Posts Tagged ‘acupuncture history’

FAN Arthur Yin (1,2), XU Jun (1,3), and LI Yong-ming (1,3)
©The Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

1. The American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety, Greenwich, Connecticut (06878), USA; 2. American Traditional Chinese Medicine Association, Vienna, Virginia (22182), USA; 3. American Acupuncture Association of Greater New York, New
York (10016), USA
Correspondence to: Dr. FAN Arthur Yin, Tel: 1-703-499-4428, E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US
DOI: 10.1007/s11655-017-2800-6

ABSTRACT In the United States and other Western countries, dry needling has been a topic in academic and legal fifi elds. This White Paper is to provide the authoritative information of dry needling versus acupuncture to academic scholars, healthcare professionals, administrators, policymakers, and the general public by providing
the authoritative evidence and expertise regarding critical issues of dry needling and reaching a consensus. We conclude that Dr. Travell, Dr. Gunn, Dr. Baldry and others who have promoted dry needling by simply rebranding (1) acupuncture as dry needling and (2) acupuncture points as trigger points (dry needling points). Dry needling simply using English biomedical terms (especially using “fascia” hypothesis) in replace of their
equivalent Chinese medical terms. Dry needling is an over-simplified version of acupuncture derived from traditional Chinese acupuncture except for emphasis on biomedical language when treating neuromuscularskeletal pain (dry needling promoters redefifi ned it as “myofascial pain”). Trigger points belong to the category of Ashi acupuncture points in traditional Chinese acupuncture, and they are not a new discovery. By applying acupuncture points, dry needling is actually trigger point acupuncture, an invasive therapy (a surgical procedure) instead of manual therapy. Dr. Travell admitted to the general public that dry needling is acupuncture, and acupuncture professionals practice dry needling as acupuncture therapy and there are several criteria in
acupuncture profession to locate trigger points as acupuncture points. Among acupuncture schools, dry needling practitioners emphasize acupuncture’s local responses while other acupuncturists pay attention to the responses of both local, distal, and whole body responses. For patients’ safety, dry needling practitioners should meet standards required for licensed acupuncturists and physicians.
KEYWORDS dry needling, acupuncture, trigger points, acupuncture points, invasive therapy, evidence, expertise, consensus



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FAN Arthur Yin (1,2), XU Jun (1,3), and LI Yong-ming (1,3)
©The Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016
1. American Alliance for Professional Acupuncture Safety, Greenwich, Connecticut (06878), U.S.A.; 2. American Traditional Chinese Medicine Association, Vienna, Virginia (22182), U.S.A.;
3. American Acupuncture Association of Greater New York, New York (10016), U.S.A
Correspondence to: Dr. FAN Arthur Yin, Tel: 1-703-499-4428, E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US
DOI: 10.1007/s11655-016-2630-y

ABSTRACT In the last twenty years, in the United States and other Western countries, dry needling (DN) became a hot and debatable topic, not only in academic but also in legal fields. This White Paper is to provide the authoritative information of DN versus acupuncture to academic scholars, healthcare professional administrators, lawmakers, and the general public through providing the authoritative evidence and experts’ opinions regarding critical issues of DN versus acupuncture, and then reach consensus. DN is the use of dry needles alone, either solid filiform acupuncture needles or hollow-core hypodermic needles, to insert into the body for the treatment of muscle pain and related myofascial pain syndrome. DN is sometimes also known as intramuscular stimulation, trigger points (TrP) acupuncture, TrP DN, myofascial TrP DN, or biomedical acupuncture. In Western countries, DN is a form of simplififi ed acupuncture using biomedical language in treating myofascial pain, a contemporary development of a portion of Ashi point acupuncture from Chinese acupuncture. It seeks to redefifi ne acupuncture by reframing its theoretical principles in a Western manner. DN-like needling with fifi liform needles have been widely used in Chinese acupuncture practice over the past 2,000 years, and
with hypodermic needles has been used in China in acupuncture practice for at least 72 years. In Eastern countries, such as China, since late of 1800s or earlier, DN is a common name of acupuncture among acupuncturists and the general public, which has a broader scope of indications, not limited to treating the myofascial pain.
KEYWORDS dry needling, acupuncture, biomedical acupuncture, authoritative evidence, experts’ opinions, consensus


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针刺麻醉老照片  from  
作者:王军 来自:麻醉科  时间:2010-1-14





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Dr. Fan’ s new article was published recently.

Nevada: the first state that fully legalized acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the Unites States — In memory of Arthur Steinberg, Yee Kung Lok and Jim Joyce who made it happen
February 27, 2015 | Arthur Yin Fan | J Integr Med 2015; 13 (2) : 72–79
doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(15)60158-3

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Title: The earliest acupuncture school of the United States incubated in a Tai Chi Center in Los Angeles
Authors: Arthur Yin Fan
Abstract | Full text | PDF |

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How Old is Acupuncture? Challenging the Neolithic Origins Theory

by Bai Xinghua with RB Baron 
A thorough reevaluation of all extant literature, as well as documents and archaeological relics unearthed since the 1960s, confirms that acupuncture is not as ancient as has generally been assumed, and that it did not, in fact, appear and gradually develop during China”s neolithic Age (c 8000-3500BC). Rather, this great invention arose quite suddenly and rapidly developed approximately two millennial ago.

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Dr. Arthur Yin Fan’ s two articles

Nevada: the first state that fully legalized acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the Unites States — In memory of Arthur Steinberg, Yee Kung Lok and Jim Joyce who made it happen
January 19, 2015 | Arthur Yin Fan (doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(15)60158-3)
Title: The earliest acupuncture school of the United States incubated in a Tai Chi Center in Los Angeles
Authors: Arthur Yin Fan
Abstract | Full text | PDF

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Title:Curiosity or cure? Chinese medicine and American orientalism in progressive era California and Oregon
Source:Oregon Historical Quarterly. 114.3 (Fall 2013): p265.
Document Type:Essay

Copyright:COPYRIGHT 2013 Oregon Historical Society

Full Text:


STUDENTS OF OREGON’S HISTORY may be well acquainted with the story of Ing Hay, purveyor of Kam Wah Chung & Co., a Chinese apothecary in the town of John Day. From 1887 to 1948, Kam Wah Chung & Co. served both Chinese and Euro-American patrons hailing from eastern Oregon, southern Washington, and parts of Idaho. Doc Hay–as he was known to patients–diagnosed illnesses, dispensed herbs, and sold sundry goods imported from China. Hay was one of many Chinese doctors who began immigrating to the United States with the first waves of their countrymen during the 1850s. Most Chinese immigrant enclaves had at least one person acting as the community doctor, whether self-taught or formally trained, and their status as merchants protected them from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that barred immigration by laborers. (1)

Taking a page from Alger Hiss, biographers of Chinese immigrant doctors tend to depict them as men who surmounted anti-Asian racism to become leaders in their communities, respected by their Euro-American neighbors, and financially successful. (2) Recent scholarship by historians Haiming Liu and William M. Bowen, for example, has drawn together disparate local histories of individual practitioners to suggest commonalities in their experiences and the significance of Chinese apothecaries to Asian American history. As Liu summarizes: “By examining the history of herbal medicine in America we learn to appreciate the open, engaged, and cosmopolitan nature of Chinese American life.” (3) Liu and Bowen note that Chinese herbalists tended to be among the best-educated of the immigrants and the most likely to forge ties with Euro-American and other non-Chinese neighbors and patients. As a result, Chinese doctors were often able to avoid the worst of racist exploitation and oppression. Their extraordinary experiences provide the counterpoint to the dominant narrative of anti-Chinese racism and exclusion in United States history. (4)


Yet a simple triumph-over-adversity narrative does not tell us much about the actual strategies that Chinese doctors deployed to secure allies in a hostile environment and stave off the most energetic campaigns against them during the Progressive Era. Beginning in the 1890s and accelerating during the first decades of the twentieth century, the American Medical Association (AMA) joined forces with state and local governments to drive unlicensed doctors–including Chinese herbalists–out of business. (5) Between 1915 and 1929, Ing Hay was the target of a series of indictments for practicing medicine without a license. (Each time, with the help of sympathetic jurists, the charges were dismissed.) (6) Focusing on California and Oregon, two of the states with the largest Chinese immigrant populations during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this article examines representations of Chinese medicine during a period of increasing regulatory scrutiny and asks how such representations differentiated “regular” from “irregular” medicine. (7) It argues that Chinese doctors made the practice of irregular medicine a central component of their appeal to white patients. Ironically, then, Chinese doctors found themselves defending their practices in the very language used to attack them.


The AMA-government partnership to crack down on irregular doctors was, in many ways, a continuation of the AMA’s long-standing mission. Since its founding in 1847, the organization had endeavored to discredit what it deemed unscientific medical practices through various strategies, including penalizing its members for collaborating with irregular doctors. (8) As a private and voluntary association, the AMA had limited coercive power, but the political culture of the Progressive Era, with its impulse toward bureaucracy, created opportunities for the AMA to extend its reach. A widening acceptance for the germ theory of disease, which had yielded advancements for regular doctors in surgery and the containment of infectious diseases, lent justification to the regulatory movement. Beginning in the 1890s, state medical boards composed of AMA-approved physicians administered mandatory licensing exams that focused on recent medical science and pharmacology. At the same time, new laws empowered states and counties to impose fines and jail time on doctors practicing without a license. (9) The 1910 publication of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Flexner Report, a survey of medical education in America, helped legitimate and galvanize the AMA’s mission to standardize a science-based medical curriculum. The foundation inspected and scored 155 American and Canadian medical schools, both orthodox and unorthodox, reserving the report’s most scathing criticisms for eclectic, homeopathic, and osteopathic institutions. (10) In response, numerous medical schools closed, merged, or reorganized to reduce the number of students and elevate the requirements for admission, training, and graduation. (11)


AMA physicians pursued an aggressive campaign against irregular doctors because there was so little popular consensus about whether “scientific” medicine was actually superior to other practices. Across the public, faith in science competed with a host of other preferences and fears. Despite real improvements in science-based medicine and surgery, early-twentieth-century patients still associated regular doctors with harsh emetics and risky operations. (12) Irregular doctors tended toward less invasive procedures and often prescribed herbal medicines similar to the homegrown remedies many patients already found familiar. (13) Hay’s Euro-American patients often came to him after their self-fashioned treatments failed. When seeking help for her daughter’s infected finger, for example, Mrs. Fred Deardorff wrote: “I have been using flax seed poultis [sic] and white of egg but without much results.” (14) Another of Hay’s patients, Mrs. M.J. Baker of Burns, Oregon, suffered from a tumor on the left side of her neck. She wrote, beseeching him to treat it with herbs: “I would be so glad if you could reduce that as the dr [sic] are wanting to cut it out and I have such a dread of the knife.” (15) Hay’s patients may have found his approach more regular and familiar, while surgery and other scientific practices were more irregular and scary.


During the Progressive Era, Chinese doctors became useful subjects for American writers seeking to explain the differences between regular and irregular medicine. By their own admission, Chinese doctors were trained in ancient healing arts that bore little resemblance to modern, scientific medicine. Although health practices in China varied from drug therapy to acupuncture to mystical healing, practitioners in the United States tended to focus on diagnosis by pulse (or pulsology) and herbal remedies. (16) Thus, Chinese medicine became a perfect foil to the AMA-sanctioned scientific medicine.

Descriptions of Chinese medicine drew on American Orientalist ideas and attitudes. American Orientalism was a popular discourse that developed in the context of trade and diplomatic relations between the United States and China over the course of the nineteenth century and that linked unequal power relations between West and East to the presumed racial inferiority of Asian races. American perceptions of Asians as backwards and barbarous, decadent and effeminate, served as justification for exclusionary and discriminatory practices and policies. (17) For white Americans who believed Chinese were racially inferior, it was no stretch to impose the same stereotypes onto Chinese herbal remedies. Attacks on Chinese medicine ridiculed the practice as anti-modern or unscientific and, at best, suited only to serve women’s medical problems.

Yet, American Orientalism’s presumption of Asian racial inferiority went hand-in-hand with an attraction to East Asian arts, material culture, and philosophy. As historian Henry Yu noted in Thinking Orientals, Asians in America “have been both valued and denigrated for what was assumed to be different about them.” (18) While the American elite had a long history of collecting Chinese and Japanese objects and studying eastern religions, by the end of the nineteenth century, the American fascination with “Orientalia” had become a more widespread cultural phenomenon. (19) Chinese and Japanese consumer goods were now available to mass markets through mail-order catalogs and department stores. At the same time, world fairs and travelling shows popularized “Oriental” arts, ideas, and religions. (20)

The contradiction embedded within American Orientalist discourse–that Asian exoticism made the race both inferior and desirable–created an opportunity for Chinese doctors in the United States. For patients who distrusted modern medical science, the doctors realized, Chinese medicine’s perceived otherness could be a mark of superiority to western or regular doctors’ practices. Letters to Hay and other Chinese herbalists from non-Chinese patients often reflected the hope that their remedies might succeed where non-Chinese doctors had failed. (21) It thus could be advantageous for Chinese doctors to adopt the discourse of American Orientalism and use it to their advantage. Uncertainties about modern medical science and American Orientalist attitudes formed both the basis of attacks on Chinese medicine as well as its defense.

