day. The work of “taking, weighing and distributing” seems simple and mechanical but has made Wu Hao reputed in this sector and make her win the title of “walking scale”. The Reporter has found that it seems that Wu Hao has "randomly" taken a handful of herbal pieces close to the prescription dose and distributed the dose equally into portions with no pieces left in the scale’ plates and without any adjustment of amount in the whole process.


Wu Hao started her career in Shanghai Lei Yun Shang Pharmacy after her graduation in 2007. At first, it took her at least 45 minutes to finish a prescription with oft-repeated adjustment of amounts during the process. However, now even the most complicated prescription will cost no more than 15 minutes. Wu Hao told the reporter that, every day there are many customers to fill prescriptions here who often queue up long to take medicines, if there is any delay in filling prescriptions, customers would complain and that she has developed this technique to improve the efficiency of filling prescriptions, thus saving customers’ time. “It takes me nearly 5 years to develop this skill. In fact, I am not a quick learner, but I am willing to spend more efforts in improvement.” The young girl said with a little shy.


Wu Hao told the reporter that even a little difference in traditional Chinese medicine dose may result in great difference in efficacy. Taking goldthread for example, 2-3 g of it can strengthen spleen, while in large dose, it can function to relieve the symptoms of sthenic fire in one’s body. Thus, when the dose in the prescription is 1g, 2g and even 1.5g, one should be accurate in weight, otherwise different effect may be caused. To guarantee the speed and accuracy of filling prescriptions, Wu Hao often study in her spare time. She finds that doses of most herbal pieces in customers’ prescriptions are 9 g, 6 g and 4.5 g, so what she has to do is to adjust the scale at 4.5g, grab 4.5g herbal pieces with her right hand accurately, place on the scale plate, empty the herbal pieces aside if the weigh-beam remains horizontal, and then grab another kind of herbal pieces…..After repetition, she can finish one portion of the prescription every 1.06 minutes on average with accurate amount and fast speed.


Knowing well the properties of nearly 1,000 traditional Chinese medicines


For a pharmaceutist of traditional Chinese medicine, medicine recognition is another key basic skill besides being accurate in filling prescription. At first, Wu Hao always messed up recognizing and finding the right herbal pieces among numerous drawers and had to repeat for many times to take one kind of herbal piece. Wu Hao said that she admired the masters who skillfully took herbs and weighted when she initially worked here. So she made up her mind to be familiar with these herbs with more efforts and more time. To overcome the difficulty in recognizing herbs, she opened a “herb house” in her own home and placed over 100 Chinese herbs in the living room to recognize, in addition to humbly learning experiences from masters. When her vision blurred, she would smell with her nose, and when her smell was insensitive, she would taste by herself. Her mouth and tongue blistered for many times due to tasting the property and flavor of poisonous herbal pieces. Wu Hao told the reporter that once she tasted goldthread and the bitterness in her mouth persisted even she drank water for 2 hours. In this way, with repetition day by day and year by year, Wu Hao developed a unique technique - recognizing herbs with eyes covered - with her spirit of persistence. Now, she can recognize nearly 1,000 herbal pieces and over 200 herbal pieces with her eyes covered.


A “walking map” making no mistake in any prescription


There are nearly 1,000 herbal pieces in numerous drawers of “Materia Medica Hall”. To improve efficiency, Wu Hao has developed the skill of being a “walking map”. She can find the position of drawers containing different herbal pieces accurately and quickly, no matter where she stands and what kind of herbal pieces are beside and behind her. She is clear about the position of every herbal piece accurately, as if there were eyes on the back side of her head. All colleagues give her a nickname “walking map” and will ask for her help when they couldn’t find the right herbal pieces.


In the sector of traditional Chinese medicine, there is an old saying that an excellent physician should be assisted by a good pharmaceutist. In this way, medicines will be effective for patients. Wu Hao told the reporter that though the work of filling Chinese traditional medicine prescription seems simple and nothing but repetition, it requires professional knowledge and a strong sense of responsibility in every process from checking the prescription, calculating price, filling prescription, reviewing and medicine distribution. Taking checking Chinese traditional medicine prescription for example, one should not only review the standardization of the prescription but also recognize patients’ symptoms through “formula” of the prescription and then review its suitability in using herbs. If there are some clerical errors by physicians or writings difficult to identify, then the pharmaceutist should examine and make a judgement by his own understanding of the general effect of the prescription. Once, a customer came to fill his prescription, where there was an herbal piece named aconite. After checking, Wu Hao found that it’s a prescription for the treatment of facial paralysis, where rhizoma typhonii with the effect of expelling wind should be used rather than the cold-expelling aconite. So she required the customer to contact the physician to clear the doubt. At last, the physician confirmed that that’s his clerical error. It is exactly her spirit of persistence and seriousness that enable Wu Hao to “make no mistake in any prescription” and won a lot of loyal fans, with many regular customers requiring their prescriptions to be filled by Wu Hao only.