Sunday, May 24, 2015

The legacy we leave behind

Every time I go to China I am reminded of how important the Chinese regard the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation.  For there on the wall in the centre where we teach I find a photo of JR Worsley, and hanging next it one of me, then of Mei and of Guy.  Our hosts regard us as the guardians of an inheritance of traditional acupuncture which is now no longer part of the traditional medicine practised in China, and all the more lamented for its absence.  And we, as inheritors of this tradition, are therefore warmly welcomed and deeply revered.

Here in the UK, and I suspect in the West in general, it is rare for such reverence to be accorded to those, like me, who have many years’ practical experience.  I am made aware of this each time I return from China, when I compare the number of practitioners wishing to learn personally from me, a very small group now, with the many who crowd into our twice-yearly seminars in China.  What is there about us in the West that we appear to be somewhat arrogant about how much we know and somewhat indifferent to how much we really still need to learn, whilst to the Chinese the acquisition of knowledge is a much sought after privilege?

I am also increasingly worried when I notice how few five element acupuncturists there are here in the West (and by implication also therefore in the future in China) who are prepared to go out and teach what they have learnt, something I find myself repeatedly pointing out.  And here I am talking only about those acupuncturists whose five element practice is not altered by the introduction of TCM concepts, as occurs unhappily nowadays all too often.   I am also concerned about how much of what I have learnt I will in turn pass on as my own personal transmission of this legacy.  Am I doing enough myself?

I always remember what a very wise old Austrian astrologer and musician, Dr Oskar Adler, wrote.  He said that we each have a duty to leave behind for others whatever we have ourselves learnt, however small and insignificant in our own eyes this might appear.  So I am always alert to the need to encourage any who are now practising five element acupuncture to have the courage to hand on whatever they have learnt to those coming after them.  There are, unfortunately, so few who want to do this, probably because they think they have to emulate JR Worsley who would diagnose people’s elements within a few minutes of meeting them.  Most of us know that it will take much, much longer to diagnose the elements.  This has never worried me.  As JR always reminded us, “I have been doing this for more than 40 years.  You will be able to do the same when you have practised as long as I have.”

In the meantime, I try to encourage experienced five element acupuncturists to take their courage in their hands and think about teaching others.  In my case, I only dared to start doing this because I was asked to run an evening class on acupuncture.  At first I was reluctant to accept this challenge, since I had only just qualified, but as JR told me later when I discussed my doubts with him,  “Remember, you know more than they do!”.  And another tutor of mine reinforced this by telling me, “When you teach, never pretend you know more than you do.  If you are honest and say that you don’t know the answer to a student’s question, tell them so and they will respect you for that.”  I myself never believe those who always seem to find an answer to everything, whilst I do believe those who tell me they don’t know what the answer is.  These I trust for their honesty.

So to any five element acupuncturist out there keen to pass on their knowledge to those with less experience than they have, I say, “Please do so, whatever your doubts.  After all, we badly need you.”  



  1. I attended your night class in London in the 80s. !!!You became my acupuncturist and helped me so much. When I moved up north I still visited you when I needed and after a trauma in my life your treatment turned my world from black and white to colour -unforgettable for me.
    It is great to read about your teachings all best wishes Pauline R

  2. How nice to hear from you, Pauline! And thanks for your comments. I seem to have lost your email address. If you come down to London, do get in touch with me at SOFEA acupuncture, 57 Harley Street, 02075805850, email

  3. Dear Nora, I'm a Chinese live in Italy. And since I started to listened to Ms. Ma Qin's class via the radio, I've become more and more interested in 5 elements Acupunture. It'll be difficult for me to go to London to join your class, because I have a small kid here, but I will try to figure it out. Would you pls let me know where I could get information about your class? Thanks a lot. Love, Kim

    1. I am glad that you are interested in learning more about five element acupuncture. I am afraid that the classes I now give in London are only short seminars, and are for people who already practise five element acupuncture. They are not for people like you who are just wanting to start to learn.

      Are you trained as an acupuncturist? If you are, you will find it helpful reading my book called The Handbook of Five Element Practice, which has a section at the end which is there to help people who are trying to teach themselves the principles of five element acupuncture. It is published by Singing Dragon Press and you can find out how to buy my books from their website

      I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. It is such a pity that there are so few teachers of five element acupuncture in Europe now.

    2. Dear Nora, thank you so much for your quick response! I'm not trained as an acupuncturist. I've been learning Chinese Medicine for some years but I've been learning some pieces from here and there. I started to learn CM just because of interests but unfortunately I didn't study this in school. But actually I'm already reading your book in Chinese which was translated by Long Mei and it does light me up. Thanks again for your reply and pls don't be sorry because I will find my way out anyway. Difficulty is not a problem for a wood even if I'm a bit not balanced at the moment. :D

    3. Thank you for your reply.You are obviously doing a lot of work exploring five element acupuncture, so I think it would be good if you were to attend one of our seminars in London. Email us on with your email address, and we will send you details of the next seminars in February and March. Perhaps you can manage to find somebody to look after the baby whilst you come to England for a day or so.

    4. Dear Nora, thank you so much and yes, I will send you e-mail and go to your seminars!! I will read your book in both Chinese and English version so that my English would be better for the seminars by that time. Thanks again! Love, Kim