Portrayals of Chinese medicine by non-Chinese writers did double duty. They were, at the surface, studies of an exotic culture, and they reinforced racist assumptions about Chinese immigrants. More fundamentally, they reflected anxieties and uncertainties, particularly about modern medical science. An 1869 Overland Monthly article, “Medical Art in the Chinese Quarter,” introduced Chinese medicine to readers so as to instruct them in the very latest in regular medical science. Written by Rev. A.W. Loomis, a former missionary to China and frequent contributor to the magazine on matters related to Chinese immigrant life and culture in San Francisco, the article described Chinese medicine as based more in mysticism than scientific evidence:

So much study by so many learned men on one subject; so many thousands–yea, millions–of life-times spent in this study since the days of Noah until now, it might reasonably be supposed ought to have brought this science in China to a high state of perfection; but such is not the fact … There still remains a higher veneration for ancient than for modern discoveries, and the more smoky, thumb-worn, and worm-eaten a doctor’s library appears, the more reverence, other things being equal, will usually be accorded to his opinions.

According to Loomis, superstition prevented Chinese doctors from acquiring knowledge of anatomy or chemistry. Internal organs, nerves, and vessels, the author claimed, were “terra incognita” to doctors whose veneration for the intact human body prevented them from dissecting even post-mortem. Loomis described the Chinese theory of anatomical correspondences and channels well enough to explain the basis of pulsology, but he summarily dismissed the practice as insufficient for diagnosis: “None but quacks … pretend to trust entirely to the pulse. “Disparaging pulsology provided an opportunity for Loomis to educate readers on modern medical diagnosis: “The regular faculty speak of four methods by which the diagnosis must be obtained, viz.: 1st. By observation … 2d. By hearing … 3d. By questions … and 4th. The pulse. “Loomis concluded his expose of Chinese medical arts by cautioning readers against forsaking “the new theories and freshly discovered medicines of the young nations of the West, for the theories which wise men of the East in the ages long ago invented.” (22) Even Chinese immigrants to San Francisco, he claimed, once introduced to the “American” science of medicine, preferred regular doctors for treatment.

Although other late-nineteenth-century accounts did not make such overt comparisons with regular medicine, they repeated the notion that Chinese medicine was more a curiosity than a science. The intent may have been to entertain a non-Chinese audience of readers, but the effect was to emphasize the arcane and exotic, reinforcing American Orientalist attitudes. The apothecary, with its jumble of jars containing mysterious ingredients, featured prominently in late-nineteenth-century travel accounts to Chinese ethnic enclaves. The Chinese formulary was especially interesting to writers touring Chinatown in the late nineteenth century.

In 1875, Lippincott’s Magazine published a description of Chinese medicine in San Francisco as part of a “stroll” through Chinatown. The author, J.W. Ames, professed no special knowledge of Chinese culture and engaged a policeman to escort him through the darker byways, into restaurants, opium dens, and the apothecary of famed physician Li Po Tai. Ames seemed at first taken aback by the banality of the shop’s appearance, which looked to him like any other drugstore with its drawers and jars, but once the policeman opened a drawer for Ames’s inspection, the difference was apparent: “[The drawer] is divided into four equal compartments, one containing partially charred bones of lions and tigers; another dried bugs … a third, some lentil-like seeds; and the fourth, small fragments of bark.” The presumptuous officer continued opening drawers with no indicated permission from the shopkeeper while Ames marveled at their contents: rhinoceros-horn shavings, elephant’s skin, “and the gallipots–quaint little earthen vessels with red labels in character–contain such sovereign remedies as alligator’s gall, ass’s glue, the flesh of dogs, and many other specifics that a scientific mind alone could appreciate. “Later, gazing upon medical charts of the human body with bemusement, Ames remarked on the visual depiction of the Chinese theory of channels: “something not greatly unlike viscera were plentifully arranged in regular rows of parallels and generously piled up almost to the chin. For such an internal economy no doubt the mixed tigers’ bones and tumblebugs are tonic and effectual. “He also noted the work of Tai’s apprentice, “naked to the waist … compounding some witch’s brew. “Ames reported that he left the shop, not with courteous thanks, but with a cry of terror: “We closed the door with a bang and ran howling to the open air.” (23)


The fascination with the Chinese formulary continued into the early twentieth century. In 1903, when the San Francisco Chronicle shadowed Hop Lee as he hunted for and processed horned toads for his pharmacy, the reporter described the interior of a “typical” Chinese druggist: “If one takes the trouble or has the impertinence to peek into the shanties in the Chinese quarters of either San Francisco or Los Angeles, he will invariably discover what at first glance appears to be a collection of preserved fruit, but which on closer inspection proves to be canned toads, centipedes, rattlesnakes, worms, scorpions, and bugs.” (24) In 1907, the Los Angeles Times cautioned its readers: “Those who make wry faces at swallowing a blue mass or castor oil may find relief in knowing what the sick Chinaman swallows.” The reporter went on to list Chinese materia medica derived from minerals, vegetables, animals, and even the human body. (25)


Articles about Chinese doctors often dwelled on their perceived connection to a criminal underworld. Real and imagined connections between Chinese herbs and death-by-poisoning made for exciting newspaper copy and confirmed stereotypes that associated Chinese with barbarity. In 1883, the New York Times published an article on a “Coroners’ Manual” that outlined Chinese methods of murder and suicide by poison: “The commonest poisons are said to be opium, arsenic, and certain noxious essences derived from herbs. But besides these other things are taken by suicides and given by murderers to cause death.” The article went on to describe a special “Golden Silkworm … reared by miscreants” in the southern provinces and the preferred method of suicide among wealthy Chinese men–swallowing gold or silver to effect suffocation or internal bleeding. (26) San Francisco’s Daily Call attributed the murder of Chinatown doctor Ng See Poy to so-called “Chinese highbinders,” a secret society of Chinese American assassins, blackmailers, and assorted criminals. (27)


Reports of unpalatable ingredients and dubious morality did not seem to diminish the popularity of Chinese medicine, which continued to attract Euro-American patients, much to the consternation of its critics. How could something so barbaric, so retrograde, appeal to civilized Americans? English-language newspapers found their answer in American Orientalist stereotypes: If Chinese doctors were innately deviant, so must be their patients. When Louis Potter, a prominent New York sculptor, died in Seattle in 1912, the coroner identified the culprit as poison extracted from peach trees and prescribed by a Chinese doctor. Articles about Potter’s death lingered over the “mystical” details of Chinese medicine. “Potter,” the reporter lamented, “apparently had great faith in his oriental physician.” The article went on to describe the state of the body: “Dr. Snyder [the coroner] said that in addition to the abrasions of the skin into which the oriental herbs were rubbed and a strong plaster applied, Potter apparently had been taking a strong medicine. … Six large bottles of the black fluid had been consumed in eight days. The Coroner has not determined the nature of the concoction.” (28) The intrigue was only compounded by the presence of a “mysterious companion,” a woman who would not divulge her identity but who admitted that she was not the sculptor’s wife: “The Coroner described the woman as ‘apparently highly intellectual’.” (29) Newspapers covering the Potter death subtly intimated a link between dangerous Chinese medicine and a dissolute lifestyle of artists and “intellectuals.” The implication was that unwholesome and unconventional characters patronized Chinese doctors.

Attacks on Chinese doctors often became attacks on their female clientele, reflecting common anxieties about independent women during the Progressive Era. During the first decades of the twentieth century, American women–especially among the white middle class–achieved greater education and professional prominence. That pattern held true in both California and Oregon, where women’s increasing role in public affairs was evident not only among middle-class women, who helped lead the fight for equal suffrage in California in 1911 and in Oregon in 1912, but also among working-class women, who participated in major strikes of textile workers, restaurant workers, telephone operators, and glove makers. (30) Women’s visibility and power sparked the creation of anti-suffrage leagues and other anti-feminist organizations, all united by fears that women’s rights to self-assertion in political, economic, and personal affairs would subvert traditional male authority. (31)

Female patronage of Chinese doctors seemed like evidence of that subversive trend. In 1907, the Los Angeles Times reported contemptuously on women’s affinity for Chinese doctors:

The oriental “healer” business has increased wonderfully in Los Angeles in the last three years. Chinese “physicians” who formerly were barely able to make a living, came here and waxed fat and rich. The places conducted by some of these smooth-tongued Celestials have been patronized largely by women. They seem to find something “romantic” in visiting the yellow quacks and having a “doctor” with long finger nails, a little round, black cap, with a red topknot, and loose, flowing robes, “prescribe” for their ills. (32)

The Los Angeles Times’ depiction of the apothecary managed to mock both Chinese physicians and their white, female patients. Chinese doctors were foppish and effeminate, and their patients were fools. Decadence and luxury hinted at something nefarious and duplicitous: “Most of these places are beautifully furnished with oriental draperies, teak-wood furniture, Chinese porcelains, and other fittings calculated to create an impression of culture and wealth.” (33) Female patients were, in effect, entranced by Chinese doctors. The article implied that this susceptibility revealed their innate feminine weakness and irrationality and their inability to make sound decisions for their health care.

After a wave of arrests of Chinese doctors practicing medicine without a license in Los Angeles County, coverage of the trials became opportunities for newspapers to underscore the exoticism and gendered deviance of the “irregular” physicians. The Los Angeles Times reported the arrest and arraignment of Tom Leung, “the millionaire Chinese doctor” and proprietor of the Leung Herb Company of Los Angeles. The article lingered over the details of Leung’s appearance (“faultlessly dressed, wearing a frock coat and silk hat”) and soberly noted: “Women have been used to get evidence.” (34) When Leung was arrested yet again a few years later, the same newspaper lavished attention on the “fancy costumes” worn by Leung and his fellow physicians: “The Chinese were arrayed in robes of wonderful richness, and the appointments of the rooms carried the impression of Oriental mystery.” (35) In a 1907 sting operation conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, a “woman detective” went undercover to get evidence that G.S. Chan was prescribing medicine without a license. The detective became more of a curiosity for the newspaper than the Chinese herbalist, who turned out to be far less exotic than the spectators attending the trial hoped he would be. Chan arrived in court “attired in garments of the latest fashion. … The spectators looked for the long, plaited hair and swishy clothes and were … disappointed.” Bessie K. Hall, the undercover detective, however, happily provided salacious detail for the newspaper, which reported that she “was married in Bakersfield but has not been living with her husband for some years past.” (36) Extraneous information about dress and marital status became a kind of rhetorical shorthand that allowed writers to convey the gender and racial deviance of Chinese physicians and their patients.

Chinese medicine did have some defenders in the English-language press, but they also tended to rely on the well-rehearsed tropes of American Orientalist discourse. In an 1899 article for Lippincott’s Magazine, William Tisdale decried journalists who described Chinese physicians in terms more befitting a haunted house than a place of business:

Newspaper writers in search of a sensation … thread narrow alleys and climb dark stairways to find him in his secluded den, and relate thrilling stories of wrinkled mummies who felt their quickly-beating pulses and wrote prescriptions for sharks’ fins, or spiders’ eggs, or dried toads and lizards. These fairy tales go the rounds and are read by thousands who shudder at their imaginary horrors. (37)

Tisdale was careful to distinguish trained Chinese physicians from pretenders, and he spoke highly of diagnosis by pulse: “Whether it is based on some form of chicanery or upon science, it is certainly successful.” (38) Yet, even as Tisdale commended Chinese medicine for its efficacy, he could not resist embellishing his praise with references to the mystical and supernatural. The ability to diagnose by pulse, he claimed, was “analogous to the sixth sense which the blind sometimes possess.” (39) Tisdale’s article alternated between describing the apothecary as an ordinary, American doctor’s office and lingering on the most exotic details of the doctor’s costume and herbal formulary, indicating a fundamental uncertainty about how to extol the virtues of Chinese medicine: Did it work because it was like American medicine or because it was not? Tisdale’s ambivalence was reflected in how he excerpted his interviews with white patients. He included the full gamut of responses, from those who “freely assert that the Chinese system of medicine is more rational” than regular medicine to those who marveled at what “these degraded heathen can do with their herbs, which our own doctors with all their skill and knowledge cannot.” (40) Tisdale found ways to promote Chinese medicine by both denying and affirming its racial otherness. Defenders of Chinese medicine, thus, could use the vocabulary of American Orientalism to signal its distance from modern medical practice and its more dubious innovations.

In addition to court proceedings and newspaper interviews, Chinese doctors in California and Oregon spoke publicly for their own practices through printed advertisements, where they had the most control over their message. Doctors could convey the nature of their work through self-selected words and images. Typically, advertisements underscored the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal remedies. Most advertisements featured a photograph of the physician, usually wearing distinctly Chinese garb but sometimes dressed in a western coat and tie. (41) Many included fawning testimonials from white patients recounting near-miraculous cures through the application of herbal remedies.

