As is the case with most blue collar jobs, farming is incredibly hard work—and 51-year-old Bo Chunlou could attest to that. A smalltime pig farmer living in Ju County in China’s Shandong Province, Bo had lived a rather unassuming life… until now.
Chunlou had been going about his day when he made an incredible discovery while gutting a 550-pound pig. At first, he had no idea what it was, but soon he learned that it would bring him a fortune like no other…
China is a dominant force in the world economy, with its technological industry now rivaling that of first world countries like the United States. Yet much of its workforce still operates from rural villages—and they experience their own success, too. One such citizen was none other than farmer Bo Chunlou.
The 51-year-old farmer, who lived in Ju County in China’s Shandong Province, certainly led a minimalistic life. Out in the countryside, Chunlou wasn’t adorned with the latest gadgets and electronics like his compatriots in the cities. He spent much of his time on the farm doing backbreaking work.
As was the case with most rural farmers, Chunlou wasn’t paid especially well for his labor. But one day, while working on his farm, he discovered something that would change the course of his life forever—and bring him tremendous good fortune.
It was a good thing Chunlou was so committed to his job, because he ended up finding something incredibly rare. One day, while gutting a ginormous 550-pound sow for meat, he came across something peculiar in her gall bladder. It looked like a ball of fur. What was it?
The object was called a bezoar. Comprised of a mixture of digested and undigested items—like hair and foliage—these can be made by both humans and animals alike. After showing his findings to other villagers, Chunlou was told something he couldn’t believe.
He was informed that Chinese medical practitioners would pay lots of money to acquire a bezoar. Stunned by this news—but eager to see how much it was worth—Chunlou and his son, Bo Mingxue, went to have it appraised in Shanghai.
Urashimataro / Wikimedi
As was expected, the bezoar was worth a lot more than Chunlou had originally anticipated. In fact, the appraiser informed him and his son that it was worth a whopping $605,000! He was, unsurprisingly, elated.
With traditional Chinese medicine as popular as ever, the bezoar was a highly coveted item. Chunlou and his son presumed that it would eventually wind up for sale in one of the many herbal pharmacies in the country.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a booming industry; it’s responsible for up to 33 percent of the country’s pharmaceutical industry. Some experts have suggested the industry is valued at upwards of $120 billion!
Wang Guoqiang, deputy chief of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, attributes this popularity to its support by the Chinese government. Otherwise, he assumed, many people would be skeptical of its capabilities.
“I’ve been to some countries and many state leaders mentioned they wished to import TCM [traditional Chinese medicine] to their own country,” Guoqiang explained. “Their awareness and recognition of TCM is continuously rising.”
Yet the practice of this type of medicine is still controversial. That’s likely because items like animal testicles and crocodile jaws are commonly used ingredients—as are questionable human by-products like dandruff, feces, and ear wax.
Perhaps most controversial of all is that traditional Chinese medicine still uses parts from endangered animals, like tigers, because of high demand. The market for these products is valued upwards of $20 billion every single year.
Bezoars are still popular items because they’re considered to have anti-poison properties. All you’d have to do is drop the bezoar stone into something poisonous, and the poison was rumored to lose its effect immediately. It truly sounded like something from a Harry Potter film!
Bezoars were so precious that they were once discovered among treasure on a sunken ship called the Nuestra Señora de Atocha. More modern research has discovered that bezoars are somewhat worthy of their reputation as an item of value: they’re capable of removing toxins from an arsenic liquid…
In traditional Chinese medicine, bezoars are still used rid one’s body of “evil” things, and they are most often harvested directly from oxen and cows. Furthermore, they can be used to remedy various ailments, such as a sore throat.
To use a bezoar stone, medical practitioners must first turn it into a fine powder, which is said to have a rather bittersweet flavor. And while bezoar powder carries various vitamins and minerals, its side effects include diarrhea and poisoning.
While traditional Chinese medicine continues to be a booming industry, there’s actually very little proof that any of the remedies—including bezoar stones—work. Researchers have even suggested that they could have damaging effects! People are encouraged to stick with Western medicine where possible.
Meanwhile, Bo Chunlou’s find was still incredibly valuable. At the rate he’ll make money from his bezoar, he could give up pig farming in a flash. Then again, why would he if he could possibly find more?
What an odd discovery. You have to imagine that Chunlou never anticipated he’d make over $600,000 when he went to work that day!
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