My View of Chinese Medicine: Getting to Know Chinese Medicine
By Liu Xianyi
When I was growing up one of my parents
worked for the local hospital, and we resided at the hospital employees' living
quarters. Starting from a very young age, I would listen to the adults talk about
which doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine were ancestral, or good at doing
acupuncture for children, or knew the principle of the Book of Changes, and therefore
could tell fortunes, and so on. When I would play in the hospital's Chinese medicine
shop, I would occasionally meet some older Chinese medicine doctors who were reading
medical books. The books had traditional thread bindings and the traditional style
of characters. The doctors' expressions were calm and relaxed, which were different
from the other doctors in the hospital.
During the early 1970s, the government
was trying to train large numbers of medical technicians to be placed in the remote
countryside. Chinese medicine became popular then, since acupuncture and herbal
treatments were inexpensive but effective medical treatments. Over time, long
acupuncture needles, various books with pictures of herbs, and a small human body
and model of an ear covered with acupuncture points found their ways into my house.
I was very fond of them, even though I knew absolutely nothing about how they
worked. When I was older, I repeatedly read the book, Compendium of Materia Medica,
a pharmaceutical masterpiece by Li ShiZhen, a famous ancient Chinese medical physician.
I was eager to know how to recognize the herbs that he mentioned in his book.
So, I learned to identify the plantain, which is a fruit closely related to the
banana. This is a common fruit in the region of the country where I lived. I even
experimented with boiling it in water and making it into a liquid medicine that
can cure diarrhoea. These experiences allowed me to touch upon the premise of
Chinese medicine, and to hold my interest.
I first witnessed the healing power
of Chinese medicine when I was five or six years old. One night, my younger brother
was in pain because of a hernia. His loud cries woke up the neighbours living
in the same courtyard, and that included aunt Wang who smoked a lot. A neighbour
used aunt Wang's cigarette to cauterise the acupuncture point under my brother's
belly button. This procedure actually made him stop crying. He slept through the
night and did not wake up until the morning. This scene was forever embedded within
my memories. This was the first time that I had witnessed the practical application
of Chinese medicine in healing illness, and it did not require an injection or
taking medicine as it would have in western medicine.
Later on in my life,
I studied western medicine, not Chinese medicine. Despite my enrolment as a student
of western medicine, I was nonetheless required to take a Chinese medicine class,
which allowed me to explore my interest in this field of medicine further. Before
becoming a doctor, I did truly experience the pain and helplessness of a sick
person, and, at the same time, realized the differences between Chinese medicine
and western medicine.
When I was in my second or third year of college, I
felt an unexplainable pain under my right ribs. Based on the way that I felt and
my medical knowledge, I believed that only Chinese medicine could cure my ailment.
I visited the Chinese medicine section at my college's hospital. My doctor was
pretty good and he felt my pulses with both of his hands at the same time. He
prescribed several doses of Minor Bupleurum Decoction. My pain went away right
after I took this Chinese herbal medicine. Later, I verified that this decoction
has the power to cure stagnation of qi from the liver. My confidence in Chinese
medicine was established at this time as I could see the correlation of the case
of my pain and relief from stagnated energy in the liver.
Later on, when I
started to have diarrhoea, I took lots of antibiotics and other western medicine.
They did not work and I had severe side effects from the medication as well. I
went to see a doctor at my school's medical clinic. Upon learning of my diarrhoea,
the doctor conveniently prescribed a box of Chinese Patent Medicine, called Agastache,
without questioning me any further. This medication had a negative effect. It
caused the function of my entire digestive system to become disorderly and I experienced
a lot of pain. Later, I found out that this medication is more often used in treating
cold-induced diarrhoea. I then realized that Chinese medicines could not just
be taken arbitrarily. When treating a patient, a good doctor of Chinese medicine
should know whether the disease lies on the surface or in the inside of the body
after observing, smelling and questioning the patient, and feeling the patient's
pulses. Only after this kind of examination can a medicine that fits the ailment
be prescribed. The science behind Chinese traditional medicine is truly profound
and different from western medicine. Every kind of medicine has its medicinal
role - sovereign, minister, assistant and envoy. Certain drugs are designed to
enter certain energy channels or vessels and casual application of these drugs
cannot be tolerated, as was the case for me when I sought treatment for diarrhoea.
How could the doctor in my school's clinic ever imagine that due to his poor healing
skills, a problem which could be easily adjusted by Chinese medicine became complicated
and difficult to cure? Luckily, the disorder was not serious enough to take my
life, but it made me uncomfortable for more than ten years. This disorder disappeared
after I started practicing Falun Gong.