In short- and long-form advertisements, Chinese doctors consciously employed and reinterpreted racist stereotypes used by their attackers. Li Wing, for example, published in 1902 The Science of Oriental Medicine, Diet, and Hygiene, a 326-page advertisement for his Chinese pharmacy in Los Angeles, the Foo & Wing Herb Company. Using the word science in its title, The Science of Oriental Medicine aimed to dispel the stereotypes that Chinese medicine was behind the times and its doctors barbaric, but it did so in an unexpected way: The book embraced backwardness and barbarism as virtues, not weaknesses. The Science of Oriental Medicine introduced readers to the Oriental system of medicine, including how its general principles and treatments compared to American medicine. (42) According to Li, the “science” of The Science of Oriental Medicine was based on ancient and seemingly inhumane practices. Counter to prevailing myths that the Chinese did not understand how the human body worked, The Science of Oriental Medicine insisted that their anatomical knowledge was superior to that of regular, American doctors because Chinese doctors dissected live humans, not cadavers:

When the Chinese commenced to study medicine they went at once to the root of different questions involved by practicing vivisection. Thousands of condemned criminals were taken and cut to pieces for the benefit of the living. In this way the functions of the vital organs such as the kidneys, the liver, the stomach, the spleen, and the heart were studied in the living person. The intensely important questions involved in the digestion of foods were determined as well as the effects of different drugs. These investigations, made while the man was still alive, were a thousand times more thorough and reliable than the guesswork which civilized physicians have practiced for many years by cutting up the bodies of dead men, when heat, motion, and life are gone and death has destroyed every function. (43)



In reality, Chinese doctors probably did not perform vivisections on condemned criminals or anyone else; early Chinese medical texts, like non-Chinese medical texts of the same era, relied on postmortem analysis of internal organs. (44) Nevertheless, the effect of such an anecdote might have been both shocking and comforting for potential white patients. Chinese doctors, supposedly racially inclined toward barbarity, had used their unsavory predilection for the advancement of medical science. They could, therefore, comprehend what civility and morality prevented regular, Euro-American doctors from comprehending: how medications actually worked on the living body.


Similarly, advertisements for Chinese doctors played on racist assumptions about their effeminacy. Where critics of Chinese medicine saw gender deviance, Chinese doctors saw business opportunities and deliberately targeted female patients in their advertisements. In the case of doctors and brothers T. Foo Yuen and Tom Leung in Los Angeles, most early-twentieth-century advertisements they published in the Los Angeles Times showed a doctor in traditional Chinese garb, seated and practicing diagnosis by pulse (pulsology) on a white male patient. The drawing reproduced a photograph that appeared in The Science of Oriental Medicine, and it inspired a nearly identical advertisement featuring a drawing of a white woman. The patient is clothed in attire and coiffed in a way that bespeaks of Victorian affluence and respectability. (45) There is no hint of impropriety in the relationship between the male Chinese doctor and female white patient. Whereas in the original ad, the male patient and doctor’s faces were slightly turned in, suggesting the possibility of making eye contact, the female patient and her doctor connect only at the wrist. The woman’s face is tilted toward her doctor, but the doctor looks out toward the viewer and unquestionably does not meet her gaze. Diagnosis by pulse required no disrobing, no intimate touching, and–as this particular ad suggested–not even locking eyes.


Business cards from the 1910s advertising Kam Wah Chung & Co. likewise appealed to female clientele and their desires. In the advertisements, Kam Wah Chung & Co. was not just selling “medical herbs, groceries, Chinese goods and general merchandise”; it also was selling a vision of modern femininity. (46) Each card portrays a white woman: “Lillian” dressed for a game of golf, “Clara” posing in a fur-trimmed coat, “Dorothy” gaily ice skating, and “Margaret” looking regal in finely draped robes and upswept hair. These were not images of the eastern Oregon ranching and farm wives who patronized Kam Wah Chung & Co. but perhaps representations of what they aspired to be. It is difficult to determine how successful these images were at drawing women to Chinese medicine, but we can tell from patient letters that Hay likely served more female patients than male. (47) Perhaps such images of sophistication and affluence appealed to Hay’s non-Chinese clientele, who tended to come from eastern Oregon merchant, farming, and ranching families with some wealth. Some of his patients had descended from the most prominent pioneers of Grant County and its neighboring counties, including the Deardorffs, the Keerins, the Van Bibbers, and onetime Mayor of Burns, Oregon, J.C. Welcome, among others. The middling status of these non-Chinese patients is not surprising; the initial visit and diagnosis cost $25, and patients typically paid anywhere between $7.50 and $15.00 for a supply of medicine to last them two weeks. (48)

In longer form advertisements, both Li Wing in Los Angeles and C. Gee Wo in Portland spoke directly to female patients through promotional books. Their depiction of femininity was much narrower than that of Kam Wah Chung & Co.’s business cards and conformed more closely to the old-fashioned Victorian ideal of “true womanhood,” which identified domesticity (along with piety, purity, and submissiveness) as the source of women’s social power and moral authority. While a woman might express her domesticity as a wife, daughter, or sister, the mother was the ultimate manifestation of Victorian femininity. (49) In advertisements targeting English-speaking clientele, Wing and Wo appealed to that tradition by highlighting Chinese medicine’s capacity to restore fertility to women. (50)

Li’s The Science of Oriental Medicine included a chapter specifically addressing “The Diseases of Women” in which he decried gynecological surgeries as “a fad pure and simple.” (51) The Science of Oriental Medicine emphasized herbs’ capacity to defend natural womanhood against “modern ways of life.” (52) Wing attributed women’s ailments–such as irregular periods to cancers–to excessive food, alcohol, and parties; “overwork” and anxiety; and the use of contraceptives, which The Science of Oriental Medicine called “various perversions of marriage.” (53) Chinese herbs, Wing claimed, were “particularly adapted” to counter the poisonous effects of modern living and modern medicine. (54)

Wo’s Things Chinese, a hundred-page book that publicized his office and herb shop in downtown Portland, similarly denounced modern birth control and other forms of interventionist medicine for their detrimental effects on women’s health: “Why is it that the women of the twentieth century are not strong, healthy, and robust as the women of the first part of the nineteenth century? And why not mothers of a large family of strong, rosy-cheeked, and healthy children, as their mothers and grandmothers had been before them?” (55) The answer, according to Wo, was modern medicine’s tendency to “unsex” women by encouraging them to interrupt menses, seek abortions, or otherwise alter their reproductive systems. Wo declared that his herbal remedies could strengthen women’s organs, eliminating menstrual pains and tumors and restoring fertility.

Advertisements for Chinese medicine also frequently played on seeming contradictions, combining characteristics derived from American Orientalism with their opposite. In the discussion of vivisection, for example, readers of The Science of Oriental Medicine learned in later pages that the “condemned criminals” had voted to submit to live vivisection. What might have seemed barbaric was in fact democratic. (56) More commonly, advertisements portrayed Chinese herbal remedies as both modern (based on science) and old-fashioned (based on ancient folkways). In The Science of Oriental Medicine, Wing cited “an exhaustive study” from Berkeley chemistry professor Walter C. Blasdale on the medicinal benefits of Chinese vegetables: “He believes that many of these will ultimately become of general use and of great value to American and European nations.” Wing asserted that the knowledge of those healing vegetables was “ancient” but also confirmed by a modern scientist, in this case a chemist. (57) Similarly, Portland-based doctor C. Gee Wo advertised that he moved his business to a building that could house his “modern equipment” and laboratory. (58) Like The Science of Oriental Medicine, Things Chinese played up the “scientific” aspects of his practice. The fifth edition included an article by a white doctor on the medicinal value of vitamins, a recent discovery in 1924:

Our grandmothers had “herb teas” that shamed the apothecary’s art. The Indians’ “roots and herbs” were the Puritans’ delight. The Chinese have a remarkable faculty for choosing out matchless herbal remedies. At Portland, Oregon the well-known C. Gee Wo Chinese Medicine Company has the acme of reputation for giving out the very best of such preparations, and best because they are rich in remedial vitamins. (59)

Pairing references to grandmothers, Indians, and Puritans with vitamins simultaneously underscored the deep, historical roots of Chinese herbal remedies and connected them to Americans’ evolving understanding of diet and nutrition. Chinese herbs were both old-fashioned and newfangled.

The concept of nature helped Wing and Wo articulate the benefits of their “ancient science.” What was natural or unnatural could have many meanings for Chinese doctors in the early twentieth century. Broadly speaking, in the Chinese tradition, nature’s laws balanced the various elements believed to control bodily functions. In practice, how Chinese doctors went about restoring balance varied widely depending on their individual interpretations and applications of classical medical texts. (60) In the context of promoting Chinese medicine to American audiences, Wing and Wo both used nature to cast doubt on modern medical science. In The Science of Oriental Medicine, Wing claimed that herbal remedies were “founded upon a complete understanding of Nature’s laws. Americans carry their theories of science to extremes and get too far away from the simple, fundamental facts upon which health depends.” (61) Wo insisted that his prescriptions were “nature’s own remedies, and contain no poisonous minerals or drugs.” (62) As in many literary traditions, nature could be an antidote to modernity.


Nature also helped Wing and Wo combat sensationalist descriptions of Chinese apothecaries packed with desiccated animal and human body parts. In Things Chinese, Wo repeatedly described his ingredients as “roots, bark, herbs, vegetables, and flowers,” nothing strange or noxious. (63) Indeed, most of the Chinese physician’s formulary at this time likely would have been medicinal herbs and vegetables with rarer, more expensive ingredients such as deer antler and tiger’s bone used only sparingly. (64) In The Science of Oriental Medicine, Wing explained that Chinese herbs were essentially common vegetables, and consuming them was as natural as eating regular food:

Now compare the use of these substances as medicines with the use of minerals or local applications of mechanical devices. We can understand how a vegetable substance which is in the nature of a food can be taken into the blood and carried to the weakened portion of the body which needs special feeding and will there render the necessary assistance. But we cannot understand anything of the sort in reference to a mineral which is indigestible or to a poison which is injurious to a well person. Here is the whole difference in the methods of treatment in a nutshell. (65)

Wo described how Chinese herbs were harvested wild and then tended in farmyards “in the same manner as a gardener tends to his choicest flowers.” (66) Such pastoral images aimed to diminish the exoticism of Chinese herbal remedies. In contrast to the simple cultivation of medicinal herb gardens, the derivation of regular medicine from minerals and metals might have seemed strange and potentially dangerous to potential patients.

Thus, in print advertisements, Chinese doctors crafted an image of Chinese medicine as based on an ancient science, with herbal remedies that were simultaneously familiar and exotic, natural and strange. Where popular stereotypes denigrated the Chinese by associating them with femininity, Chinese doctors highlighted their close connection with women and special knowledge of their ailments. Such was the source of Chinese medicine’s efficacy, Chinese doctors’ authority, and their superiority to the so-called regular medicine.

Biographies of Chinese doctors quite rightly marvel at the ability of some individuals to form long-standing and successful businesses in the United States. Ing Hay, Li Po Tai, and others weathered economic depressions, anti-Chinese violence, and other ordeals. They did so not by overcoming racism but rather finding ways to use it to their advantage. American Orientalist tropes of backwardness, barbarity, and effeminacy furnished Chinese doctors and their patients with a common language. Although it took some rhetorical effort to transform flaws into features, the ability to speak to and attract white patients helped Chinese doctors survive and prosper, even in an era of increased regulatory scrutiny and prosecution for practicing irregular medicine.

Yet, the reliance of Chinese doctors on American Orientalist thinking was a devil’s bargain. Chinese doctors capitalized on their perceived exoticism, but in doing so, they limited themselves and their practices to the margins of American medicine. With very few exceptions, Chinese herbalists did not acquire medical licenses; nor did state boards create alternative examinations for Chinese doctors as they did for other irregular practitioners such as homeopaths, chiropractors, and osteopaths. (67) By conforming to American Orientalist expectations, Chinese doctors helped cement their medicine’s marginal status for generations to come.

During the 1970s, improved foreign relations with China combined with the countercultural embrace of eastern philosophies and renewed American public interest in Chinese medicine, particularly acupuncture. Whereas acupuncture had traditionally served as preventive medicine for poor and rural populations unable to afford other treatments, during the 1970s and increasingly during the 1980s, acupuncture became a hallmark of what anthropologist Mei Zhan has called “hip, middle-class, cosmopolitan lifestyles that emphasize overall well-being and mind-body health.” (68) During the 1980s and 1990s, schools for Oriental medicine began to open across the United States, with Portland, Oregon, becoming home to two major training centers, the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, founded in 1983, and a new program in classical Chinese medicine initiated in 1992 at the National College of Natural Medicine. (69) In the 1990s, Chinese medicine received a further boost when Congress decided to exempt herbal remedies from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation despite pressure from the AMA. Around the same time, the National Institutes of Health established a permanent office for the study of “alternative medicine,” including traditionally Chinese practices. (70) Since its American renaissance in the 1970s, Chinese medicine has been the subject of increasing interest among American medical researchers and doctors. It remains to be seen if this attention will lead to greater acceptance for Chinese medicine in mainstream health care. That acceptance will have to overcome a long historical campaign to define Chinese medicine in opposition to regular medicine, a campaign in which Chinese doctors played a significant part.



Caption: A visitor examines a framed copy of the Declaration of Independence on display in the Oregon Historical Society’s Windows on America echibition.

