Celebrated botanist remembered as mother figure

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 June, 2012, 12:00am


Dr Hu Shiu-ying, a world-renowned botanist and Chinese herbal medicine researcher, never had children. But at her funeral service yesterday, colleagues, former students and family members spoke of her as a loving mother figure who made an indelible impact on all their lives.

One of Hu's former students, Chinese University professor Dr Leung Yeung-Sang, recalled how he and his classmates often struggled to keep up with Hu, who at the time was in her sixties, as she clambered over the hills in search of rare plants. 'She would sometimes even use her hard-earned finds to make soup for us,' he said.

The Reverend Dr Andrew Ng Wai-man, who conducted the funeral service, spoke of Hu as an old friend, marvelling at her consideration and devotion.

Still, as much as Hu strove to help those close to her, she reserved most of her passion for discovering the health benefits of plants so that she could help people around the world.

She discovered many new medicinal properties in plants, and identified 185,000 specimens in her lifetime.

She applied her research to enhance her own health, and was able to continue working on her research until her death last month from pneumonia at the age of 102.

Born in a village near Suzhou in Jiangsu province, Hu studied at Nanjing's Ginling Women's College and was the first Chinese woman to receive a doctorate from Harvard University. She spent most of her career at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Hu criss-crossed the region's diverse ecosystems, writing more than 160 papers, and spent years developing Trilex, a tea remedy that soothes sore throats and improves digestion.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to botany and Chinese medicine, the Hong Kong government awarded Hu the Bronze Bauhinia Star in 2001.

Another former student, Dr Albert Leung, concluded his eulogy by saying: 'When you take Chinese medicine, study at the Chinese University or drink herbal tea, please don't forget about Dr Hu.'