One of the world's most experienced herbalists, Fung Fung, died on Wednesday, October 18, 2006 at the age of ninety-six. Dr. Fung was born in Hong Kong and graduated from the Canton College of Chinese Medicine. He set up his first practice in 1935, operating a clinic for the poor. In 1939, he was one of two herbalists selected out of 115 applicants to practice in the Tung Wah Hospital in Saigon, Vietnam.
Dr. Fung spent thirty years in Vietnam working at the hospital, seeing patients in his own clinic, and running an herb store. During this period, most of Dr. Fung's clients were Vietnamese and Chinese, although he also had some American GI patients. In Vietnam, Dr. Fung saw between 100-150 patients each day.
After the Tet offensive in 1968, Dr. Fung moved back to Hong Kong. At the age of seventy, following the death of his wife, the herbalist moved to California. Eventually he had practices in both San Francisco and Oakland. In addition, Dr. Fung began to teach Chinese medicine by apprenticeship and through seminars. "Especially gratifying was the development of friendships with a large number of American-born acupuncturists and herbalists," Dr. Fung said. In 1985, at the age of seventy-five, he became an American citizen. He continued to practice into his nineties, developed several herbal formulas marketed through Health Concerns and wrote the book Sixty Years In Search of Cures.
Dr. Fung will be remembered for his compassion, his ability to care for people from all walks of life, and his encyclopedic knowledge of herbs. One of his students, Dr. Robert Johns, stated, "By understanding Dr. Fung's world view, I learned that Chinese medicine is not just the application of a collection of facts called knowledge, but a whole configuration of thinking. To see in this way is to be able to take the skills of diagnosing and prescribing to a more profound level."
My favorite memories of Dr. Fung are of watching him diagnose patients and observing his herb selection. I believe he got superior results because of his experience, diagnostic skills, and his empirical knowledge of herbs, which did not always match textbook information. In our clinic, we had to increase the number of herbs dramatically when Dr. Fung joined our practice. He was well known in Oakland Chinatown. It was always a treat to go to a Chinese restaurant with Dr. Fung; we always got the best food and excellent service.
~ Andrew Gaeddert