This incident did not cause me to dislike
Chinese medicine, instead it made me aware of the principle that is necessary
to apply the treatment in a discriminating manner. Even though the symptoms of
diseases may be the same, their causes are different, and the drugs that should
be used are naturally different. So, one drug cannot be prescribed for every person
with the same symptoms, as you have to understand the underlying cause or root
of the disorder or disease.
After my disorder was healed by Falun Gong, I
began a clinical study on the effectiveness of Chinese medicine. Only after really
learning the theories behind Chinese medicine, did I understand how remote its
origin is and how truly profound it is. The theory of Chinese medicine is all-encompassing,
and has made me come to the conclusion that diseases must be treated in a discriminating
and individual manner. Although I could clearly and logically analyse medical
cases using the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements theories of Chinese medicine, I
still felt that there was no way to really begin to understand the origin of the
condition, my ability could not match the need, and it was hard to grasp its true
essence. Back then, I did not intend to study deeply into why it was like this,
but these experiences told me that Chinese medicine has its unique method in treating
diseases, and not every single person can be a doctor of Chinese medicine. It
was not easy to be a good one either, but it must be possible, because there are
so many famous doctors of Chinese medicine in history. Then, where does the breaking
point actually lie?
My View of Chinese Medicine: (Part II) Ear-acupuncture
In the previous article, I mentioned that acupuncture is able
to treat acute diseases. In fact, most patients come to see doctors because of
acute diseases, such as acute sprains, convulsive twitches, heat-stroke stupor,
trifacial neuralgia, migraine, tooth pain, facial paralysis, and the like. These
are serious diseases, which require immediate treatment and will not get better
on their own. Patients are in so much pain that they need to see the doctor. I
will list a large number of similar cases in articles to follow.
I gave an
example last time, which talked about the treatment of bloodletting at the tip
of the ear. To the surprise of the family it returned a patient's high fever back
to normal in just five minutes. How come this method of acupuncture achieved such
a quick result? It is because bloodletting at the tip of the ear is just like
opening a window; it shifts the fresh air and releases the hot and humid poisonous
gasses from the body. The ear does not look very remarkable, but its relationship
to the body's internal organs is quite important. Due to my occupation, I always
pay extra attention to my patients ears. Sometimes because I am so concentrated
on looking at someone's ears I forget to listen to them. The human ear is just
like an exhibition hall, which shows everything, such as the true condition of
a human's heart, liver, internal organs, life, and history. I get a panoramic
view with just one glance. I don't need to ask the patient questions anymore.
To me, that just tells me if the patient is actually telling me everything.
distribution of acupuncture points on the ear auricle is like an inverse embryo
with the head facing downwards and the hip facing upwards. The various positions
on the body have corresponding points on the ear. So it is not surprising to see
the pathological changes of any position in the body from the ear. For example,
a slanting wrinkle on the earlobe can be seen on a person with coronary disease,
a ring-like hollow around the ear auricle, called a plum pattern, can be found
on a lung cancer patient's ear, a person with schizophrenia has indentation on
the pinna of the ear. Without a doubt, even losing a tooth will be shown on the
The auricle of the ear is a unique microcosm that can display complete
information about the whole body. The human body's twelve yin and yang channels
on the hands and feet all reach the ear either directly or indirectly. In "The
Chapter of Verbal Enquiries" in Ling Shu (Spiritual Junctures), it says,
"In the ear, all of the energy channels are put together." In "The
Chapter of Essays on Words of Gold and Truth" in Su Wen (Questions of Simplicity),
it says, "Red from the south goes to the heart, opens on the ear, hides spirit
in the heart." So, we can tell one's congenital physique from one's ear colour,
high or low position, thickness, flat or round shape, and firmness. We may even
be able to tell the pathologies of many generations from the ear's shape and appearance.
how do we judge the actual situation of the internal organs by observing the ear's
colour, shape, or thickness? In "The Chapter of Organs" in Ling Shu
it says, "If the ear is black and small, the kidney is small. If the ear
is thick, the kidney is big. If the ear is high, the kidney is high. If the back
of the ear falls then the kidney is low. If the ear is firm, the kidney is firm.
If the ear is thin the kidney is weak. If the kidney is small then it is safe
and difficult to be injured. If it is firm, it does not get sick. If the kidney
is big, big means empty and an empty kidney causes deafness or tinnitus."
of us may not know that one of the major characteristics of ear acupuncture treatment
is stopping pain with obvious curative effectiveness.
One day, a patient with
tooth pain came to see me. He said, "Doctor, the money I spent on dentists
over these past years could have brought me a house
." After one ear
of acupuncture treatment, the pain stopped and he no longer suffered from the