Sine magazine


Annual membership of the SCA includes a subscription to the Association's magazine, Sine, usually published twice a year. This contains a wide variety of articles related to China and the Scotland/China relationship, past and present, as well as details of the Association's meetings and other events. The title is the Gaelic for China.

Current issue

The current issue, published in October 2015, includes articles on Scots and the Chinese export porcelain trade, by Ian Glennie of Bonhams ; Taiwan, by David Walters ; golf in China before 1949, by John Rigg ; and the 50th anniversary celebrations of our sister organisation in England, the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding.

Like to write for Sine ?

Anyone wishing to contribute to the magazine should contact the editor, Dale Finlayson.

Back issues

We have for sale limited stocks of back issues of Sine from November 1996 to the present. Contact Dale Finlayson for more details or if you are looking for a specific issue.

The first issue of Sine, 1972

At the recent event at the Chinese Consulate to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Ambassadorial Diplomatic Relations between the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom (see this article), our Chairman Janice Dickson took the opportunity to mark a notable 40th anniversary for the SCA. She presented Consul-General Li with a copy of the first issue of Sine, which was published in Spring 1972.

There had been an earlier publication, called The Bulletin of the SCA, beginning in February 1968, but these were duplicated newsletters rather than a full magazine.

You can download a copy of this 1972 issue here. It includes articles on a wide range of topics, including Peking University since the Cultural Revolution, Chinese education, woodcuts, medicine, archaeology, and agricultural modernisation, as well as obituaries of Edgar Snow and Chen Yi.

Sine Articles by John Chinnery

By Website Editor

Dr John Chinnery, the SCA's Honorary President, died on 12 October 2010. He was a founding member of the Scotland-China Association and its chairman for many years, and was head of the Department of Chinese at the University of Edinburgh from 1965 to 1989.

As well as his many academic publications, Dr Chinnery was a regular contributor to Sine.As part of the commemoration of his life that will take place at the Association's 2011 AGM, we have collected together his eighteen articles from Sine, dating from 1973 to 2009. We appreciate the assistance of Elsie Collier, Dale Finlayson and the National Library of Scotland in gathering these materials, many of which have not seen the light of day for some years.These articles are now available in PDF format (and one weblink) by clicking on the article titles below.

Reading these articles as a collection, what is quite striking is the sheer variety of topics that Dr Chinnery covered. Whether he was analysing the role of Confucius in Chinese culture, making incisive comment on Chinese politics, giving an entertaining explanation of the mysteries of Chinese names, or advocating a greater emphasis on Chinese teaching in Scotland, the writing is clear, well-researched, and sensitive.

He had, of course, a great love for China. Recounting his positive experience in a Guangzhou hospital after a heart attack at the beginning of an SCA visit in 1973, he notes, “for a patient with an unpleasant illness the most important thing is human contact, and of that there was never any lack”. His careful analysis of the events of June 1989 observed that there had been a "yearning for social justice", and he regretted that the Chinese leadership had lost its "youthful vigour". In his most recent article, on Daniel Defoe's writing on China in the The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, he effectively >demolishes Defoe's poor depiction of eighteenth-century China.

Dr Chinnery had a particular interest in Confucius, and there are two articles on this topic in the collection. In 1974, during a period when the writings of the ancient sage were being officially vilified in China, he wrote, “the image of Confucius will never be the same again”. Some forty years later, he was surely amused to see how the modern Chinese state used Confucius as its "brand" for international cultural activity !

The second constant theme in his articles is wholehearted involvement in the work of the SCA itself, whether on its tours to China, the hosting of delegations in Scotland, or promoting Chinese culture here.>He notes, for example, that 5,000 people visited various exhibitions in Edinburgh during a 'China Week' in 1987 - we would be pleased by that turnout now. Dr Chinnery's contribution to the Scotland-China Association over nearly fifty years was immense, and we hope that by publicising these articles to a new and wider audience, his knowledge will inspire another generation of members and friends.

