Oct 2013 Trip to China

Representatives of the department of Biomedical Sciences (Drs. Richard Nowakowski, Yi Zhou, Yi Ren, Yanchang Wang, Branko Stefanovic and Michael Blaber) visited the Institute of Materia Medica in Beijing and the Shandong University of Chinese Medicine in Jinan. The purpose of the trip was to explore potential collaborative interactions between the FSU College of Medicine and these institutions. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a rich pharmacopeia of naturally derived compounds that remain to be characterized – especially with regard to mechanistic details of activity. FSU's expertise in mechanistic studies in neuroscience, cardiovascular disease, and cancer can provide Chinese institutions studying TCM with excellent opportunities for productive collaborative science.

The following is a pictorial log of our trip (mostly from my viewpoint)…

This is the view that greets you when you land in Beijing – I decided that every construction crane in the world is currently in China. The amount of construction going on is difficult to overstate; and the amount of money involved must be huge. Much of the construction appears to be apartment housing.


First things first… Branko trying to figure out the ATM in the hotel in Beijing. There are about 6 Chinese Yuan to the dollar. Although we both have a PhD we could never mentally calculate the conversion correctly. How much easier life would be with 10 Yuan to the dollar.


First sight-seeing in China – the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. This is where the Emperor offered sacrifices for a good harvest each year, and where the magical number 9 pervades everything. Here, Branko and Yanchang are at the entrance:


The park is a site of social gathering, with many activities going on. There is calligraphy being performed by old men using a large brush with water. The beautiful symbols thus last only for a brief moment in time before evaporating…


A double-circular pavilion; very old, but physically moved to this location several decades ago. Remarkable for having no nails (all wood construction).


The view of the ceiling at the intersection of the two domes:


The main temple. Notice the beautiful blue sky that day. Rare for Beijing apparently.


Beautiful green and blue glazed tiles:


One of many instances of architecture where the number 9 (reserved for the Emperor) is present. These doors have copper nails (with large round heads). There are 9 rows and 9 columns of such nails in each door (go ahead, count them…).


This image is looking at the center of a circular pavilion. The yellow lines are added to indicate that the pavilion is divided into 9 radial sections; then, moving from the center outward there are 9 rings of stones, each with an increasing number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).


Me and Branko hanging out at the Temple of Heaven….

Arriving at the Institute of Medicinal Biotechnology, part of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.



Zebra fish are one of the animal models used by the institute to evaluate pharmacological activity of the compounds they isolate from Chinese herbs.


The institute has a lot of capability in compound purification and characterization, as well as total and semi-synthetic synthesis. I did not take many pictures of the labs as they are essentially indistinguishable from labs at FSU.

Enough science – off to dinner.  From left to right: Yi Ren, Richard Nowakowski (foreground); Branko Stefanovic, Yanchang Wang, and Yi Zhou (background). Yi Ren often wore a bright colored coat or sweater and this was invaluable for not getting lost in the crowds of Beijing – just look for Yi Ren!


Meals were serious affairs. The seating arrangement was important – there were specific seating assignments based upon professional position. Here are (left to right) Dr. Jiang Jiandong (director of the Institute), Dr. Richard Nowakowski (chair, Biomedical Sciences), Dr. Yanchang Wang and Dr. Branko Stefanovic. In the middle of the table (always a lazy Susan) is a goldfish.


Dr. Yi Zhou enjoying the moment…


The next day – going to the Great Wall (apparently, along with everyone else in Beijing)


Here comes the sky tram (finally….)

Finally there! (Branko and Yanchang)


Branko and Yanchang checking out "the great side of the great wall of China":


China is a country with a lot of people and a lot of history, and it is prone to "big projects". The entire wall with all of its branches measure out to be 13,171 miles in length. It goes on and on…


At a particularly steep location on the Great Wall:

Chillin' with Branko at the Great Wall…

The next day – off to the Forbidden City. Lots of areas of interest nearby – including Tiananmen Square: (note the air quality is more typical of Beijing on this day).


Yanchang and Branko in front of Mao's mausoleum.


Me n' Mao; a couple of days later some Uighurs crashed a car at this very spot.

Yi Ren, Branko, me and Richard (in a perpetually good mood – must eat a lot of fiber) about to enter the Forbidden City

In the forbidden city – Yi Zhou, Yanchang Wang and Yi Ren taking a picture of me taking a picture of them taking a picture of me taking a picture of them (etc.)


This would appear to be the main building in the Forbidden City:


Me 'n Branko hangin' at the Forbidden City…

One of my favorite pictures. Branko, Yi Ren, Me, Yi Zhou, Richard and Yanchang. I think this could be used as an album cover (what is an album cover you ask…). A Beatles album. Notice I cross my legs in the opposite direction from the others; thus, I would be Paul (who is Paul you ask…).

A totally arty picture of the reflected sun and building in a moat around the city:


Yi Ren copying my totally arty picture


Trying to walk the streets of Beijing and get to a restaurant for dinner without being killed in the process. Pedestrians technically have the right of way, but also, technically, steel wins over mere flesh every time.


Richard instilling courage in Branko to prepare for the meal ahead…


Taking the subway (I think) back after dinner

The trip certainly revolved, to a large degree, around meals. Here we are the next day at a local noodle place. Yi Ren is thoughtfully wearing a bright pink coat and I had no fear of getting lost.