Caption: T. Foo Yuen (right), President of the Foo & Wing Herb Company, and his son Tom How Wing (center) diagnosed the pulse of friend W.A Hallowell. The photo appeared in Li Wing’s 326-page promotional pamphlet The Science of Oriental Medicine, Diet, and Hygiene in 1902.

Caption: Kam Wah Chung & Co., show here in a 1909 photograph, was located in the Chinese district of John Day, Oregon, which was home to five or six hundred inhabitants in the 1880s. Drawn to eastern Oregon by a mining boom, Chinese immigrants used Kam Wah Chung & Co. as a meeting place, post office, and apothecary.

Caption: Abraham Flexner (pictured in 1895) authored a 1910 report for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The Flexner Report surveyed medical education in the United States and helped justify increased regulation of the medical profession according to strict, science-based guidelines.

Caption: “Doc” Ing Hay meets with an unidentified woman outside the Kam Wah Chung building.

Caption: The above image from about 1900 shows one of the many apothecaries in San Francisco’s Chinatown. The herbalist behind the counter filled prescriptions by selecting from hundreds of herbs contained in the many containers and drawers lining the walls. This image was featured on a postcard, suggesting the popularity of visiting such a shop on a tour of Chinatown in the early twentieth century.

Caption: Mortars and pestles were used to prepare herbal remedies at Kam Wah Chung & Co. (The photo was taken after the building was made a historic landmark and restored in the 1970s.)

Caption: A postcard from the early 1900s depicts the interior of a “Chinese Drugstore” in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Caption: The “Twelve Pulse [sic] of the Human Body,” in The Science of Oriental Medicine illustrates twelve vital organs within the human body and their corresponding pulses. Chinese doctors examine patients’ pulses to determine the condition of the vital organs and the person’s overall health.

Caption: A 1912 advertisement for the Foo & Wing Herb Co. targeted Euro-American women patients by dispelling any fears of impropriety associated with diagnosis by pulse.

Caption: A 1904 advertisement for the Foo & Wing Herb Co. shows diagnosis by pulse. The drawing was based on a photograph originally printed in The Science of Oriental Medicine, Diet, and Hygiene.

Caption: Examples of Kam Wah Chung & Co.’s business cards, featuring “Dorothy” and “Clara,” were intended to appeal to the apothecary’s Euro-American, female clientele.

Caption: The back cover of C. Gee Wo’s promotional booklet, Things Chinese, displayed a photograph of the physician’s disembodied head floating over his newly expanded apothecary located on the corner of Alder and Third streets in downtown Portland, Oregon.

Caption: Ing Hay was photographed as a young man in Baker City, Oregon, shortly after he emigrated from Toisan County in China’s Kwantung Province. (Courtesy of Kam Wah Chung Museum.)

Caption: The Kam Wah Chung & Co. building in Canyon City, Oregon in the 1990 s. (Courtesy of Kam Wah Chung Museum.)


(1.) William M. Bowen, “The Five Eras of Chinese Medicine in California,” in The Chinese in America: A History from Gold Mountain to the Millennium, ed. Susie Lan Cassel (Walnut Creek, Cal.: AltaMira Press, 2002), 175.

(2.) At present, most of the historical work on Chinese medicine in the American West has focused on individual doctors and their shops, including most famously Ing Hay but also Wah Hing of Fiddletown, California, Ah Fong of Boise, Idaho, and Li Po Tai of San Francisco, California. See, for example, Jeffrey Barlow and Christine Richardson, China Doctor of John Day (Portland, Ore.: Binford and Mort, 1979); Ramona Kimbrell, “Ah Sang–The Chinese Doctor,” Tales of the Paradise Ridge, 13:2 (December 1972): 25-32; Will Sarvis, “Gifted Healer Ing Hay and the Chinese Medical Tradition in Eastern Oregon,” Journal of the West, 44:3 (Summer 2005): 62-69; Aminda M. Smith, “Choosing Chinese Medicine,” Journal of the West, 46:3 (Summer 2007): 24-31; and Kenneth H. Marcus and Yong Chen, “Inside and Outside Chinatown: Chinese Elites in Exclusion Era California,” Pacific Historical Review, 80:3 (August 2011): 369-400.

(3.) Haiming Liu, “Chinese Herbalists in America,” in Chinese American Transnationalism: The Flow of People, Resources, ed. Sucheng Chan (Philadelphia, Penn.: Temple University Press, 2006), 155.

(4.) Bowen, “The Five Eras of Chinese Medicine in California,” 189-90; Haiming Liu, The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2005); Haiming Liu, “The Resilience of Ethnic Culture: Chinese Herbalists in the American Medical Profession,” Journal of Asian American Studies (1998): 173-91.

(5.) John S. Haller, Jr., American Medicine in Transition, 1840-1910 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 223.

(6.) As quoted in Sarvis, “Gifted Healer Ing Hay,” 67.

(7.) Historians use the terms regular, western, allopathic, or orthodox medicine to define a set of practices sanctioned by professional associations of doctors and public health institutions, state licensing boards, and major medical schools. Terms such as irregular or alternative medicine define other practices. These terms are problematic and ahistorical. At the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, American medicine was a mosaic of allopaths and homeopaths, emergent practices of osteopathy, naturopathy, and chiropractic, distributors of proprietary drugs and devices, and faith healers. Nonetheless, the distinction between “regular” doctors and “irregular” doctors was apparent to their patients even if it was not well defined, and for the historian, such terms become impossible to avoid. For a survey of “alternative” medicine and its interactions with “regular” or “orthodox medicine” from the eighteenth century to the near present, see James C. Whorton, Nature Cures: The History of Alternative Medicine in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

(8.) Whorton, Nature Cures, 68-69.

(9.) James Gordon Burrow, Organized Medicine in the Progressive Era: The Move Toward Monopoly, 12; Whorton, Nature Cures, 135.

(10.) Burrow, Organized Medicine in the Progressive Era, 42-43.

(11.) Haller, American Medicine in Transition, 229.

(12.) Historians of medicine have demonstrated the declining use of mineral cathartics by American regular physicians by the 1860s and major strides in surgical techniques and sterilization by the 1890s, but patient testimonials and articles in the popular press show that fears about “regular” practices persisted well into the twentieth century. John Harley Warner, The Therapeutic Perspective: Medical Practice, Knowledge, and Identity in America, 1820-1885 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), 5-6; Charles E. Rosenberg, The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America’s Hospital System (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 148-49.

(13.) For more on Indian herbal remedies see William G. Rothstein, “The Botanical Movements and Orthodox Medicine,” in Other Healers: Unorthodox Medicine in Modern America, ed. Norman Gevitz (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988).

(14.) Mrs. Fred Deardorff to Ing Hay, n.d., Kam Wah Chung Papers [microform], reel 2, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Portland [hereafter Kam Wah Chung Papers].

(15.) Mrs. M.J. Baker to Ing Hay, November 3, 1911, Kam Wah Chung Papers, reel 1. See also James F. Draplan to Ing Hay, October 8, n.d., Kam Wah Chung Papers, reel 2.

(16.) Ted Kaptchuk, O.M.D., The Web That Has No Weaver (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2000), 18-19; Paul S. Unschuld, Medicine in China: A History of Ideas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 4-5.

(17.) John Kuo Wei Tchen, New York Before Chinatown: Orientalism and the Shaping of American Culture, 1776-1882 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); Mari Yoshihara, Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Karen J. Leong, The China Mystique: Pearl S. Buck, Anna May Wong, Mayling Soong, and the Transformation of American Orientalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

(18.) Henry Yu, Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 10-11.

(19.) Jonathan Goldstein, “Cantonese Artifacts, Chinoiserie, and the Early American Idealization of China,” in America Views China: American Images of China Then and Now, ed. Jonathan Goldstein, et. al. (Bethlehem, Penn.: Lehigh University Press, 1991), 48-50; T.J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981), 225-41.

(20.) James Edward Ketelaar, Of Heretics and Martyrs in Meiji Japan: Buddhism and its Persecution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993), 153; Yoshihara, Embracing the East, 18-19.

(21.) For examples of letters from white patients to Ing Hay, see Ethel Carter to Ing Hay, May 19, 1906; P.A. Harbusto to Ing Hay, November 9, 1907; Alvia W. Peters to Ing Hay and Lung On, December 29, 1930; Dorcas Breeding to Ing Hay, May 16, 1941; and Mrs. Albert Morse to Ing Hay, December 21, 1941, Kam Wah Chung Papers, reels 1 and 2.

(22.) Rev. A.W. Loomis, “Medical Art in the Chinese Quarter,” Overland Monthly, 2:6 (1869): 497-502.

(23.) J.W. Ames, “A Day in Chinatown,” Lippincott’s Magazine, 16 (October 1875): 500-501.

(24.) “The Pacific Coast Trade in Chinese Medicines and How a Celestial Pharmacist Makes Drugs Out of Horned Toads,” San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, March 29, 1903.

(25.) “Queer Chinese Medicines,” Los Angeles Times, reprinted in the Washington Post, August 11, 1907.

(26.) “Chinese Poisons,” New York Times, May 20, 1883.

(27.) “Chinese Shot by Highbinder,” The Daily Call, January 27, 1904.

(28.) “Potter Death Still a Mystery,” Los Angeles Times, August 31, 1912.

(29.) “Peach Poison Killed Potter,” New York Times, September 1, 1912.

(30.) Joan M. Jenson and Gloria Ricci Lothrop, California Women: A History (San Francisco, Cal.: Boyd and Fraser, 1987), 58-64; Robert D. Johnston, The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003), 147.

(31.) Nancy F. Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1987), 44.

(32.) “Herb Quacks in Law Net,” Los Angeles Times, June 4, 1907.

(33.) Ibid.

(34.) “In a Frock Coat and High Hat,” Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1908.

(35.) “Herb ‘Doctors’ Taken,” Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1913.

(36.) “Doctor Chan Talks Fight,” Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1907.

(37.) William Tisdale, “Chinese Physicians in California,” Lippincott’s Magazine, vol. 63 (March 1899): 412.

(38.) Ibid., 414.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) Ibid., 16.

(41.) For one example, see images on pages 280 and 281. There are also two examples from Los Angeles-area physicians reproduced in Bowen, “The Five Eras of Chinese Medicine in California,” 182-83.

(42.) Li Wing, The Science of Oriental Medicine, Diet, and Hygiene, 1902, California Digital Library, http://archive.org/details/ scienceoforientaOOfoowrich (accessed June 28, 2012), 14-15.

(43.) Ibid., 8-9.

(44.) Unschuld, Medicine in China, 78.

(45.) Classified Ad 21–No Title, Los Angeles Times, March 2, 1904; Display Ad 220–No Title, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1912; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1987).

(46.) Reprinted in Chia-lin Chen, “The Golden Flower of Prosperity,” October 1, 1971, Portland State University, prepared for Oregon Historical Society, Kam Wah Chung Papers.

(47.) Although Ing Hay was essentially the family doctor in many instances, prescribing and sending medicines for the different ailments of husband, wives, children, and grandparents in the same family, an analysis of patient letters suggests that he treated more women than men. I chose a sample of 117 letters based on the following three criteria: The sample roughly approximated the sex distribution of the entire collection of 249 letters (55 percent male and 45 percent female); I could easily identify both the name and sex of the letter writer and eliminate double counting; letters primarily concerned medical issues and had clear and substantive information about the patients and their treatment. From the data, we can observe that male and female patients wrote to Kam Wah Chung in roughly equal numbers. In both groups, roughly two thirds of the letter writers were themselves patients. The letters from non-patients are arguably more suggestive about the ratio of male to female patients under Ing Hay’s care. Thirty percent of male letter writers were not patients but were writing on behalf of their family members. Among these writers, two thirds of them were writing for female family members only, usually a wife or mother, sometimes a daughter. About the same percentage of female letter writers who were not patients wrote on behalf of family members (26.5 percent). As with their male counterparts, these letters tended to address the needs of female family members (14 percent vs. 9 percent). This suggests that even though male and female letter writers are about equally represented in the collection, women constituted the majority of Ing Hay’s patients. Kam Wah Chung Papers, reels 1 and 2.

(48.) Oregon Historical Society Scrapbook 21, p. 59; Oregon Historical Society Scrapbook 48, p. 126; J. Southworth, A History of Grant County (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Company, 1983), 55, 87-88; Kam Wah Chung Papers, reels 1 and 2; United States Federal Census [database online], Provo, Utah: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004 (accessed February 28, 2013).

(49.) The “Cult of True Womanhood” is a nineteenth-century phrase first revived in historical scholarship by Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood, 1820-1860,” American Quarterly, 18:2 (Summer 1966): 152. See also Elizabeth Jameson, “Women as Workers, Women as Civilizers: True Womanhood in the American West,” in The Women’s West, ed. Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984). The doctors’ emphasis on motherhood was undeniably out of touch with the “New Woman” of the 1920s. In the wake of the Nineteenth Amendment, a new icon of white femininity had burst onto the scene. Sexually liberated, empowered by the right to vote, and often depicted in a “flapper” costume, the “New Woman” seemed omnipresent in popular media. It is difficult to say whether Chinese doctors’ emphasis on “true womanhood” attracted or repeled the “New Woman” due to the absence of first-person accounts. The “New Woman” of the 1920s did not wholly replace Victorian “true womanhood,” with its emphasis on sexual purity and pious domesticity. See Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil, Through Women’s Eyes: An American History with Documents (Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2005), 483.