The articles are listed below, all in Sine unless otherwise stated:

'Coronary in Canton', Spring 1973

'Trade Unions Re-emphasised', Volume 2, No. 3, 1974

'Confucianism in Modern China', Volume 3, No. 1, 1974

'Chinese Graphic Art', Volume 3, No. 3, 1975

'New Policies for a New Period', October 1978 (the magazine was known as the Bulletin at this time)

'Visit of the Xi'an Municipal Delegation', No. 1, 1985

'Edinburgh China Week', No. 1, 1987

'An Overview of the SCA's 1987 Friendship Delegation Tour', January 1988

'The Teaching of Chinese in Scotland', January 1989

'Some Observations on the Crisis in China', September 1989

'A Note on the Early History of the SCA', November 1996

'Confucius and Modernisation', Spring 1997

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the PRC', November 1999

'What's in a (Chinese) Name?', October 2000

'Lu Xun's Childhood, Part 1', October 2002

'Lu Xun's Childhood, Part 2', February 2003

'Forty Years of the Scotland-China Association, Part 1', October 2006

'Robinson Crusoe in China', January 2009

Sine issue : Winter 2006

Curing Malaria - a Chinese triumph

By Tony Butler

Malaria has been with us since the dawn of civilisation. The Greeks described it, and it was also widespread in Italy until the Pontine Marshes were drained. In the Middle Ages it was common in England, where it was known as the ague, but was absent from Scotland because of the colder climate. Other parts of the world suffered as much as Europe and there is plenty of written evidence that it occurred in China, particularly in the south.


The older Chinese term for malaria is yaozi. Many commentators in different parts of the world noted that it was most prevalent in marshy areas, hence the name malaria (bad air). The symptoms are principally an intermittent fever, anaemia and lethargy, with the first being the most characteristic. It is caused by a blood parasite (Plasmodium) that enters red blood cells, reproduces asexually, and then bursts out, each new parasite entering another red blood cell. The parasite is transmitted from person to person by the female mosquito (Anopheles), which likes to feed on human blood.

In the West, until the 17th century, there was no cure for malaria although many nostrums were tried and promoted. Then Spanish missionaries returning from South America brought back the bark of a tree, the cinchona tree, that South American Indians used to treat fevers, but, as it was generally known as Jesuits bark, there was prejudice against its use in Protestant Britain. However, a Cambridge quack, Robert Talbor, included the bark in a secret concoction that was used successful for curing malaria in many prominent people all over Europe and brought him great financial success. The Chinese emperor Kangxi was treated with cinchona bark taken to China by Jesuits.

One problem in the use of cinchona bark was quality control, as adulteration, which is difficult to detect, was widespread. In the early 19th century two French chemists, Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou, extracted from cinchona bark the component of the bark responsible for killing the malarial parasite p and called it quinine. Quinine proved to be even better than the bark in curing malaria, and it was much easier to check the purity of the sample.

As European nations tried to colonise tropical and subtropical parts of the world where malaria was widespread, the demand for quinine, and hence cinchona bark, exhausted that available from trees growing wild in South America and plantations of cinchona trees were established in Java. Here the bark was removed in a controlled way so that the trees were not killed. However, there was still not enough, and in the 1920s the Germans developed a purely synthetic alternative to quinine, mepacrine. Quinine and mepacrine are chemically related but the latter can be made in a pharmaceutical factory.

During World War II supplies of both quinine and mepacrine were denied to the Allies after Japan over-ran Java and German exports ceased. The absence of a good antimalarial drug had serious consequences for the war in the Pacific, but the Americans quickly found a way to make their own mepacrine. However, the drug had a major drawback - the recipient's skin became yellow. The Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose broadcast to American troops and told them that mepacrine not only turned skin yellow (true) but also made them infertile (untrue). Such was the alarm of the troops that they stopped taking the drug, and so many fell ill with malaria that the tide of the fighting could have turned against the Americans. The response was to make a better antimalarial drug that did not affect the recipient's skin, and this is the origin of chloroquine, for many years the bedrock of antimalarial medicine. When the World Health Organisation initiated an unsuccessful campaign to eradicate malaria in the 1950s, chloroquine therapy was a major component.

In the 1960s there were two major developments in the fight against malaria. The use of the insecticide DDT, which had been so successful in reducing the number of mosquitoes, was banned because of human toxicity, and the malarial parasite developed resistance to chloroquine. By the1970s malaria was again rampant in many parts of the world where previously it had been under control, and today the situation is even worse. Worldwide there are probably about 400 million cases of malaria and in Africa alone over one million children die of the disease every year. The burden for Africa is not just AIDS and tuberculosis but also malaria. Of these malaria is the biggest killer.

As chloroquine's effectiveness declined, doctors decided that a new drug, working in an entirely different way from chloroquine or mepacrine, was required, and this is where the Chinese enter the story.

