2015

The Museum Collection

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences

Hong Kong Museum of Medical Sciences

Model of students performing rat dissection for plague surveillance

Graduates and senior students from the Hong Kong College of Medicine (founded in 1887) were employed as assistants to the Government Bacteriologist between 1902 and 1912 to examine rats collected from different parts of the City of Victoria throughout the year for plague infection as part of the surveillance program for plague. In 1907, 23 out of 19500 rats collected from April to September were found to be infected with the plague bacillus. Later, rats were also examined for fleas Xenopsyllax cheopis pulex irritans, the species that carry the plague bacillus.

Note the lack of protective devices (gloves, masks, goggles, and gowns) on the assistants from poor awareness of the potential danger of infection at that time.

Photography by SK Lau

Rat bin

This rat bin was used to collect dead rats from the streets for bacteriological examination in the collective effort to control bubonic plague. There were 650 rat bins, which were attached to lampposts, in different parts of the city and suburbs. Each bin, filled with carbolic acid for disinfection, was visited twice daily by a rat collector to gather the rats for examination. Each rat was marked with the number of the bin to indicate the location from which it was collected. When a rat was found to be plague infected, the area was surveyed carefully for disease.

Photography by SK Lau

Close up of rat model showing presence of buboes

This rat model shows two dissected rats: a healthy and a plague infected one. The infected rat shows enlarged lymph nodes from inflammation which distinguishes it from the healthy one.

Photography by SK Lau

Halo-pelvic Traction

Tuberculosis of the spine and poliomyelitis resulting in severe spinal deformities were common in Hong Kong in the 1950s. Dr. Arthur Hodgson, then head of the Orthopaedic and Trauma Unit, University of Hong Kong and his team introduced the halo-pelvic apparatus for immobilization and correction of severe and rigid kyphosis or kyphoscoliosis in the 1970s. The “Halo”, a metal ring, was secured with four screws into the outer dipole of the skull while the pelvic ring was secured to the two halves of the pelvis by two threaded pins that traverse the whole length of the two halves of the pelvis. The patient also had to remain in bed during traction. With this device, controlled distraction was made while the patient was awake and ambulant. Because the distraction forces along the spinal cord are powerful, complications such as injuries to cranial nerves, compression of the spine and even “coning” of the medulla oblongata through the foramen magnum, could arise. With improvements in public health especially in infectious diseases control and school screening programmes for spinal abnormalities, severe deformities requiring traction or surgery are becoming rare.

Photography by SK Lau

Use of halo-pelvic distraction apparatus

Photography by SK Lau

A Model and X-rays of Bound Feet

Photography by SK Lau

Foot Binding X-Ray

Photography by SK Lau

X-Ray of normal foot

Photography by SK Lau

Foot Binding Model

Foot binding (also known as "Lotus” or “Lily” feet) was the custom of applying painfully tight binding to the feet of young girls to prevent further growth. The practice possibly originated among upper-class court dancers during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Imperial China (10th or 11th century), but spread in the Song Dynasty and eventually became common among all but the lowest of classes, ethnic minorities and the fishing people of southern China. Foot binding was a symbol of sexual attractiveness and beauty and a prerequisite for contracting a suitable marriage. Although attempts were made to ban the practice over the centuries and was outlawed in 1912, the custom was difficult to eradicate.
As shown in the model and the x-rays, foot binding led to marked distortion of the architecture of the bones in the feet resulting in lifelong disabilities which were aggravated by frequent infections. Few elderly Chinese women still survive today with bound feet.

Photography by SK Lau

Acupuncture Needles

In ancient times, acupuncture needles were made of stone, bamboo or bone, and usually bigger (see model) than the modern ones which are small and thin with thickness of a piece of human hair and made of stainless steel for flexibility and rust prevention. Acupuncture needles of varying length and size are available and they are sterilized, and pre-packaged usually for single use. There are also reusable ones that require sterilization between uses. The needles are applied to specific acupuncture points located along different meridians on the body to treat different diseases.

Photography by SK Lau

Chinese Pangolin (M. pentadactyla) Subfamily Maninae - Subgenus Manis

Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a nocturnal animal specialized in eating ants and termites with head-to-body length ranging from 50 to 90 cm. Made of agglutinated hair, the scales have razor-sharp edges for defense against predators. When threatened, the pangolin curls up into a ball and raises its scales.
The pangolin is considered a culinary delicacy. Its scales, blood and flesh are widely used in traditional Chinese medicine for curing cancer, reducing swelling, promoting blood circulation and stimulating lactation in breast-feeding women amongst other uses. Because of the high demand for above purposes, all eight species of pangolin face extinction and have been placed on the Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Hong Kong was one of the first jurisdictions to protect the species by passing the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance in 1936, but the ordinance was difficult to enforce until protection laws were also adopted and enforced in neighboring countries. Illegal trafficking continues to be rampant in Asian and African countries even recently with an estimated 105,410-210,820 animals illegally traded from August 2011 to October 2013.

Photography by SK Lau

Aquilaria sinensis 土沉香 Incense Tree

A native of Hong Hong, mature incense trees produce a dark and fragrant resin in response to wounding and fungal infection. Otherwise, the wood of healthy uninfected trees is light and lacks aroma. The fragrant resin is highly valued in Chinese medicine and in the making of incense and perfumes. The name of Hong Kong – literally “Fragrant Harbour” – is believed to have originated from its groves of incense trees and its flourishing incense products export trade centuries ago. In recent years, Aquilaria sinensis in the wild has become a threatened species because of indiscriminate illegal logging for its precious resin.

Agarwood (resin-permeated wood) – raw material for Chinese medicine and fragrances

All rights reserved HKMMS

Ficus hirta 五指毛桃 Hairy Fig

In southern China, the root of this shrub is a common herbal medicine as well as a food ingredient in popular soups with chicken and pork – an example of using medicinal plants, not only as medicine, but also as everyday food to remedy illness, prevent disease and promote health. During the Second World War, supplies of an important Qi strengthening herb Astragalus root (Radix Astragali 北芪) from northern China could not reach the south. The root of this local native plant Hairy Fig was used as a substitute because of similar medicinal properties, and has since been known as “Astragalus root of the south” (南芪).

All rights reserved HKMMS

Chinese herbal medicine: dried root of Ficus hirta (Hairy Fig)

All rights reserved HKMMS

Zanthoxylum nitidum 兩面針 Shiny-leaf Prickly Ash

The root of this shrub has been used as a painkiller for specific conditions in Chinese medicine since ancient times. It was described in the oldest classic Chinese medical literature, and is included in the Chinese pharmacopoeia. It has analgesic and anaesthetic effects, while its medicinal properties include “mild toxicity”, referring to its propensity to over-correct when restoring the disturbed Yin-Yang equilibrium in the body. It is thus usually prescribed in combination formulae so that its toxicity is neutralized by the other ingredients in the prescription during decoction. “Toxicity 毒 ” with respect to action mechanisms in Chinese medicine is different from “Poison 毒 ” in western medicine.

All rights reserved HKMMS

Chinese herbal medicine: dried root of Zanthoxylum nitidum (Shiny-leaf Prickly Ash)

All rights reserved HKMMS

Hong Kong Medical Sciences Museum
Credits: Story

For reference and educational use only.
All rights reserved HKMMS © 2015

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Home
Explore
Nearby
Profile