(50.) Gynecology as a distinct field of study within Chinese medicine first developed in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). See Charlotte Furth, A Flourishing Yin: Gender in Chinas Medical History, 960-1665 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

(51.) Wing, The Science of Oriental Medicine, 167.

(52.) Ibid., 150.

(53.) Ibid.

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) C. Gee Wo, Things Chinese, Fifth Edition, 1924, 49, Oregon Historical Society.

(56.) Wing, The Science of Oriental Medicine, 143.

(57.) Ibid., 70.

(58.) Wo, Things Chinese, 28.

(59.) Ibid., 47-48.

(60.) Unschuld, Medicine in China, 223.

(61.) Wing, The Science of Oriental Medicine, 15.

(62.) Wo, Things Chinese, 30.

(63.) Ibid., 28-30, 38-40.

(64.) Tisdale, “Chinese Physicians in California,” 415. A survey of Kam Wah Chung’s materia medica seems to corroborate Tis dale’s observation. Beth Howlett, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, interview with author, September 8, 2011.

(65.) Wing, The Science of Oriental Medicine, 154.

(66.) Wo, Things Chinese, 23.

(67.) Whorton, Nature Cures, 155. Boise doctor C.K. Ah Fong successfully sued to have his license reinstated after the Idaho State Board of Medical Examiners stripped it from him in 1899. Smith, “Choosing Chinese Medicine,” 27-28.

(68.) Mei Zhan, Other-worldly: Making Chinese Medicine Through Transnational Frames (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009), 14.

(69.) “National College of Natural Medicine,”http://ocom.edu/; http://www. ncnm.edu/academic-programs/school-of-classical-chinese-medicine/about-the-medicine.php (accessed June 13, 2013).

(70.) Terri A. Winnick, “From Quackery to ‘Complementary’ Medicine: The American Medical Profession Confronts Alternative Therapies,” Social Problems, 52:1 (February 2005): 53-54.

Research for this article was supported by the Oregon Historical Society’s Donald J. Sterling, Jr., Memorial Senior Research Fellowship.

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

Shelton, Tamara Venit. “Curiosity or cure? Chinese medicine and American orientalism in progressive era California and Oregon.” Oregon Historical Quarterly Fall 2013: 265. Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Nov. 2014.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A348216141

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Several patients called us for either pubic bone area pain, or groin area pain, inquiring if acupuncture or Chinese medicine can treat that. For more detail answer this, I give some basic information here:

(1) during last 10 years, our clinic has treated 15 patients for this conditions, all successful, the treatment is 8-16 sessions.

(2) Recent case:

Patient S.D, a young lady saw us for her pubic bone area pain and groin area pain, she finds this pain is related to her work and living condition, if stand too long or driving too long, she feels the pain start or get worse.The pain has bothered her over two years. In the same time, she also has left side lower back pain and left side shoulder, upper back pain and stiffness.

Until now, she got 6 sessions acupuncture (and using Huo Luo Xiao Ling Dan capsule, a herbal medicine), her groin area pain is gone and the upper pubic area pain improved 95%, and lower pubic area pain improved 80%. The lower back pain improved 25%, and neck, shoulder, upper back area pain improved 30-40%.

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Dr. Ralph Coan: a hero in establishing acupuncture as a profession in the United States

Journal of Integrative Medicine: Volume 11, 2013   Issue 1


1.         Arthur Yin Fan (McLeanCenter for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA22182, USA )

2.         Ziyi Fan (McLeanCenter for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA22182, USA )

DOI: 10.3736/jintegrmed2013007 Fan AY, Fan Z. Dr. Ralph Coan: a hero in establishing acupuncture as a profession in the United States. J Integr Med. 2013; 11(1): 39-44. Received July 23, 2012; accepted August 25, 2012. Open-access article copyright ? 2013 Arthur Yin Fan et al. Correspondence: Arthur Yin Fan, PhD, MD, LAc; Tel: +1-703-499-4428; Fax: +1-703-547-8197; E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US

Figure 1  A recent photograph of Dr. Ralph Coan This photograph was taken during the interview. He had recently partially recovered from a stroke while also suffering from heart disease.

1 Introduction

Dr. Ralph Coan is not well known to the general public. Originally, we had wanted to interview him as he was the medical director of the first acupuncture center in the United States that opened in the early 1970s[1]. We wanted to know more about that center’s history. Prior to visiting Dr. Coan, we found an article written by Dr. Sherman Cohn that mentioned Dr. Coan. The article noted that Dr. Coan was the founder of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which is the national association of acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners in the United States[2]. While interviewing Dr. Coan on February 18, 2012, it became apparent that he truly is a leading light in establishing acupuncture as a profession in the United States.?Dr. Coan is 75 years old and retired several years ago from his busy medical practice in Kensington, Maryland, USA. As he had recently partially recovered from a stroke while also suffering from heart disease, he could not talk much (Figure 1, Dr. Coan was in the interview). To collect further information about him, we also consulted his former colleagues and relatives, and researched articles written about him.


2 An acupuncture believer

“I put an advertisement in the Washington Post stating Looking for a Physician Position. To my surprise, I immediately got a call in the same day. He said, ‘Are you interested in working in an acupuncture clinic? If so, please come.’ I was not familiar with acupuncture before this. However, I had to get a job to support my family after I left the United States Army. At that time, most of the medical doctors (MDs) and politicians did not believe in acupuncture; some media treated acupuncture as a ‘quack’ profession. I started the work with great suspicions. It was at the beginning of 1973.” Dr. Coan recalled 40 years later.

Dr. Coan graduated from the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 1963 as an honors student, had a one-year internship in the University of Chicago Hospitals, and completed his residency at WalterReedArmyHospital in Washington, D.C. He joined the United States Special Army and served at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in the Canal Zone, Panama, at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, and Walter Reed in Washington, D.C. In 1972, Dr. Coan left the Army after serving for eight years due to the end of the Vietnam War. He was one of the three earliest staff physicians, with six Chinese medicine doctors or acupuncturists, to work for the Acupuncture Center of Washington, the first legal acupuncture center in the United States[1]. At that time, Western-trained MDs performed the diagnoses and decided which patients needed acupuncture, and the Chinese medicine doctors would perform acupuncture treatment under the MDs’ supervision. The first MD director of the Center was Dr. Arnold Benson, a New York internist and one of the three founders. Dr. Coan became the second MD director a year later, since Dr. Benson was busy and could not work full-time. As the staff director and co-founder, Dr. Yao Wu Lee recalled that Dr. Coan worked part-time initially, then became a full-time doctor, and at last, served as the MD director, while Dr. Chingpang Lee, a Chinese medicine doctor, served as the office manager.

“I was not sure whether acupuncture was safe and effective, so I wanted to do a little research by myself before I finally decided to work there. I collected the contact information of the first 50 contiguous patients and examined them — the Center had an official copy; I collected by myself secretly. Over approximately two months, I called all of those patients. The results were very encouraging: more than 80% of the patients told me that they got better without any obvious adverse effects. I became a believer, so I decided to work full-time there. I stayed in that Center for approximately 10 years.” Dr. Coan said.

At that time, there were very few acupuncture clinics, and patients came from throughout the United States as well as from many other countries. The Center was immensely popular and had to split into two separate clinics: the Acupuncture Center of Washington and the WashingtonAcupunctureCenter. At their peak popularity, both clinics saw about one thousand patients per day. Within one year, there were thirteen acupuncture clinics open in Washington, D.C., leading it to become a capital of acupuncture. The acupuncture business was so successful that buses full of patients came from New York, New Jersey, and other cities daily to visit the Center[1]. Such scenes and the effectiveness of acupuncture amazed many open-minded MDs like Dr. Coan[2]. However, the booming acupuncture business aroused anxiety and unease within conservative Western style medical institutions and drug manufacturers. In 1974, the Washington, D.C. Board of Medicine gave the Center orders to close acupuncture offices six times. To save the acupuncture profession, as well as the Center, the directors decided to respond. From mid-1974 to the early 1975, they were involved in two lawsuits in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The court conducted a serious hearing on acupuncture. Judge Fred Ugast listened to the testimonies of the Washington, D.C. Board of Medicine, the Acupuncture Center of Washington and WashingtonAcupunctureCenter, as well as the public for three months. Dr. Coan was one of the key MDs who attended the hearing and played an important role[2,3].

Dr. Coan remembered very clearly, “One day I was in court. I testified that in Washington, D.C. there were no MDs or dentists trained in acupuncture. It is impossible to get rid of acupuncturists in an acupuncture practice, because they are the experts. Then, Judge Fred Ugast let the doctor who was in charge of the Washington, D.C. Medical Board in. The judge asked him, ‘Dr. Robinson, your regulation wants to limit the right to practice acupuncture to licensed physicians and dentists in Washington, D.C. Do you know how many Western-trained doctors in Washington, D.C. were trained in acupuncture? How many patients need acupuncture everyday?’ The doctor replied, ‘I don’t know.’ Then the judge said, ‘Oh, you can go now.’”

“I predicted that we would win the case. At last, the judge announced that the new Washington, D.C. regulation which wanted to limit the right to practice acupuncture to licensed MDs and dentists is unconstitutional. The rights of physicians to choose proper treatment based on his best judgment, acupuncturists to perform acupuncture, and patients to get professional acupuncture services have been protected. So, acupuncturists could continue to perform acupuncture as long as it is under a MD’s supervision.”

Dr. Coan was a diligent doctor and held at least six qualifications in subspecialties of internal medicine, such as endocrinology and infectious diseases, which is many more than what doctors today may have. He worked with those acupuncturists in his office from 1972 until late 1990s. He said, “I am a believer of acupuncture, although I did not insert any acupuncture needles into any patient. When my family members were sick, I always suggested them to use acupuncture first. Acupuncture works!”

3 A pioneer in acupuncture research

There was very little acupuncture research reported in the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Coan was one of the pioneers in conducting acupuncture clinical trials. When I mentioned his name to Dr. Lixing Lao, a well-known researcher in acupuncture and Chinese herbology, and a Chinese medicine doctor at the Center for Integrative Medicine of the University of Maryland, he gave Dr. Coan very high praise, “Dr. Coan was an important acupuncture researcher with historical status. His two papers in acupuncture clinical trials on neck pain and low-back pain have been cited by many researchers today.”

In mid-September, 1973, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a special workshop for acupuncture scientific study. Dr. Benson and Dr. Coan reported their clinical observation of acupuncture’s effectiveness in 36 cases of rheumatoid arthritis (RA)[4] which was conducted by Dr. Coan.

The presentation at this NIH meeting showed that during the first six weeks after the center was established in December 1972, there were 64 patients with RA who were treated with acupuncture. The first follow-up was conducted three months later. They were able to contact 55 patients, of whom 36 had been given 5 to 24 acupuncture treatments (average 6.6). Of the 36, 25 patients (69%) reported improvement, including less need for pain medications and in some cases, reduction of the nodules which occur on arthritis sufferer’s joints. Of 19 patients who had fewer than 5 treatments, only 5 cases (16%) reported improvement. The second follow-up was conducted six months later, which showed continued improvement by 16 of 27 patients (59%) from the original group. The average age of patients in this study was 55 years, and they had been suffering from RA for an average of 11.5 years.

Many newspapers in the United States reported this news, which encouraged more patients to try acupuncture.

An article entitled The acupuncture treatment of low back pain, a randomized controlled study[5] was reported by Dr. Coan and his colleagues in 1980. The study was conducted within the Acupuncture Center of Washington and Acupuncture Center of Maryland.

Acupuncture treatment was effective for the majority of patients with lower back pain, which was shown by the use of short-term controls and long-term controls, although the latter were not intended in the study design. After acupuncture, there was a 51% pain reduction in the average pain score in the immediate treatment group. The short-term controls and the delayed treatment group showed no reduction in their pain scores at the comparable follow-up period. Later, the patients in the delayed treatment group were also treated by acupuncturists, and 62% of patients reported less pain. When these two treatment groups were compared at 40 weeks with long-term controls (inadequate treatment group), the inadequate treatment group still had the same pain scores, on the average, as when they enrolled in the study. Both treatment groups, on average, had 30% lower pain scores. Furthermore, 58% of patients in the treatment groups felt that they had definitely improved at 40 weeks, while only 11% of the inadequate treatment group felt definite improvement at 40 weeks. There was a significant difference between the groups.

Another article entitled The acupuncture treatment of neck pain, a randomized controlled trial[6] was reported in 1981 by Dr. Coan and his colleagues.

Thirty patients with cervical spine pain syndromes, course of disease 8 years on average, were assigned randomly equally into treatment and control groups. After 12 weeks, 12 of 15 (80%) of the treatment group felt improvement, some dramatically, with a mean 40% reduction of pain score, 54% reduction of pain pills, 68% reduction of pain hours per day and 32% less limitation of activity. Two of 15 (13%) of the control group reported a slight improvement after 12.8 weeks. The control group had a mean 2% worsening of the pain score, 10% reduction in pain pills, no lessening of pain hours and 12% less limitation of activity.