The People's Liberation Army wanted a new antimalarial drug specifically so they could fight in the jungles of Vietnam. The Chinese government set over 100 of the country's leading scientists to test all the herbs mentioned in Chinese herbals (called bencao) as cures for intermittent fever. The scientists who worked on the project were excused hard labour in the fields, which was the fate of most intellectuals. After many false starts one herb emerged as a serious candidate for the treatment of malaria. It was a plant growing wild in southern China, called in Chinese qinghao and in English sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua). The Chinese alchemist of the 4th century Ge Hong noted its use in treating fevers, and in the great herbal of the 16th century, the Bencao Gangmu, its properties are described in detail. For modern investigators the situation was confused by claims, made in some bencao, that qinghao cured a whole range of diseases. It is unlikely that all the claims are true, but that concerning malarial fever is correct. Chinese chemists then extracted from qinghao the active principle for killing the malarial parasite and named it qinghaosu (extract of qinghao) or artemisinin. In a brilliant piece of science, with limited equipment, they determined the chemical structure of qinghaosu and concluded that it contained a peroxide bridge, a most unusual structure. A molecule of qinghaosu consists of a tricyclic framework of carbon atoms - the unusual feature is the -O-O- group spanning one of the rings.

It was tested as an antimalarial drug in China and found to be highly effective, particularly against the most deadly form of malaria, cerebral malaria. Moreover, its mode of action was completely different from that of chloroquinine and so, initially, resistance was not a problem.

When this work was being done, China was a closed country and news of it did not reach the West. However, two western scientists, David Warrell and Nick White, working in Vietnam, came across a tatty copy of the Chinese Medical Journal describing the work on qinghaosu. They were astonished at the claims made but doubted the truth of what they read as so little was known, at that time, about Chinese science.; After many twists and turns to the story, the work was taken up by the World Health Organisation, the Wellcome Trust and western pharmaceutical companies and almost every claim made by the Chinese authenticated.

The Chinese have a near monopoly in the production of qinghaosu from the plant and it is in short supply because of the great demand, particularly in Africa. Consequently the price is rising. The unsupervised use of qinghaosu in Asia is a cause for concern, as these circumstances may lead to the emergence of resistant strains of the malarial parasite. In Africa the situation is better as it is used in combination with other antimalarial drugs in the hope that this will prevent resistance arising. If malaria is ever defeated it is probable that the Chinese discovery of qinghaosu will have played a major part in that defeat.

Sine Issue : September 2006

Dugald Christie, a Scottish Christian in Changing China
by Ian Wotherspoon

Christian missionaries from around the world played an important, if controversial, part in the development of China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Ian Wotherspoon remembers one Scottish missionary, Dugald Christie, whose cultural awareness and humanitarian involvement were extraordinary.

It's a long way from Glen Coe to Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city; i's even further from Edinburgh to Shenyang (Mukden), the capital of what is now Liaoning province in China. Born below the heights of Buchaille Etive Mor, Dugald Christie came to Edinburgh to study medicine and in 1883, as a medical missionary of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, went to Shenyang where he spent most of his life in the remote, often hostile, environment of northeastern China. The cold climate there, he said, reminded him so much of home.[1]

Christie was one of many Scottish Christians who, as China opened up in the 1880s, worked around the country in locations as diverse as Hong Kong on the Guangdong coast to Harbin by the Russian frontier. Representing the main institutions of Scottish Protestant ecclesiastical life, their religious views largely mirrored the thoughts, hopes and prejudices of their time. Many of their physical achievements were ephemeral, being swept away in the cataclysm of the 1949 revolution and the turbulent years that followed. However, much more tangible, what they did leave behind was an enthralling record of their perceptions of China and the Chinese people at a time of rapid change. Their views, more often than not, reflect a particularly Scottish perspective founded on the thinking of 19th and 20th century Scottish life which, almost always, was underpinned by the values of the democratic intellect.

Protestant missionaries in general, and Scottish Christians in particular, probably lend themselves to a high degree of stereotyping that tends to diminish their achievements and, indeed, their humanity. Of course, like many expatriates, there were some who never really engaged with China or the Chinese but they seem to have been a small minority. However, despite the difficulties they faced living in a rapidly changing society, which was itself redefining its future, their views of Chinese society are almost always fresh, challenging, never complacent and driven by a strong commitment to China's people.

What did they think about the political and economic changes taking place in China in those years ? What was their reaction to foreign intervention in China ? What did they really think about China and the Chinese people ? How did they reflect their views to friends and supporters in Scotland ? Dugald Christie's remarkable career provides some of the answers to these questions.