Taking a bendy bus in Beijing to get to the subway to go to the Summer Palace. The cost was 1 Yuan which is 6 cents. No wait, its 30 cents. Um, no, its 17 cents.


Yi Ren sorting out the subway map.


This is considered practically empty…


There was a movie playing on the monitor in the subway car. I realized it was about the Chinese army fighting the Japanese in the 1930's. To most Americans world war II is a distant memory with limited relevance for today; however, for the Chinese, with their long history, it was apparently just last week. We had some discussion of this. It would be very difficult in the US today to incite citizens to attack German or Japanese owned businesses; however, in China such recent attacks upon Japanese businesses occurred (even though the people doing the attacking were not even born during the 1930's). This was caused by tension related to disputed ownership of uninhabited rocks in the ocean, and the history of Japanese colonialism in China in the 1930's, but also perhaps by the need of the Chinese government to appear strong to its people. Also, see below regarding the earliest book ever found.


Yi Zhou explaining the scenery to Richard Nowakowski at the summer palace


The Summer Palace is on a hill, and surrounds a large man-made lake. The rocks and dirt dug out to create the lake were used to create the large hill. Another mind blowing "big project" in Chinese history that took many people (with only hand tools) many years to complete.



An arty picture of Branko at the Summer Palace

The next day and traveling to Jinan city in Shandong province. There were 6 of us that needed a taxi (two taxis). It was remarkably difficult to get a taxi in Beijing! So we split up into two groups of 3 people and stood on opposite sides of the road to try to flag a taxi down (this is what the hotel said we had to do; they were unable to get a taxi to come to the hotel for some bizarre reason).


Finally got to the train station to get a bullet train to Jinan.


Yi Zhou and Yanchang Wang sorting out the schedule and tickets.


Everything sorted out, and everyone excited about taking the bullet train. Yi Ren's outfit is not very colorful today, so I have to be careful not to get lost in the crowd.


The bullet train!


Jinan, and more cranes and skyscraper construction…


At the hotel in Jinan. Dr. Shijun Wang, director of the Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine explains that Confucius was born in Shandong province and this is a picture of him and some of his sayings:


Another meal, another toast, more calories to burn off later. Yi Zhou, Branko Stefanovic, Junhua Liu (Vice Director, Shandong University of TCM), Yi Ren, Haifa Qiao (from FSU and joined us here), Richard Nowakowski, and Shijun Wang (Director and Dean, Shandong University of TCM).


Entering Shandong University of TCM. I think the sign says "Welcome FSU" or something similar.


Me n' Branko chillaxin' in the faculty lounge…

The US and Chinese contingent about to give their talks…

Acupuncture is taught to the students of TCM at the University. I notice (with some relief) that there are no acupuncture sites on the really important parts of the anatomy.


Look at these needles… in my opinion they qualify as "lethal"


If the needles are not sufficiently therapeutic, they can always attach electrodes. It's all about patient motivation to get better…


If you thought your ears were safe, guess again…


Machines to practice diagnosis of disease from specific types of pulse. Yi Ren is a trained MD in Western medicine.


Another meal…


Fried Seahorse…


Yet more cranes and construction in Jinan…


Jinan is famous for its many springs and parks…




The last dinner in Jinan. They served sea cucumber, fried cicadas, and eels among other delicacies. I drew the line at cicadas, sea cucumber and eels – believing that it is better to offend by not eating than to projectile vomit across the table (extremely bad manners in my book). Richard and Branko, however, ate everything put in front of them. They are true Gastronauts.


It was Richard's birthday and they brought in a cake. They did not have enough candles (or did not want to start a conflagration) so his age is being counted in base 20 or something like that.

One of those rare moments when Richard is at a (brief) loss for words

A visit the next day to the Shandong Museum of Natural History. We had a discussion about corruption. The line to get into the museum was (as typical) hugely long, and would have taken several hours to get through. However, we had a connection with an official of the institute who literally let us in the back door with no wait whatsoever. We decided that in some unique cases (i.e. almost every case) corruption was not necessarily a bad thing (depending on whether you were the corruptee or corruptor).


A clay pig about 7000-8000 years old. Some of the earliest known artwork.


A 7,000 year old water jug with a vaguely disturbing image of a pig like thingy…


A many thousand year old camping set. All the plates you see can stack and fit into the single large container in the middle left hand column.


The first book. Before paper was invented (by the Chinese) words were written on bamboo strips and the strips bound together side by side in a mat sort of thingy that could be rolled up (for storage/transport) and then could be unrolled to be read.  The book is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu. Ironic (or maybe not) that the first human book deals with the subject of warfare…


After the museum we toured around Jinan admiring the springs and lakes.



Our final meal in China, which included miniature dim sum!



Thanks to Richard Nowakowski for providing me with the opportunity to accompany the delegation to China. Many thanks to Yanchang Wang, Yi Zhou and Yi Ren for all their hard work in planning travel, hotels, meals, sightseeing, buses, trains, etc. – it was a lot of hard work but the trip was a great success due to their efforts. Thanks to our hosts in China – Dr. Jiandong Jian, Dr. Shijun Wang and Dr. Junhua Liu for their great hospitality. Hopefully collaborative research efforts between our institutions will be a great success.