Such study design may be seen as flawed if judged by today’s criteria. However, they were considered impressive by the researchers at that time, especially the studies were the first time in history endorsed by NIH, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the American Medical Association (AMA), whichis the main stream medical society. The reports had been documented in the United States Congress in 1979 and was one of key documents used for FDA relabeling acupuncture needle as a medical device from an investigational device in 1994. The later two studies were conducted by local acupuncturists and MDs using their own money, time and labor, with great difficulty, and totally followed the restrict NIH clinical trial rule (control, and random) at that time, which might be the only case in the United States medical research history. Dr. Coan was invited to give lectures throughout the United States. Such studies do therefore have some value. Dr. Coan said, “Acupuncture is a process of a needle piercing the body, to some extent, it is similar to a small operation. As a clinical doctor, I strongly believe it cannot be compared with so-called ‘sham’ acupuncture (which is used as a placebo, mimicking that in medication’s clinical trials; however, it is a real piercing or similar to that). We used the methods of comparing the effectiveness and adverse effects before and after acupuncture in the same patient group, or between the treatment group and waiting-list group. Like an operation, how can we compare the cut of a scalpel with the ‘sham scalpel cut’?”

I agree with him. Indeed, acupuncture is very different from medication; the design of the study should not be the same as the drug model, the so-called “golden criteria”.

4 A key person in establishing acupuncture as a profession in Maryland

“I was an MD who had witnessed so many patients getting better after acupuncture treatment and became an acupuncture believer. In the 1970s, I had strong motivation — I felt that I should do something to push the acupuncture profession forward in the United States. I decided to change something at the local level first. I convinced ten more local acupuncturists, and established a professional organization Acupuncture Association of Washington Metropolitan (AAWM). I was its president for more than 10 years. We met every Saturday morning to share news with each other and discuss the role of the acupuncturists. One day, we met in SuburbanHospital (which was the affiliated hospital of NIH). We were aware that the first quarter of each year is the legislation season in every state, so we decided to remove the obstacle in law for acupuncture in Maryland.” Dr. Coan recalled.

The members of AAWM included local acupuncturists mainly from Hong Kong and Taiwan of China and Korea, such as Grace Wong, In-Su Kim, Hansheng Gu (Hanson Koo) and Sumei Zhang. They met once a month in China Garden Restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. The basic procedure was: ate lunch together (about half hour), and then discussed something new and what needed to be done — like most societies today but we met more often and sometimes held seminars. Maryland was one of the earliest states that allowed acupuncturists to practice acupuncture (Fan notes: similar to the nurses working under the supervision of MD, without license) in the United States in 1973. However, in the early 1980s the Board of Medicine with the conservative Western-trained doctors did not want acupuncturists to have a license and wanted to deprive the acupuncturists’ rights. During 1981 to 1982, Dr. Coan and his colleagues were involved in acupuncture licensing legislation in Maryland.

“At that time, there was a five-person committee representing the Governor and State of Maryland in the hearing. The MD’s representative who attended that hearing was a very, very famous neurosurgeon from JohnHopkinsHospital, a ‘top guy’ in the Western medical field, who did not like acupuncture and tried to block the acupuncture licensing legislation.” Dr. Coan reminisced about the great achievement, “I am a nasty person. I knew him well and I knew he would oppose acupuncture. So I brought three local patients who had surgery from him, which is a secret weapon I used later all the time.” The neurosurgeon told the committee: “acupuncture is just a no-use therapy, especially for neurological issues, such as spinal disc problems that cause back pain and sciatica; only surgery could cure such disorders.” Then it was Dr. Coan’s turn. Dr. Coan brought out patients and asked them, “Do you know that doctor (the neurosurgeon)?” The patients replied, “We were patients of his and had operations from him.” “Did the operations help?” Dr. Coan asked. “No, after the operation, the pain got worse. However, acupuncture stopped the pain.” one of patients replied. The surgeon felt embarrassed and left the hearing immediately. And then Dr. Grace Wong, Dr. Coan’s partner and a well-known acupuncturist, made testimonies for acupuncture. So, acupuncture licensing legislation was passed very smoothly and successfully in Maryland in 1982 [Fan notes: due to the special political environment in Maryland, the Acupuncturist Licensing Act was changed to Acupuncturist Registering Act in 1982. So, the legislation passed in that year was the Acupuncturist Registering Act. The Acupuncturist Licencing Legislation was passed at last in 1994, 12 years later].

“You should understand it is so important to bring patients with you when you try to make testimonies in court and convince people about acupuncture. The patients will give you great support,” Dr. Coan said.

Dr. Lixing Lao once was Dr. Coan’s colleague. He recalled, “I participated in the events of AAWM, because I taught a point-locating class for National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) acupuncture examination preparation for the Tai Sophia Institute in 1986 as a part-time job, while I was a PhD candidate of physiology in the University of Maryland. Tai’s teaching, focusing on five-element acupuncture from England, is very different in content from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the main stream of current Chinese medicine. Dr. Yin-sue Kim attended that class and invited me to participate in Dr. Coan’s monthly events. I actually joined them in 1987. One day, we got interest to start an acupuncture school with focus on TCM in Maryland. So, several people became involved in this topic. After the normal meeting completed and other acupuncturists left, we discussed the school issue. The school was started in late 1991, and the first class was in 1992.”

The school was called the Acupuncture School of Maryland, and later, Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine (MITCM). After eight years of preparation, the school was initially started in a Catholic elementary school where it held lectures in the evening. After several years, it moved into a professional building in Bethesda, Maryland, which was very close to a metro station, and had all lectures during normal hours. “I was the founder and the first president of the school, and ran the school by myself for two years. My daughter worked there as a secretary.” Dr. Coan said. According to Dr. Lao, Dr. Coan spent a lot of energy, time, and even his own money for the school. Before the school could become financially independent, Dr. Coan lent his money to the school for support. The teachers at the school, mostly from mainland China and well-trained in TCM, included Drs. Lixing Lao, Jingyuan Gao, Eugene Zhang, and more. “Dr. Lao and Dr. Gao were fantastic teachers and scholars, when I was the president there, I attended their lectures for two years. I should give them my heartfelt praise,” Dr. Coan said. The first graduates were twelve students in December 17, 1994. MITCM was very sound in its academic and financial condition. It was a prestigious TCM school on the east coast. However, it closed at the end of 2002.

During the 1980s to 1990s, Drs. Coan, Wong, Lao and Bob Duggan (the founder of Tai Sophia Institute) worked as the main board members in the Acupuncture Board of Maryland for many years. The Board is a state government agency that is in charge of acupuncture licensing and administrates acupuncturists’ practice.

5 The founder of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Almost ten years passed from the opening of the first acupuncture center of the United States in 1972. In more and more states, such as Nevada, Maryland and Massachusetts, acupuncture legislation got passed. More and more patients considered acupuncture as an option, and more and more students studied acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the United States and became acupuncturists. These led to the birth of a national organization for the acupuncture profession[2].

Dr. Coan and Louis Gasper, PhD, were co-founders of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). Dr. Gasper, who died in 2004, was a professor at Los AngelesInternationalUniversity. They sent letters nationally to invite people to attend the first AAAOM meeting at the Los AngelesInternationalUniversity on June 27, 1981. Neither Dr. Coan nor Dr. Gasper practiced acupuncture; however, they are acupuncture believers. The 75 attendees included MDs and dentists who used acupuncture, acupuncturists (non-MDs), and MDs who did not use acupuncture themselves but supervised acupuncturists, like Dr. Coan, as well as friends of acupuncture or those with interest in acupuncture, like Dr. Gasper. The first board was elected at that meeting, and consisted of seven members: two MDs, four acupuncturists, and another doctor without indicating designation. Dr. Coan served as the treasurer. At that time, MDs were the largest groups represented at that meeting. The second AAAOM meeting, held at the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego in March, 1982, had a much higher attendance than the first. Most of attendees were acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) practitioners. In the third AAAOM meeting, held at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. in May, 1983, non-MD AOM practitioners strongly protested MD members’ intentional delay of AOM development, tension between the MD acupuncturists or supervisors, and the non-MD practitioners surfaced without resolution, resulting in all of the MD members walking out of AAAOM except for Dr. Coan. In that difficult time, Dr. Coan was elected as the new president of the AAAOM, which just became AOM practitioners’ own organization. “I was president of the second board and then vice-president of AAAOM for over ten years. During those years, I helped thirteen states finalize acupuncture legislations,” Dr. Coan said.

“I gave testimonies in person in twelve states’ hearings for acupuncture legislation, gave testimony over the phone for Alaska (I did not go there, it is too far),” Dr. Coan said. He wrote the name of thirteen states for us on a paper with his hand, slight-shaking due to the stroke: Alaska, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

“In Utah, there were twelve MDs who were strongly against acupuncture that attended the acupuncture legislation hearing. A representative of the AMA came too. The side that is in favor of acupuncture had only two people in attendance: one acupuncturist and me. The MDs tried to make the law to block all non-MD acupuncturists to perform acupuncture. The reason is that such non-MD acupuncturists had not had the appropriate medical education as MDs. I asked, ‘In your MDs’ clinics, there are nurses who use needles. How many years were these nurses required to study in Nurse Schools?’ They replied, ‘Three years.’ ‘Acupuncturists have education and training for four to six years, longer than the nurses. If the nurses have right to use needles, acupuncturists should be overqualified to use the needles under the supervision of a MD.’ I protested. And then, a MD stood up and said, ‘acupuncture is not useful to treat carcinoma. Acupuncture will cause carcinoma patients delay in getting the right treatments. So, acupuncture will harm patients.’ I stood behind the sponsor who wanted to introduce the acupuncture legislation and gave him the reply of our side. He responded according to my words, ‘Okay, you said acupuncture harms patients. Could you call your clinic and let your secretary use expedited mail to mail me a real medical record which indicates that acupuncture harmed your patients by tomorrow? I will pay the shipping fee.’ The doctor could say nothing. So we won the hearing, and acupuncture legislation passed.” Dr. Coan smiled, “Acupuncturists should remember, never say you could treat cancer (by acupuncture only, although you may help such patients to some extent). In the hearings, the MDs always used this as an example to block acupuncture legislations.”?Regarding Vermont, Dr. Coan said, “During the hearing there were also only two people in favor of acupuncture: a local acupuncturist and me. We won. The weather there that year was extremely cold, and this lady (the acupuncturist) had no money to pay for a hotel for me. So, I stayed in her house, without any heating, for one night. I used ten cotton blankets. That is an unforgettable experience.”

“In 1988 in Virginia, there were five surgeons in attendance who tried to block legislation which allows acupuncturists to practice acupuncture; I went there with In-Su Kim, a Korean acupuncturist, to fight with them,” Dr. Coan recalled. According to a report from a newspaper[7], at that time in VirginiaState, the law made by MDs only allowed licensed MDs to practice acupuncture. Such MDs only had 100 hours of study and 100 hours of practice in acupuncture training. The acupuncturists, mostly with 4 to 6 years extensive training, could not practice acupuncture. Dr. Coan protested in the statehouse, “This law is unjust, unfair, and immoral.”

Per the arrangement of Dr. Coan, on June 22, 1979, George Brown, Jr., an acupuncture skeptic, had acupuncture during a hearing in Congress of the United States. Dr. Grace Wong, Dr. Coan’s partner, did acupuncture on him for smoking cessation; it was very successful. At that time, Brown was the Chairman of the House Science, Research, and Technology subcommittee. It was a breaking news, reported in many newspapers[8].

As another pioneer in the acupuncture profession, Dr. Finando, commented on Dr. Coan[9], “He campaigned and lobbied anywhere and everywhere to lobby for acupuncture.” Not only did he campaign and lobby for acupuncture anywhere and everywhere, his mother influenced by him, also became a volunteer lobbyist for acupuncture.

It is true that Dr. Coan is a great hero of the acupuncture profession, even though he did not insert an acupuncture needle in any patient. He is an MD, but he has contributed his dedication and whole life to support and promotion of acupuncture; all of this as a volunteer.

6 Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Lixing Lao, Dr. Yick-chong Chan, Dr. Sherman Cohn, Ms. Judy Coan-Stevens and Mr. John Coan who provided some detail information about Dr. Ralph Coan, and Ms. April Enriquez for English editing. The interviewer was Dr. Arthur Yin Fan.

7 Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


1.         Fan AY. The first acupuncture center in the United States: an interview with Dr. Yao Wu Lee, WashingtonAcupunctureCenter[J] J Chin Integr Med, 2012, 10(5) : 481-492.

2.         Cohn S. Acupuncture, 1965-85: birth of a new organized profession in the United States (pt. 2). Am Acupuncturist. 2011; Spring: 22-25, 29.

3.         Superior Court of the District of Columbia Civil Division. Civil action No. 11005-74. Urie, Coan v. Washington. cited by the records: Lewis v. District of Colombia Court of Appeals (1978). [2012-06-26]. http://www.tx.findacase.com/research/wfrmDocViewer.aspx/xq/fal.19780427-0003.dc.htm/qx.