For missionaries like Christie, the dislocation resulting from the impending demise of the Qing dynasty posed a number of problems. Hostility to foreigners was an ever-present reality, often exacerbated because of fear of missionary intentions or for short-term political motives. On several occasions, he had to beat less than a dignified retreat pursued by aggressive bandits and disaffected soldiers. Finding accommodation in which to live and work was not easy and, even when this was achieved, it was frequently impermanent.

In a springless cart, travel along deeply rutted roads across the dreary Manchurian plain was uncomfortable and slow. Wayside inns were basic, affording few luxuries other than a brick bed. There were, however, some compensations. Christie remembers travelling in springtime as “a delight to the soul” with fresh green life bursting out after the long winter and the countryside carpeted in flowers. In the summer, passage by river boat was a leisurely experience, with the passenger taking his place along with the beans and other cargo at the bottom of the craft !

Whether in the urban environment of Shenyang or travelling in the surrounding countryside, Christie worked hard to understand Manchurian society. The contrast between the prosperous merchants, whose shops boasted brilliantly coloured peacock and other signs, and the harsh life of the poor, who eked out a subsistence living, was always before him. The impact of natural disasters, such as flooding, was devastating on those with no resources. Health care was minimal and disease, such as malaria, ever present. Indeed, long in poor health, Christie’s first wife, Margaret, died in 1888.

The Manchuria with which Christie was becoming increasingly engaged was once famously described as “the cockpit of Asia”, a vast area of enormous strategic importance and economic potential that was rapidly becoming the focus of international rivalry.[2] Throughout his time there Christie had to deal with the competing pressures of Chinese, Japanese and Russian interests, not to mention the more mundane, if no less relevant, demands of local dignitaries and officials. In the wake of internal dissent and the hostilities between China and Japan in 1895, and Japan and Russia in 1904, he trod a delicate path as lawlessness, starvation and plague swept inexorably across Manchuria.

His first-hand experience of the problems of foreign intervention in China led him to argue that the international community's views on China were slewed. “The Western world has regarded China as far behind in all civilization,” he wrote, “largely because of her slowness to develop those lethal weapons a modern army and navy. . . . It is a question, however, whether her ideal of civilization is not of a higher type than that which acts on the principle that might is right. In China it has long been recognised that mind is superior to matter, intelligence to physical strength, the appeal to reason better than decision by force of arms”.

More clearly than many, Christie also recognised the Chinese people had legitimate grievances about what they saw as “aggression” by foreign powers, whether it was the British in Weihai (Weihaiwei), the French in Yunnan and Guangxi, or the Germans in Shandong. They resented the extraterritorial rights at ports, the foreign control of the Maritime Customs, the construction of railways by foreign consortia, and the frequent mention in the overseas press of the “partition” of China. Missionaries were not excluded from his critique. He believed the presence of so many foreign missionaries throughout the country was an irritant, that the protection of Christianity by treaty exasperated officials, and that there was too much meddling by Christians in the country's internal affairs. Christie welcomed the emergence of the Chinese Republic as a positive development that would not only provide much-needed stability but empower those who supported it to seek a specifically Chinese solution to Chinese problems and not slavishly imitate Western ideas and models. The future, he believed, then looked much more positive than it had when he arrived in China nearly 30 years before.[3]

The suspicion and hostility that Christie first met in Shenyang in 1883 strengthened his resolve to establish modern medical facilities to treat the poverty and misery he encountered. Although it was, in his own words, “uphill work”, his growing involvement with local people provided him with unprecedented insights into Chinese society. His fast-developing linguistic skills accelerated this engagement. Right from the start, and through often difficult and dangerous times, his primary focus was the welfare of those who came within the orbit of his fledgling medical facilities, which quickly began to attract both the rich and powerful as well as the poor and downtrodden. In part, this may have been due to the efficacy of Western medicine, but it was certainly also because of Christi's sensitive understanding of what he called “the strict etiquette of this ancient civilization” as well as his open, non-judgemental attitude.

