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Shi Zhen Trading
Despite the earnest “Little Chitaly” marketing of $5 million Baxter Street condos, gentrification has not reached the interior of Yuan Xing He’s Chinese medicine clinic. Walls here are lined with some 1,200 herbs inside jars, bags, and card catalog-like wooden drawers, and it’s just a ten-spot to see the doctor, a native of Canton, China who speaks nary a word of English. (If you don’t bring along a translator, you'd better hope a fellow shopper is bilingual.) Given the lack of privacy between the doctor’s makeshift office and his shop, details of patients’ medical situations quickly become public as Yuan examines the pulse, tongue, and face. As he queries patients about menstrual cycles and bowel movements, shoppers crowd around to receive answers with interest, nodding and bantering amongst themselves. Yuan writes the diagnosis in ink dipped from a pot: blue characters scrawled down a thick white ledger that for many could double as art. His wife then forays in the herb library, using a medieval-looking scale to weigh out doses of brownish roots, seeds, bark, and berries.