Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"They Actually Eat That:" Dragon Bones.

Dragons. Now give me money.

Seriously, though, did you ever expect to see dragons on this blog, let alone on "They Actually Eat That?" After all, dragons are imaginary...right?

Asian dragons have some interesting real-world relatives. There have already been a few entries detailing the arowana ("dragonfish") and reticulated python (likely the basis for the Korean imugi). The oarfish probably inspired a million dragons around the world. Dinosaurs are fair game as well. The Chinese and Japanese words for "dinosaur" technically mean "scary dragon."

Hello, China. Fancy seeing you on this column again. Said it before and we will say it again: If something is considered a god in China, expect it to be used as medicine. Or stuffed in booze. Since dragons are mythical, however, the Chinese have had to resort to using ancient animal bones as folk medicine instead.

Contrary to what most will tell you, the majority of dragon bones actually came from extinct mammals. Sure, there were some dinosaurs in there, too, but most dragon bones/teeth came from mammoths. If the ancient Chinese found a bone in the ground, oh, hey, it must be a dragon bone. Who cares if it came from an actual dragon or not?

Something as vague as dragon bones can only be a panacea.  Teeth were generally calcined (heated until red) to cure insomnia and night sweats. Bones could be used to treat night sweats, vaginal discharge, and bad cases of diarrhea. In general, they cure 'rising yang energies' and help maintain bodily fluids. It's no Tiger's Blood, but it has an added bonus for being not as cracktastic.


Grinding up bones also has a more practical purpose: Most Chinese dishes do not utilize milk. Milk is weird as hell to Chinese people and requires special marketing to sell. Eating bones helped the ancient Chinese get calcium. Compared to people eating drapes and cutlery to make up for nutrient deficiencies, it makes a lot of sense.

The Chinese did some very interesting things with bones. Besides using various sorts of bones in medicine, they also were used to tell the future. Tortoise plaustra and ox scapulae were inscribed with symbols, then heated and cracked. For a long time, these, too, were used as medicine, eliminating some sources of ancient Chinese characters. Some of these oracle bones are also called 'dragon bones,' even though they are CLEARLY not from an extinct animal.

China: Even when you're dead, you're not safe.

Next week: Mold. You'll never touch French cheese again.


  1. hey, nice post!may i know if the first picture on this post, the one with some animal breaking out of its stomach, is true? this is so funny. poor snake

  2. just figured out its a fake. lols! there's no shadow for the animal's hand.. hahaha! and its just not possible to be happening