A Family Journey

Courtesy of Wu Yu-lin

The good doctor
Wu on a return trip to Harbin in 1919 to battle cholera

My great-grandfather, Dr. Wu Lien-teh, was sitting down to dinner in Tianjin, a port city near Beijing, when he received a telegram. It was Dec. 19, 1910, and China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had alerted him to an outbreak of deadly pneumonic plague near the Russian border. A Cambridge-educated vice director of the Imperial Army Medical College, Wu, then just 31, was to report immediately to Beijing before heading to Harbin in China's remote northeast.

After a three-day train ride, he arrived in the frigid city to lead an international team of...

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