Monday, March 8, 2010

A few journeys into acupuncture's past

For the last two illuminating days I have immersed myself in the Chinese classics with Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, looking again at the concepts underlying the practice of acupuncture, and thinking about how far I can translate these 2000 year-old thoughts into my 21st century practice.

For details of Elisabeth’s teaching schedule in England, contact Peter Firebrace, at, and for elsewhere around the world

My seminar with Elisabeth made me focus once more on my translation of a book by the French acupuncturist Jacques Lavier which I had rather laid aside for other things. Lavier was a teacher of many of the pioneers of acupuncture in this country, including JR Worsley and Dick van Buren. I am still in touch with Dr Mary Austin, one of this band, now into her mid-90s, who has given me many fascinating insights into those early days when a group gathered around Lavier in a Charing Cross Hotel room once or twice a year. They then dispersed, eventually to found different schools of acupuncture, each with a different emphasis, JR on developing the concept of an element as the causative factor of disease, and Dick van Buren, who taught Giovanni Maciocia, concentrating on stems and branches.

Lavier has written several books, none of which, as far as I can find out, has yet been translated into English. The one I chose to translate is called Histoire, doctrine et pratique de l’acupuncture chinoise, and was first published in 1966. The book forms an important link in the transmission of acupuncture from East to West, and should be available to the many people who can read it only in English. Lavier’s daughter owns the copyright, and I have her consent to undertake the translation.

Now I need to find a publisher who can undertake the task of good editing, which the book needs for a modern readership. Anybody know anybody out there who might be interested?

Additions to your book list: For an excellent historical survey of acupuncture’s journey from East to West, which places Lavier in a historical context, you can’t do better than get a copy of Peter Eckman’s In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor, available from Copies of Mary Austin’s book, Acupuncture Therapy, which gives another take on five element acupuncture, are available from SOFEA,

1 comment:

  1. “But again, on a darker note, “The future of Chinese medicine is dark, cold and basically one of death. We have a few generations left if we are lucky. I don’t see that there is a prosperous, bright future for Chinese medicine.”

    His take on the future is understandable, given the acupuncture environment in which he received his training in China, in which a kind of sterile orthodoxy rules, unfortunately like much acupuncture training in this country.”

    Nora Franglen goes on to comment on good things happening in the West.

    There is also change taking place in China, and I would recommend looking at the Website,

    and particularly the writings of Heiner Fruehauf in which he talks about Cheng Du in particular as a place where a Renaissance in Classical Chinese Medicine is taking place.

    Another article by Heiner Fruehauf that Five Element folk will find substantially close to Five Element teaching is:

    And I would also particularly recommend a book ‘Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine’ by Wang Ju-Yi. The author was learning acupuncture in the 1950s and gives an interesting different and softer account of the origins of modern TCM, and is writing about things that he sees as under-emphasized in modern TCM, including many aspects that Five Element folk will find familiar. And in particular he writes with a greater emphasis on Channel theory – Five Element folk may find this a little different to what they are used to, but very well grounded in the Classics and very complementary to Five Element approach.