I recently went to Holland to attend an acupuncture seminar with my tutor Dr. Wang JuYi. In a previous post, I introduced Dr. Wang. He redeveloped a traditional skill called Channel Theory and Examination. This skill has been ignored for many years in China but it is the heart and soul of acupuncture and fundamental to understanding how and why acupuncture works. Using it helps practitioners to get more refined diagnoses and more efficient treatments.
Since it was probably one of the last visits of Dr. Wang to Europe, it was very important for me to attend. Organised by Qing Bai, a Dutch college of Chinese Medicine, it was held in a small town, Amersfoort, which is about 50 km to the East of Amsterdam. The seminar lasted four days but sadly, I was only able to attend two days. I arrived in Holland on Friday 23rd May in the afternoon and since I did not have time to attend the seminar, I chose instead to do a little bit of tourism. I took the train to the centre of Amsterdam and booked myself on one of the numerous cruise boats that bring you around the city through the canals. It was my first time in Amsterdam and what a great city it is! I definitely understand why it is called “The Venice of the North”. Beyond the architecture and canals, I also really enjoyed the quietness of the place. Having few cars in town brings a sense of peacefulness that can’t be found anywhere else, except for Venice.
But anyway, back to the seminar! It was an advanced course open to practitioners who were already using Channel Palpation and Theory and wanted to deepen their understanding of this classical technique. The days were divided between lectures with Dr. Wang in the morning and practical workshops with his apprentices in the afternoons. Dr. Wang came accompanied by three of his official apprentices: Jason Robertson, Nyssa Tang from the USA and Jonathan Chang, who is Dr. Wang’s current apprentice. They were in charge of the afternoons workshops with the support of two other colleagues, Michael Phoenix from the UK and Rodrigo Aranda from Chile.
On the first day, Dr. Wang talked about the nature, structure and theory of acupuncture points and I would like to share with you a little bit of what Dr. Wang taught us. Acupuncture points are called ‘XueWei’ in modern Chinese. ‘Xue’ is commonly translated in English as ‘point’. This translation implies a precise location on the skin. However, in Chinese, ‘Xue’ is a little more detailed. ‘Xue’ is the pinyin of a Chinese ideogram and ideograms represent a whole concept or idea. The concept of ‘Xue’ implies a structure that is underneath the ground where people can live safely and protected from the exterior. This analogy provide us with a more visual idea of what and where is an acupuncture point. It tells us that acupuncture points are located underneath the skin and not on its surface. It’s a mistake that many modern acupuncture books do by only using surface measurement to locate acupuncture points. Surface location has its importance but it is not everything and these books are missing an important concept of what is an acupuncture point.
There is another ideogram that was used in old acupuncture classics. With this ideogram, the concept of cave or place underneath was already there but there was also the concept of transport added to this. This means that acupuncture points are also places where Qi (energy) and Blood are transported. And later on, another concept was added with the addition of a radical meaning “flesh”. So, to the whole concept of point described above was added the idea that a point is a living environment.
If one only sticks to the English translation of “point” , one misses the whole concept and nature of what is an acupuncture point in Chinese medicine. You are probably wondering why am I telling you this? Well, because a skilled acupuncturist must feel and palpate to find the exact location of points. This whole concept also gives meaning to why we use needles to reach points. If points were on the surface of the body, why would we need to use needles? Lastly, from the idea of transport, movement and living environment, one can deduce that acupuncture points are not all the same. Each point has a particular function that will treat specific imbalances and problems in the body. So, now you know why acupuncturists are choosing specific points to treat a particular problem.
On the second day, Dr. Wang lectured about the thinking process during the Chinese medicine diagnosis. Of course, every acupuncturist should know how to elaborate a Chinese medicine diagnosis but Dr. Wang wanted to emphasise on a few points:
- How to integrate channel examination into the diagnosis
- How to use it to have a more precise and reliable diagnosis.
Since Dr. Wang’s explanations were a little technical, I am going to tell you about the whole Chinese medicine diagnosis and how it works.
In Chinese medicine, acupuncturists don’t really diagnose an illness, they diagnose a dysfunction of the body. The main complaint is considered as the primary or main symptom resulting from a dysfunctional or injured body. That is why the first step is to collect detailed information about the location and nature of the main complaint. For example, if it is pain, which part of the body is affected? What is the nature of the pain? Is it intense, mild or dull?
All this information provides us with precious information for the diagnosis. Then, the main purpose of the Chinese medicine diagnosis is to identify which channels and organs (if they are some) are affected and in relation with the main complaint. To do this, we ask questions to find out more about the accompanying symptoms, we feel the pulse (feeling not only the beat but also the pulse quality) and examine acupuncture channels. All this information collected reveals which channels and organs are diseased. But that is not all, as we still need to select the channel(s) that is relevant to the patient’s main complaint. Sometimes several imbalances can occur at the same time and
only the diseased channel(s) that is related to the main complaint is relevant. The diagnosis is set when we know which channel(s) and organs are primary involved in the patient’s main complaint.
The next step is to choose an appropriate treatment. In order to do this, we must choose which channel(s) to treat. We have the choice to treat the primary diseased channel but sometimes this is not appropriate and we must select an alternative channel. When we have chosen our channel(s), comes the step to select which acupuncture points to use. Each point has a different function according to its location, nature and structure. This means that one could have selected the right channel but chosen the wrong points or vice-versa. Thankfully, a good acupuncturist gets it right most of the time. To elaborate a diagnosis is like doing an investigation. It’s an investigation of the patient’s disease to understand its mechanism and be able to treat it.
That’s why Dr. Wang’s lectures are so important for me. Surprisingly, a lot of this is not part of the Chinese medicine courses’ curriculum. So, unless we meet the right tutor, some of us are never told about this and practice without knowing fundamental aspects of the art of acupuncture.
Cyrille has been training with Dr. Wang JuYi for four years and continues to regularly attend seminars with Dr. Wang JuYi or one of his apprentices.
Contact us to book an appointment at our acupuncture practice in Dublin, you will receive a precise and efficient Chinese medicine diagnosis!