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Special> Video> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: December 14, 2010 Web Exclusive
Oriental Magic


On November 16, 2010, the ancient TCM (or traditional Chinese medicine) practices of acupuncture and moxibustion were added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

The book Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon is the earliest text featuring acupuncture and moxibustion. According to the more than 2,000-year-old book, acupuncture and moxibustion therapy can relieve more than 30 afflictions, including cold and headaches.

Liu Jie was graduated from Beijing's Traditional Chinese Medicine College in the 1990s. His knowledge of acupuncture and moxibustion comes from 20 years of clinical experiences.

"According to traditional Chinese medicine, internal organs acts together as a whole," Liu told Beijing Review. "The principle of 'maintaining balance' between man and nature is the basic condition for good health."

"In my opinion, there's no difference between TCM and Western medicine in one's inner body. The only difference is the structure - whether it is visible or invisible," he added.

Traditional Chinese medicine is largely based on the philosophical concept that the human body is a small universe with a set of complete and sophisticated interconnected systems, and those systems usually work in balance to maintain the healthy functioning of the body.

According to Dr. Liu, TCM employs a unique model of the body that focuses on a so-called meridian system, while the Western anatomical model divides the physical body into parts. Some research show that Western people are more sensitive to acupuncture and moxibustion therapy than Chinese people are.

"The key to acupuncture and moxibustion therapy is practice," Liu said. "Needles are not always necessary. You can press the point instead to get the same effect. The benefits of the therapy, such as maintaining health and preventing disease, could be better promoted if more access to the practice was given to more people."

A total of 23 national standards on acupuncture and moxibustion are currenly being used by doctors. Another six are expected to be released next year.

"The Intangible Cultural Heritage status will definitely help promote acupuncture and moxibustion therapy worldwide," Liu said. "The challenge is how to bridge this legacy with modern perspectives."

"The next step, in my opinion, is finding the connection between acupuncture and moxibustion and the science that makes it work," he added.


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