Blood, Soy Milk, and Vitality: The Wartime Origins of Blood Banking in China, 1943–45


This article examines the multiple meanings of blood transfusion and banking in modern China through the history of the first Chinese blood bank, established by the Overseas Chinese in 1943 to solicit blood for the war effort. Through investigating the attitudes of Chinese soldiers and civilians toward the blood bank, this article argues for the multiplicity of motivations underpinning society’s attitudes toward blood banking and donation. Cultural notions of blood were an important but not the sole factor in their consideration. Ideas of nationalism and altruism played a role too. What eventually turned out to be most effective for most donors was the promise of eggs and soy milk for blood. Its economic value in the context of wartime scarcity was enough for many to abandon opposition to blood banking. By drawing attention to socioeconomic concerns in biomedical practices, this article provides an alternative examination of blood banking in modern societies.