4.         Sawislak AB (UPI). Two-third of 36 patients treated with acupuncture had pain relief. Williamson Daily News, 1973-09-20 (15).

5.         Coan RM, Wong G, Ku SL, Chan YC, Wang L, Ozer FT, Coan PL. The acupuncture treatment of low back pain: a randomized controlled study[J]. Am J Chin Med, 1980, 8(1-2) : 181-189.

6.         Coan RM, Wong G, Coan PL. The acupuncture treatment of neck pain: a randomized controlled study[J]. Am J Chin Med, 1981, 9(4) : 326-332.

7.         Criticism of acupuncture laws called racist by Asian groups. Afro-American. 1988-08-16(3C). [2012-06-26]. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=LEpAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=WvUFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2980,674502&dq=ralph+coan+in+su+kim&hl=en.

8.         How to prevent mildew. The Spokesman Review. 1979-06-23(10). [2012-06-26]. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=yeURAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Ie4DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5438,3626027&dq=wong+grace+acupuncture&hl=en.

9.         Finando S. AOM pioneers and leaders 1982-2007, a commemorative book of challenge and courage. Vol. 1. AAAOM, NCCAOM, CCAOM & ACAOM. 2007: 29-32. [2012-06-26]. http://www.aaaomonline.info/docs/pioneers_and_leaders_vol1.pdf.

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中图分类号:R 2-09文献标识码:A针灸人物

[摘 要] 朱琏同志为中国中医科学院针灸研究所的主要创建人,是西医学习中医的带头人。朱琏同志对针灸事业的主要贡献有学习针灸医学,推广针灸疗法;心系针灸事业,创建针灸研究机构,并较早进行针灸国际交流;注重临床实践,倡导针灸科研;著《新针灸学》,传道后学。

[主题词] 针灸学;传记;中国中医研究院;@朱琏

Comrade ZHU Lian,a pioneer and innovator of acupuncture and moxibustion science in new China

MA Lan-ping,Director: XUE Chong-cheng (Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion,China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences,Beijing 100700,China)

ABSTRACT Comrade ZHU Lian is a main founder of Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion,China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences,and she is the first to learn TCM for a physician of western medicine. The present paper looks back the works of comrade ZHU in acupuncture and moxibustion cause. Her main contributions are learning acupuncture and moxibustion medicine,popularizing acupuncture and moxibustion therapy;being concerned acupuncture and moxibustion cause,establishing organization of acupuncture and moxibustion research,more early conducting international exchanges of acupuncture and moxibustion;paying attention to clinical practice,proposing scientific research of acupuncture and moxibustion;writing New Acupuncture and Moxibustion Science,passing on later generations.

KEY WORDS Acupuncture-Moxibustion Science;Biography;CATCM;@ ZHU Lian


1 接受先进思想,走上革命道路



“七七”事变后,“石门各界慰劳前方将士联合会”改为“石门各界抗日救国会”,为石家庄市委领导的公开的抗日统一战线组织,其后 “石家庄各界妇女抗敌救国会” 成立,朱琏任会长。抗日部队在石家庄成立后方医院,她组织群众为伤病员服务,还在诊所办救护培训班,以备不时之需。妇女抗敌救国会遭到国民党的禁止,她带领数百名妇女到国民党李默庵军部前请愿,高呼抗日救国口号,争得胜利,保住了救国会。




2 学习针灸医学,推广针灸疗法




3 心系针灸事业,创建针灸研究机构




4 注重临床实践,倡导针灸科研


5 著《新针灸学》,改革创新,传道后学

早在1948年,朱琏同志就写了针灸学讲义作为华北卫生学校的针灸教材。因在实习中同学们都反映需要针灸方面的书籍,朱琏同志组织了一个编写组,帮着整理材料,组长是彭庆昭同志,组员有当时卫校教务主任兼诊断学教员张殿华同志、解剖学教员甄石度同志、病理学教员燕图南同志、卫生学教员李解同志、生理学教员王雪苔同志(负责编制彩色插图)及卫校门诊部负责针灸的医助杨喆同志,另外还有卫校针灸班学员代表张景廉、赵焕文两位老针灸医生,紧张地工作了几个月,才把原来训练班的讲义写成了《新针灸学》的初稿[2] 。1951年3月,在董必武副主席的支持下,《新针灸学》一书问世,由北京人民出版社出版,朱德总司令为本书题词:“中国的针灸治病,已有几千年的历史,他在使用方面,不仅简便经济,且对一部分疾病确有效果,这就是科学。希望中西医团结改造,更进一步地提供其技术与科学原理。”董必武副主席为本书作序。《新针灸学》共分5篇:第1篇绪论,第2篇针灸治疗原理,第3篇针灸术,第4篇孔穴各论,第5篇治疗。针灸学自有记载以来,均因袭旧论,基本观点大体相同。朱琏同志从实践出发,结合古今医学理论而有所创新,开辟了针灸学的一个新阶段,所以称“新针灸学”[3]。本书为中华人民共和国成立后出版的第一部针灸医著,先后被译为朝鲜、俄、越南等文版,影响较大。






1 汪丝益,鲁崎唔.鲁之俊与针灸.中国针灸,2006,26(11):809

2 朱琏.新针灸学.2版,北京:人民卫生出版社,1954:18

3 周雨浇.中国新针灸学的开拓者——朱琏.江苏省溧阳文史资料第1辑:16


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http://www.positivearticles.com/Article/The-History-of-Acupuncture-in-the-United-States/16719 By: ashu

Acupuncture has been an excepted medical practice throughout Asia for thousands of years. The history of acupuncture in the United States is less lengthy.

The History of Acupuncture in the United States

Acupuncture found its way into the United States in the same manner that so many other things have reached this country. It was brought with the immigrants. In this case, it was with Chinese immigrants brought into the West to work on railroads and in the fields. Large Chinese enclaves grew up in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in New York City on the east coast. Acupuncture was a standard form of treatment in these settlements just as it had been back home in China. The Chinese had been using acupuncture for centuries and also had very little trust for Western Medical treatments.

Although there were a few incidents of Westerners becoming involved with the study and practice of acupuncture in the United States during the 19th century, it was never widely practiced outside Chinese areas. It also was never widely accepted. It was considered superstition and totally unscientific and little attempt to understand it was ever made. When the Communist Government started a campaign to rid China of all traces of Classical Chinese Medicine, many acupuncturists made their way abroad. Some of these came to the United States which increased the number, but still little was done to understand and adapt it to Western use.

One of the big turnarounds for acupuncture in the United States occurred during a State visit to China by Richard Nixon in the 1970’s. During this visit, a member of the U.S. delegation was given an emergency appendectomy. The only anesthesia that was used was acupuncture. The President was duly impressed and when he returned to the US, he called for further study of the procedure. It was the beginning of the move of acupuncture from a foreign voodoo-hoodoo type of thing to a respectable and accepted alternative Medical treatment procedure.

In 1994, the Washington Post was reporting that almost 15 million Americans had tried acupuncture. This was almost 6% of the total population. In 1995, The United States Federal Drug Administration classified acupuncture needles as medical instruments. The biggest turnaround came in 1997 when the National Institute of Health issued a report titled, “Acupuncture: The NIH Consensus Statement.” This report stated that acupuncture was indeed very useful in the treatment of certain conditions. It also stated that the side effects of acupuncture were less adverse than those resulting from either surgery or drugs.

The NIH report further encouraged Insurance Companies to give full coverage to acupuncture treatments for certain conditions. This was a major endorsement of the procedure. Today, acupuncture is becoming more and more accepted as an alternative treatment and is gaining acceptance by the Western Medical Community. Some Medical schools including UCLA have begun to offer acupuncture as part of the curriculum.

Acupuncture has been an excepted medical practice throughout Asia for thousands of years. The history of acupuncture in the United States is less lengthy.

Dr.Fan notes: Some of the points are not correct, such as the Nixon’s team member got sick and had operation under acupuncture anesthesia.

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Dr. Wu: A beautiful, moving and meditative song — In memory of Dr. Jing Nuan Wu, a pioneer of acupuncture and a Chinese medicine doctor in the United States.

Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine: 2012; 10(8): 837-840


1.         Arthur Yin Fan (McLeanCenter for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA22182, USA )

2.         Ziyi Fan (McLeanCenter for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, PLC. Vienna, VA22182, USA )

Journal of Chinese Integrative Medicine: Volume 10   August, 2012   Number 8

Received June 10, 2012; accepted June 13, 2012; published online August 15, 2012.

Full-text LinkOut at PubMed. Journal title in PubMed: Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Xue Bao.

Correspondence: Arthur Yin Fan, PhD, MD, LAc. Tel: +1-703-499-4428; Fax: +1-703-547-8197; E-mail: ArthurFan@ChineseMedicineDoctor.US

Few popular songs are titled a doctor’s name and even fewer are sung directly by the doctor’s patients. However, the song Dr. Wu might be the exception. After sung by Steely Dan[1], a well-known American jazz-rock band, Dr. Wu has been loved by many Americans for over 35 years. The beautiful, moving, and meditative song was written in 1975 after Steely Dan had abandoned touring and reconvened in Los Angles, the UnitedState[2]. As one of the best Steely Dan songs, Dr. Wu literally describes the love between Katy and a young Cuban man, and because of Dr. Wu, the girl leaves the young man. Actually, the song writer and singer Donald Fagen, wrote the song as a metaphor commemorating one of the band members’ recovery (probably himself) from drugs with the help of Dr. Wu[3]. Hence, the song is a cryptic lyrical tribute.

1  Who is Dr. Wu?

In the Steely Dan Dictionary[4], the titular doctor is identified as: “Doctor Jing Nuan Wu (1933-2002), an acupuncturist and artist based in Washington, D.C., emigrated from China to the UnitedState at a young age and graduated from Harvard to become a Wall Street venture capitalist, finally setting up a Taoist clinic in Washington, D.C. in 1973.”

I met Dr. Jing Nuan Wu (胡振南) in 2002, just one month before his death. At the time, I had only lived in the UnitedState for one year. I had just received my acupuncture license and planned to practice Chinese medicine in Washington, D.C., so I called Dr. Wu’s office to ask for some advice from him, and he agreed to see me. I did not know he was very ill. We met in one of his offices in Georgetown, located on the beautiful north bank of the Potomac River. He was very thin and wore a black traditional Chinese silk shirt. Because he could not speak Mandarin and I could not speak Cantonese, we used English to communicate. His voice was very soft due to his illness. Dr. Wu described the history of Chinese medicine in Washington, D.C. and he hoped that Chinese medicine could prosper from generation to generation. He said that he was aware that I was a young Chinese medicine doctor with several achievements and expressed that I could work with him should he recover from kidney cancer. It was a pity that the arrangement was never fulfilled. Dr. Wu passed away on December 3, 2002.

Dr. Wu was a legendary person. He was born in Guangdong, China, a province near Hong Kong, but was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, in the United States. According to the recall of a friend of his[5], Dr. Wu came to the United States with his parents when he was five years old. His parents were laundry workers and worked hard to raise him. Their work paid off as he later graduated from HarvardUniversity with a degree in language and history. He moved to Middleburg, Virginia in the 1960s and caused a stir in Virginia hunt country when he bought the Rattlesnake Ridge retreat from Jacqueline Kennedy[6]. He had an “extreme crisis” in early 1970s before becoming a Chinese medicine doctor[5-7].

Dr. Wu was a venture capitalist in the 1960s and had interest in a firm that was developing Apollo space capsules. He had trouble with the authorities in that period; the immigration officials accused him for faking papers and the Securities and Exchange Commission suspected him of investment improprieties (he denied both wrongdoings). He was involved in a series of tiring law suits and became bankrupt. His United States citizenship was maintained, but he could no longer be a venture capitalist. During this crisis period, he visited his family in Hong Kong. During this visit, an elder relative gave him some life-changing advice — “It’s time for you to do service.” he said. It was then that Dr. Wu learned Chinese medicine from his uncle and was commissioned to write a book on Chinese medicine in English. When he realized that Chinese medicine was effective, he made a decision — instead of writing about Chinese medicine, he began to practice it.

He returned to the Washington D. C. to establish the Taoist Health Institute in 1973, and developed a stable stream of high-profile clients. Under the supervision of a medical doctor, he became one of the earliest acupuncturists/Chinese medicine doctors in the United States. At that time, Washington, D.C. was the first local authority that allowed acupuncturists to legally practice. Dr. Wu was most successful during the late 1970s to early 2000s[5-7]. At the time, when people in Washington, D.C. thought of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the first name that came to mind was Dr. Jing Nuan Wu[7]. As his friend wrote in a book, “a Chinese idiom says, ‘death is not terrible; two decades later, he will become a hero again.’ Dr. Wu actually became a hero in Chinese medicine only several years after his ‘death in Wall Street’”[5].

