Establishing TRT Pharmacy with Store afront and Workshop Behind

2010-02-10

 Before the Front Gate in Beijing there is a street not too long and not too wide called “Langfang Fourth Street,” which is named after Langfang First Street, Second Street and Third Street. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, there were wooden railings in the street and at night they were shut down and soldiers were dispatched to guard against thieves. As there were famous business names like Liubiju Prickle Store and Zilanzhai Dessert Store in Langfang Fourth Street, the railings were made especially in large size for the sake of safety. As a result, people called it “Dashilar,” meaning big railings. With the lapse of time, people seldom mentioned its formal name. When it came to the reign of Emperor Qianlong, this place was marked as “Dashilar” even in the official map.

 

On an auspicious day in the forty-first year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi, the year of Renwu (1702 A.D.), another new store opened in the south of the road of Dashilar in the Front Gate. This new store had three store fronts, with beam columns in color paints and black tiles and gray bricks, which were of traditional Chinese architectural style. Although the store was a single-storey house, it was very special as it was “xiawazimen,” meaning the store ground was lower than the street surface and you needed to descend the steps rather than go up when you went in the store. In this way, when it rained, the water on the street surface gathered into the store, symbolizing the profits pouring in from all sides. For this reason, there were several deep wells with great capacity to retain water behind the courtyard and the reserve rain water could be used for irrigation and cleaning. This was the result of the belief in Fengshui by ancient merchants, and it also had the function of water conservation, which is worthy for our reference nowadays. Other people believed that this “xiawazimen” was designed with consideration that many customers were weak patients and this helped save their energy by walking down rather than walking up when entering the store; after they bought the medicine and went out of the store, going up the steps was the propitious sign of recovery and getting promotion step by step.

 

At the grand opening, the new store was decorated with lanterns and banners and the place echoed with the sound of gongs and drums. Many people came to the store for congratulations and also many gathered to watch this scene of bustle. A properly dressed man with delicate looks and in red silk ribbons was greeting the guests with great delight. He was Yue Fengming.

 

In the lobby of the new store, a horizontal inscribed board was very dazzling. The three big Chinese characters of “Tong Ren Tang” were glistening on the newly painted black background, which had brought the acclaim of people.

 

Someone looked at the words very carefully and shouted with surprise, “Look! Why does it say ‘the Year of Yiyou’ of the reign of Kangxi on the board? Now it is the year of Renwu of Kangxi. This board was made 33 years ago!”

 

This provoked much discussion among the crowds, “So yhy wasn’t the board made 33 years ago hung until today?”

 

Some people also found out another strange thing. “The board of ‘Tong Ren Tang’ is hung in the lobby while a board of ‘the Yue’s Old Pharmacy’ is hung outside the store. Why is this?”

 

A friend of Yue Fengming heard this and explained; the Yues have made a living on selling and practicing medicine for generations. As their medicinal materials were quite genuine and the medicines made were highly efficacious, people called their pharmacy the “the Yue’s Old Pharmacy.” Now Mr. Yue Wugang opened a pharmacy in Dashilar and his second elder brother Yue Fengyi also opened a store in the west of Chongwenmenwai Street. Both of the stores were called “the Yue’s Old Pharmacy” to show that they were inheritors of the Yues. However, the store run by Mr. Yue Fengyi was “Wan Quan Tang” and that of Yue Fengming was “Tong Ren Tang.” In order to remember the teachings of his father, Mr. Yue Fengming moved here the board of “Tong Ren Tang” from the mansion and hung it in the lobby. Therefore, the board outside the pharmacy was “the Yue’s Old Pharmacy” and the board in the lobby was “Tong Ren Tang.”

 

“Tong Ren Tang” was the hall name established by Yue Xianyang in the eighth year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1669 A.D.). Yue Xianyang had accumulated many ancient prescriptions, proved recipes and secret royal prescriptions when he was a clerk in the imperial hospital. Moreover, he had mastered many unique recipes and ways of preparation of medicines, laying a solid foundation for the development of TRT. He also created the concept of practicing medicine to promote health and help  people, thus establishing human-oriented medicinal values. In today’s words, TRT has a good gene and a high starting point from the very beginning. Therefore, Yue Xianyang was recognized as the founding father of TRT while Yue Fengming, who opened TRT pharmacy in Dashilar in the forty-first year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1702 A.D.), was acknowledged as the actual initiator of Beijing TRT pharmacy.

 

There was no great difference between TRT and other big pharmacies then. Entering the front gate, you could first see many counters in good order and the eagerly attentive store assistants. Behind them, there were rows of shiny cabinets with names of medicinal herbs written on them. On the cabinets, there were many blue and white porcelain jars with medicines. Getting round the front counters, there were cabinets for precious medicines like ginseng and young pilose antler and also an elegantly furnished parlor for reception of distinguished guests. However, TRT also had a secret pharmacy workshop, located in the mansion of the Yue in Damochang, not far from Dashilar. There were workshops called doufang, north daofang, south daofang, fangzifang and a winery etc. Doufang was responsible for preparation of crude medicine material slices, making various types of patent medicines including pills, medicinal powder, plaster and pellets, and preparation of customized medicines, using prescriptions provided by customers to make pills, medicinal powder, plaster and pellets according to their requirements. The accountant’s office was of course in charge of the accounts, collecting debts and distributing money. Fangzifang was actually a wooden board printing workshop. A lot of printing materials were needed in the pharmacy every day, and that was the responsibility of this workshop. Both the north daofang and south daofang were in charge of slice cutting, but the south daofang could cut thinner slices with much higher technical requirements; it was only responsible for cutting precious medicinal materials like gen-seng, tuber of pinellia, leaf of betel vine, bark of magnolia, monkshood and radix polygonati officinalis. Among the pharmacies in Beijing at that time, only TRT had the south daofang, and it could be regarded as one of the specialities of TRT. The north daofang cut herbal medicinal materials like motherwort which could be grabbed and cut after pressing or jamming.

 

A large amount of raw materials and patent medicines of TRT came in and went out of the warehouse, so warehouses were indispensable. There were drug warehouse, finsihed medicine warehouse, winery and warehouse for precious medicines. There were bezoar, musk, borneol, pearl, cinnabar, ginseng and antelope’s horn kept in the warehouse for precious medicines.