”There is a general widespread impression that the Chinese are in all things the opposite of other men,” he wrote, “that they never feel or act as other peoples would. Externally there is some truth in this . . . . But when we come to the elemental passions at the foundation of our common human nature . . . we can grip their hands as brothers for we find them strong, virile, and reliable in those deeper feelings which are the mainspring of action.” He decisively rejected the notion that the Chinese were somehow “different”. “Their family affection, their staunch friendship, their unselfishness to those they love, their homely joys, their love of children, their kindliness to friends and neighbours, their warm-hearted gratitude, their fortitude in trouble, their patience in enduring, will compare with those of any nation”.[4]

Christie's insights into Chinese society were derived from his study and understanding of Chinese culture and religious beliefs as well as his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine. He was familiar with the main themes of Buddhist, Confucian and Daoist thought as well as the dynamics of a society in which the patriarchal family system played an important role. He had a good understanding of traditional Chinese medicine, elements of which he sought to complement Western medical practice where appropriate. His empathy with the traditional Chinese virtues of fortitude, hospitality and gratitude and his skill as a medical practitioner won him many friends and contacts, including local magistrates and officials as well as senior civilian and military personnel. They were to be valuable allies.

Christie was not slow to enlist the financial and political support of his Chinese friends in Manchuria, first for his fledgling hospital and then for the Medical College at Shenyang, which opened with 50 students in 1912. Whilst most of the teaching staff were from abroad, Christie was determined that the College should not be considered as “foreign” and that it would progressively come under the management of Chinese personnel, as indeed it did thirty years later. Significantly, Christie pioneered the introduction of the Chinese language in teaching, though summaries in English had to be produced of the latest medical research. His high hopes for the College and his students were not unfounded. In 1935 one of Britain's premier medical schools, the University of Edinburgh, recognised the Shenyang course as qualifying for admission to postgraduate medical research there. Christie's unshakeable belief that “the Chinese are specially adapted to make good physicians and surgeons” had been vindicated.[5]

Christie's views on the development of medical practice and education in China were set out in a paper he presented to the China Centenary Missionary Conference in Shanghai in 1907.[6] Whilst he envisaged the provision of medical facilities and services evolving within a Christian missionary framework, his vision of China-wide medical care was both bold and comprehensive. Although recognising that funding, and providing sufficient personnel, might be problematic, Christie demanded nothing less than a medical centre in every large town. Outreach from these centres would extend to rural areas through the establishment of dispensaries and regular visits by nursing and medical staff. In particular, he identified the need for drug addicts, lepers and the mentally ill to be provided with additional services to facilitate their treatment. All these measures would be complemented by a comprehensive public health education programme aimed at the future good health of the nation.

Christie's long years in Shenyang, and unremitting toil, began to take their toll, and in 1923 he retired to Edinburgh in poor health. Apart from a brief return visit in 1925, the remainder of his life was devoted to finding support for the Medical College he had founded and trying to interpret Chinese life and society to the enquiring Scottish mind. He maintained close contacts with Chinese visitors and students in Scotland and in 1929 helped found and was appointed Honorary President of the Sino-Scottish Society in Edinburgh.[7] Internationally recognised and honoured, he was particularly gratified to be appointed a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1930 in recognition of his work and travels in Manchuria.

Christie's vision of China’s future was to be clouded, first by the Japanese invasion, and then shattered by the war and revolution that followed. And the China that emerged was to be very different from the one he had known. Nevertheless, his extraordinary contributions to Chinese medicine and society were not to be completely eradicated, as his Medical College was to form the nucleus of what is now the renowned China Medical University in Shenyang.[8] The fragrant memory of Christie's gentle life thus lives on, not only as a reminder of an early, important connection between Scotland and China, but also of his humanitarian achievements, which touched the lives of so many.

Dr Wotherspoon is a history tutor in Edinburgh University's Office of Lifelong Learning. His current interests include the overseas influence of Scottish education.

[1] “Obituary, Dugald Christie”, Edinburgh Medical Journal (Vol. 49, 1937), p.197.
[2] P.T.Etherton & H.H.Tiltman, Manchuria - The Cockpit of Asia (New York: Frederick A. Stokes, 1932), p. 298.
[3] D. Christie, Thirty Years in Moukden, 1883-1913 (London: Constable, 1914), pp 52, 289-90.
[4] Ibid., p. 60.
[5] Ibid., p. 276.
[6] Centenary Conference Committee, Records: China Centenary Missionary Conference (Shanghai: Methodist Publishing House, 1907), pp 247-68.
[7] The Scotsman, 18 February 1930.
[8] Scottish Churches China Group, A Picture History 1883-2003 - From Mukden Medical College to No. 2 Clinical College of China Medical University (Edinburgh: Scottish Churches China Group, 2004).