Black Gold (Paywalled)

A beloved Chinese medicine is enjoying unlikely success abroad, where its controversial past is largely unknown

Last year, the revelation that Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, a cough syrup that allegedly dates back to the Qing dynasty, had been “discovered” by flu-afflicted New Yorkers was greeted with bemusement by some, and outright triumphalism by others.

“This is an honor…consensus, mutual respect, and mutual complement between Chinese and Western medicine benefit the health of humanity,” declared Guangdong News, after the Wall Street Journal published its February 2018 story of a New York architect who used the sweet brew to cure a persistent cough “in 15 seconds,” and told everyone he knew. Celebrity fans, from actor Matthew Modine to singer Jason Mraz, have praised the “secret remedy,” and shares of Kingsworld Medicines Group, its Hong Kong-listed distributor, rose by 25 percent the following Monday.

Not everyone was as impressed. Amid Stateside grumblings about cultural appropriation, state news agency Xinhua interviewed Chinese residents in Los Angeles, who saw no evidence of their childhood cold remedy going mainstream, while the Nanfang Metropolis Daily debunked rumors that the TCM brew was being sold in the US for 450 RMB per bottle (it’s sold at around 30 RMB over the counter in China, and 25 USD or 170 RMB on Amazon).

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Black Gold (Paywalled) is a story from our issue, “China Chic.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.



Hatty Liu is the managing editor of The World of Chinese.

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