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Day 82: Lugu Lake to Lijiang

Michael Palin - HimalayaI try to explain the error but Mr Ho Junior is not really interested. He's now jettisoned the visitors' book and is showing us out through a small back garden, where seeds are drying in wide, shallow baskets, and onto a wooden verandah where food is being set out. Dr Ho's wife, a beautiful woman, and a calming presence too, is supervising what turns out to be a wonderful meal, served in dishes that spread over the table and beyond: hyacinth, water-lily, anchovy, baby pig, Yunnan ham, tofu, broccoli and more.

She wears traditional Naxi costume: a blue bonnet and deep blue top with a white apron and a quilted cape tightly secured by two cross-ribbons and on its back a slip of white fur, representing the day, and above it a dark blue cloth representing the night.

Dr Ho joins us and I learn a little more about him.

Though he was always fascinated by herbal medicine, he was reviled by the Red Guards, who smashed his place up, and he was unable to get back his licence to practise until the start of the 'Open-Door' policy in 1985. Even then, he could practise only at public hospitals. Nowadays he will see anyone and only asks people to pay what they can afford.

He was clearly inspired by the work of Dr Joseph Rock, an irascible, dedicated Austro- American botanist who lived and worked in southwest China for 27 years, until forced to leave after the Revolution in 1949. He admired the ethnic minorities and was apprehensive of their domination by the Han Chinese. He compiled an English-Naxi dictionary and sent back to the West a collection of 80,000 botanical specimens.

It was 'Rock's Kingdom', Bruce Chatwin's report for the New York Times in 1986, that brought Dr Ho to a world audience.

Which is why we're here today. And as far as everyone at Dr Ho's is concerned, I'm a regular visitor.
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  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 82: Lugu Lake to Lijiang
  • Country/sea: China
  • Place: Baisha
  • Book page no: 194

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