Longgu: Dragon Bones
In traditional Chinese medicine, longgu, or “dragon bones,” are prescribed as a treatment for numerous ailments, from madness to diarrhea and dysentery. Most fragments and powders sold in Chinese pharmacies as dragon bone come from fossil remains of extinct mammals, unearthed from China’s renowned fossil beds.
An Ancient Chinese Legend
Long ago, near the River Min in the province of Sichuan in China, there lived a woman and her son. They were good people, but very poor. Every day the boy hiked into the countryside to cut grass. This he gathered and sold to the villagers for fodder and fuel. With his small earnings, mother and son managed to survive.
One year a terrible drought struck the land. Life became even harder for the family. The boy went out as usual every day, gathering what he little he could. He made less and less money. After a while his mother became ill from hunger.
“Who knows what the gods have in store for us?” Xiao Sheng sang out to his mother every morning. “Today may not be the same as yesterday.”
In spite of his hardships, Xiao Sheng is a cheerful boy who loves to sing. He works from sunrise to sunset to earn enough money to feed his family. When Xiao finds a magic pearl, everything is changed forever.
Author Julie Lawson based this folktale on the Chinese traditional belief that dragons are water gods who can transform their shape.
Illustrator Paul Morin, an award-winning Canadian artist, spent months on location in China researching scenery, architecture, costumes, and customs of the people.
He incorporates real objects such as pieces of clothing, foliage and grass onto his canvas to enrich the texture of the paintings.
The mud banks are there still, testament to the boy’s farewell as he disappeared into the river, thrusting his mighty dragon’s tail. For many years, until the mother’s death, she visited the river daily and spoke with her child, the guardian dragon. That is why the people call these banks beside the River Min the “Looking at Mother Banks.”