T’ieh Pu-ts’an, known as Lao Ts’an (low sahn), a man who wanders through the North China province of Shandong as an itinerant physician. The nickname Lao Ts’an means “Old Vagabond” and fits his unconventional style of life. In his travels, he savors the special character of each place while encountering old friends and making new ones. He is regularly drawn into some human problem and finds wise, just solutions. Lao Ts’an, a vigorous, healthy man of about fifty, has no home but resides in plain inns; he is a person of modest means but disdains money. He has few possessions beyond simple cotton clothes, a few books, his medicine chest, and a string of bells used by Chinese itinerant healers to attract patients. Lao Ts’an’s humble existence hides administrative insight, considerable learning, a cultivated aesthetic sense, and a noble character. In addition to curing his patients, he helps control Yellow River flooding, exposes a ruthless official, shows a new magistrate how to suppress banditry, and prevents a miscarriage of justice. His sagacity leads others to treat him with the highest respect. Once his solutions are set in motion, Lao Ts’an leaves before he is fully thanked, to continue his wandering care for humanity.
Kao Shao-yen, a secretary to the governor of Shandong, who seeks Lao Ts’an’s treatment for his sick concubine. Through him, Lao Ts’an is brought to the attention of the governor.
Governor Chuang, the highest official in Shandong, who shows great favor to the apparently common medical practitioner Lao Ts’an by seeking advice and accepting his...
(The entire section is 705 words.)