2  Dr. Wu’s achievements

Dr. Wu established an acupuncture detoxification center, which is the first notable work of him in 1980s. Due to his deep concern for young American addicted to drugs and being encouraged by the initial success of his acupuncture detoxification test, Dr. Wu established a drug recovery center in 1983 or 1984 called the GreenCrossCenter for Traditional Medicine, located at 1510 U Street NW, Washington, D.C. This center was well-known because it was probably the second most successful acupuncture detoxification center in the United States. The first was established by Dr. Michael Smith in the LincolnHospital in the Bronx, New York, which saw 200 to 300 patients every day, and is financially supported by the state. In contrast, Dr. Wu did all the work on his own with great difficulty. His clinic had no funding from the city, the state, or the federal government. In an interview[7] by Dr. Redwood in early 1990s, Dr. Wu said that he and his associates at Green Cross did the work because they had hoped that it would encourage other people to do the same. However, the clinic required a great deal of money and dedication. “I know of many groups throughout the country that have tried to do what we have done, and they have not been successful because of the lack of one or the other. I can not tell you how much dedication it really does take. The staff are burnt out. We are basically on our second group of staff in seven years. Luckily, our practitioners work for very little. So what has happened is that no one works full-time except two of the administrative staff. Everybody else works part-time. They make money outside of this work, so that they can keep body and soul together. I subsidize the clinic through my personal work, and one or two of my friends have put in substantial amounts of money.” At that time, his detoxification clinic might have been the only one using Chinese herbs, alongside the acupuncture, to treat drug addiction and acquired immune deficiency syndrome[8] in the United States.

His second notable work was the push for the first acupuncture regulation in Washington, D.C., which was released in 1989. He served as the chairman of the Acupuncture Advisory Committee for the District of Columbia, which has advised the Board of Medicine, Washington, D.C., on the regulation and licensing of acupuncturists in the District for over 10 years. He did “one of the more frustrating jobs” in his career — the Washington, D.C. Board of Medicine, and Dr. Wu had agreed early on with regard to the acupuncture guidelines. It then took Dr. Wu and his colleagues three years and five lawyers to put out only 12 pages of rules and regulations. “That is because Washington, D.C. mires in a system of bureaucracy that is impossible to understand. That impossibility stems from one critical lack — that they have no one in the city bureaucracy that can type! So we ended up in a situation where the lawyers get so frustrated that after five months they quit. In dealing with this, it was not until our fifth lawyer that we finally got the rules and regulations into a piece where we could publish them. It is that type of procedure which I think is analogous to the drug situation.”[7]

Dr. Wu also played an important role in acupuncture development in the United States. In 1994, as one of three licensed acupuncturists (the other two were Dr. Lixing Lao, and Dr. Xiaoming Tian) was invited, he gave a presentation on acupuncture as a medical device and the safety of acupuncture in a workshop cosponsored by the Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health (NIH), and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since this workshop, acupuncture needles were no longer listed as an investigational device in the FDA regulations (as it did for 20 years prior to the workshop). This was a milestone in acupuncture development and make acupuncture have broader applications in clinical practice. As a renowned acupuncturist, a Chinese medicine scholar and a practitioner, Dr. Wu was also invited to be one of the key board members listed for the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine — one of main journals in the research of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, in which he published an article introducing the history of acupuncture.

His third notable work was his introduction of Taoism and promotion of Chinese medicine in GeorgetownUniversity, GeorgeWashingtonUniversity, and many other institutions all over the country. He translated and published several important classic books related to Chinese medicine, completing the “homework” that his elder relative had given him many years before. Such works were the Spiritual Pivot (Lingshu, 《灵枢》, published by University of Hawaii Press, 1993), Yi Jing (I Ching, 《易经》,published by The Taoist Center, 1999 and earlier), and An Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica with the collaboration of Dr. Qian Xinzhong, the former Minister of Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China (published posthumously by the Oxford University Press, 2002). These books have been widely cited by Western scholars. Before his death, Dr. Wu also completed a translation of Tao Te Ching/Lao Tzu(《道德经/老子》), which, sadly, was not published.

Dr. Wu’s fourth notable work was the use of multiple natural remedies to treat patients. In the 1980s, there was a natural healing center located at Wisconsin Avenue and 30 Street that included acupuncture, Chinese herbology, nutrition consultation, Chinese medicine lectures, as well as an Oriental medicine book store and a small Oriental dietary therapy restaurant. One of my patients recalled that this center was also established and administered by Dr. Wu. Dr. Wu invited several renowned practitioners to take part in the center’s work. The center was unique and attracted many people. However, because of financial difficulties, it closed after several years.

Dr. Wu was involved in promoting Chinese herbology. He said that among Chinese medicine therapies, Chinese herbology is the major one. He was one of the earliest well-known Chinese herbalists in the Washington, D.C. area. Besides his daily clinical work, he carried out a clinical study for women going through menopause using Jia Wei Xiao Yao San, also called Free and Easy Wanderer Plus Powder under a NIH funding. His work was recommended by FDA to the public as an alternative therapy for menopausal women.

3  Dr. Wu, the artist for healing

In the 1980s, Dr. Wu began creating abstract art that embodies the holistic ideas of the traditional Chinese healing system, and had an exhibition at the National Botanical Gardens (Washington, D.C., USA). “My vision for the artwork grew when a patient who was ill with cancer asked me to paint a picture for him. Suddenly I realized that I had found a way to heal many more people than the number I could see in my office every day,” he said. His paintings and sculptures eventually evolved into therapeutic devices, used to promote health, balance, and relaxation by evoking responses from the inner aspects of our being (see Figure 1). Once upon a time, Dr. Wu mentioned that “visual art can and should be celebrated not only for its aesthetic and decorative value and as a record of historical events but also for its potential to help us express, understand and heal ourselves”. He said: “The quest for the transcendental experience has been a popular trip for mystics, and religious persons through the ages. They have followed the paths of meditation and spiritual practice. In the empirical vision and methods of traditional Chinese medicine, entry to the transcendental is an every day experience. The most significant outward manifestation of the transcendental state is relaxation of the physical body. I attempt with my art to change and to reset the clockwork of our inner being to the most beneficial and health-inducing rhythm. When reset and unburdened from the tics of anxiety and social pressure, one is being entered a calm field where new patterns of behavior can develop and take hold within. These quiet inner fields are my new medical country and my artwork is the way of passage.” Ten years after his death, his paintings are still available for purchase online[9].

Figure 1  Dr. Jing Nuan Wu is painting the impressionist paintings about Chinese medicine

This photo was taken in 1990s and was afforded by Ann Miller, Dr. Wu’s former assistant.

Dr. Wu passed away at age of 69, after almost 30 years of acupuncture and Chinese medicine working in Washington, D.C. During his practice, many patients were amazed by him and his work. “He was a genius,” Elizabeth Drew (an author and journalist, and a patient of Dr. Wu) recalled: “He thought beyond the normal ranges.” In a 1985 profile of Dr. Wu published in the Washington Post, the author observed that “there is something about this man. You believe him. His smile defuses skepticism. His Chinese slippers make no noises. In a city founded on convention, Wu is a soothing reminder that there is another way”.[6]

Dr. Wu did many beautiful things; people will remember him. His life of promoting acupuncture and Chinese medicine was just like the beautiful, moving and meditative song that shares his name.

4  Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Ms. April Enriquez for English editing; Ms. Ann Miller, a former assistant of Dr. Wu’s clinic, provided information about Dr. Wu, and permitted the use of the picture. The interviewer was Dr. Arthur Yin Fan.

5  Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


1.         Steely Dan. [2012-05-12]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steely_Dan.

2.         Steely Dan. Katy Lied. [2012-05-12]. http://www.amazon.com/Katy-Lied-Steely-Dan/dp/B00000IPAB/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1336954673&sr=1-1.

3.         Craig Middletown CT, etc. Comments. [2012-05-12]. http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=6519.

4.         Steely Dan. Doctor Wu. (2012-03-05) [2012-05-12]. http://www.steelydandictionary.com/.

5.         Chen C. Acupuncture practice in the United States. Taibei: Blue Swan Co. 1987. Chinese.

6.         Zielinski G. Acupuncturist and artist Wu Jing-Nuan at 69. The Washington Post. 2002-12-6. [2012-06-12]. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-403078.html.

7.         Redwood D. Chinese medicine in modern America: Interview with Jing Nuan Wu LAc. (1995)[2012-05-12]. http://www.healthy.net/scr/interview.asp?Id=224.

8.         AIDS and the traditional healer. AIDS Action. 1990; 12: 7.

9.         Wu’s Healing Art. The healing art of Jing Nuan Wu. [2012-05-12]. http://www.wushealingart.com.

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For Oregon Acupuncturists


I came to Oregon in 1975, and passed the acupuncture licensing exam given by the Board of Medical Examiner’s Acupuncture Committee. At that time, only Oregon and Nevada had licensing laws allowing acupuncturists to practice who were not medical doctors.

I then moved to Oregon in late 1976 and began practicing in Portland. Not knowing any better, I left an extremely lucrative human and veterinary practice in California, because I wanted raise my children in Oregon. It just seemed to me to be a much better place for children to grow up.

You might imagine that things were a bit different in those days. We could only treat patients that were referred to us by an M.D. Also, the Medical Board had a regulation at the time that restricted those referrals. The referrals could only come from  “in-house” MD who was also approved by the Board of Medicine, and assigned to a specific acupuncturist.

So patients could not come to us if referred by their own doctor.

In 1978 I presented an argument to the Board of Medicine for changing this restriction and asked that acupuncturists be able to accept patients referred from any Oregon licensed MD.

The BME changed their regulation.

At the time there were 6 other practitioners (all Chinese) and myself (the white guy) in Oregon. It was tough then. If you think it is “hard” for you now, you don’t really understand “difficult.” You think we are in an economic depression now, this was during the great Carter Administration when interest rates were 17% to 24%! No insurance coverage at all — only cash patients. Most people didn’t have extra money for alternative care of any kind. Plus, this was back in the beginning when almost no one knew about  acupuncture and its benefits.

Then one day in early 1979, while I was probably daydreaming about salmonfishing, Dr.WaiTak Cheung comes storming into my office and says, with his thick accent, “OK Gene, now we get busy…we need to get the law changed.” At this time the OAA existed, but in name only,and the dues were spent on several very nice Chinese dinners each year. They never undertook any legislative projects, nor did they communicate with the Board of Medical Examiners. Dr. Cheung explained to me that since 3 of the other 4 Chinese Doctors had either left town or died, and since he was in now in charge of the OAA, it was time to make the OAA a real functioning organization. I hadn’t seen Dr. Cheung in 8 or 9 months, but I knew that he and the others heard about my results in getting the Board of Medicine to get rid of the old supervision by “one MD rule.” And at my one and only attendance at the 1977 OAA Dinner For Elderly Chinese Practitioners and One White Guy, I spent a long time trying to convince the members to be active in legislative issues and Board of Medicine oversight issues. They seemed completely uninterested at the time, but it turns out that Dr. Cheung was the exception.

So together, he and I set out [alone] to rid ourselves of the MD referral requirement that was in the original legislation. It took a year and a half, but it got done. By 1980-81MalvinFinklestein and Eric Stephens and Jerry Senogles had arrived in Oregon. So I wasn’t the lone white guy anymore.

In just a few years, a small group of about 5 of us, with very, very, very limited funds, managed to get rid of the referral requirement, and to write and get passed the first insurance parity law in the U.S. And on top of this, the naturopaths were trying each year to pass legislation giving them the power to do acupuncture with little or no training. So we had to fight their lobbying efforts. Lucky for us, no one ever told us how naïve we were to try and do all this in four years with no manpower and almost no money. I don’t believe that any one of us thought we could do it alone. Somehow, even just two or three of us together gave us the courage to try. With 5 or 6 of us….well, we felt invincible.

So…this a very brief summary of a part of my experience in the early, beginning years of our profession here in Oregon. Some of you may be aware that in most states, insurance companies do NOT pay for acupuncture at all. You are probably also aware that most states do not have herbal medicine as a part of their scope of practice.

And I am sure you are all aware that in over 20 other states Chiropractors can legally do acupuncture ….as long as they have the 50 to 200 of required ‘training.’

Thank you for taking a few minutes to let me reminisce and ramble –on about the good old days. And I want to wish you the best for your future, as individual practitioners and as a state organization.

An old friend of mine used to always say, “It’s good to have a plan for the future.”

The first time I heard him say that, I said to him, “You’re such an idiot. How can you plan for the unknown?”

He just smiled and replied, “That’s the easy part. You simply visualize the future you want.

It’s simple.”

I said, “Simple? You’re nuts. How can it be simple?”

He said, “Remember that photo you showed me of that small sailboat you built?”

I answered, “Yes.”

He continued, “So you simply begin to form a picture of your next project, or your next goal, or your entire next year, and you hold it before your minds eye as you would the picture of the sailboat.”

I was quiet for a minute or two, and then asked, ”So if that’s the easy part, wise guy, what’s the hard part?”

He sat up, his eyes looked directly into mine and then he said, “Actually doing it.” I looked at him for a long time. I actually had the makings of a plan that I hadn’t told him about, and I wasn’t sure how to make it work. I finally said, “I have a plan, but it’s too big for me to do alone right now!

He started laughing and laughing, and then finally became calmer, and he smiled and said,

“Who said anything about doing it all alone?”

So, what’s your plan for the future? Are you headed there alone?

by Gene Bruno, OMD, LAc

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