Only god knows what's hiding in those shriveled and eaten out people. Ya' kno', the ones who have suffered the ravages of the flesh and bone destroying disease called Hansen's. Yes Hansen's, but that is a nice way of saying l-e-p-r-o-s-y. For many the word conjures up the whole notion of the scourge of god. At least for that group for whom the church scared the bejesus out of in an effort to keep the miscreants on the straight and narrow. For the kids with half a brain, the loving god and the leprosy god were strange bedfellows.
For those whose parents who decided to give their concepti a proper god fearing education, Angela Ki Che Leung's book, Leprosy in China, a history is an anti-bromide. Not that it's either her fault nor the mein of the book. Kudos to her. In approaching a distasteful subject, the best that can be expected is a sad smile.
Photographer Luo Changwei did her one better with his image laden, 'Da Qin Island. He spent several months on the island before the last forty lepers were transferred back to the Chinese mainland in 2011. His images are compelling not only for what the represent, but for their echoes and reverberations of times past. There was no effective treatment for leprosy until relatively recently. For eons the only way to deal with those afflicted was to isolate them on a forsaken islands to contain the contagion. Such a shame...
The loneliness and solitude of 'Da Qin makes the now older kids of the fifties twist in their seats. Not that twisting was ever allowed. Did those penguinized virgins know that seat twisting was a way of feeling yourself? Little cardboard boxes rained down on those paparized kids. Fill these with money... for the lepers - for the lepers... Only the saving of pagan babies generated more box requests. Indeed. Pagan babies, wtf??
Looking back, the whole cardboard box thing was a petty scam. Is it possible to believe that those pennies, nickels and dimes every made it to places like Molokai or 'Da Qin? In fact, those former kids have a healthy skepticism as a result of those box assaults. But credit must be given to the marketers of yesteryear for the use of leprosy as a shake down tactic.
Leprosy is caused by bacteria, Mycobacteria leprae and Mycobacteria lepromatosis. It is an infectious disease of the peripheral nerves and the respiratory lining. Skin lesions are the external manifestation of the disorder. All of the jabber of fingers and limbs falling off was just that. Due to the numbness of the extremities, injuries occur with subsequent infection and loss of the extremities. In addition, the secondary infections cause the resorption of cartilage leading to added deformities and shortening. These days the disease is treated and cured with a variety of antibiotic regimens.
As for the need to isolate, well... Surely the elimination of lepers from the general population made sense. After all the transmission of the disease was via respiratory droplets. Close contact is a requisite. While 95% of people are naturally immune, the risks of leprosy to the susceptible 5% was enough to send the lepers off to stew. But with treatment and prevention measures now available place like 'Da Qin are no longer needed. And so...
Nice way to start a morning. Oh well, the silicone chip head needs to switch ON. No more time to look at pictures of what amounts to an historical footnote. Nonetheless, it is a good thing to look back so that mistakes can be avoided. A person, who fails to heed the lessons of the past, is doomed to repeat them. AIDS and weapons of mass destruction, hmmm...
all images by Luo Cahngwei