Luckily our family is very healthy and we don't have any serious problems. Nevertheless, we wanted to experience and understand (at least a bit) the Traditional Chinese Medicine concept while we are in China. Hence we booked a class for "Traditional Chinese medicine" with the Chinese Cultural Club in Beijing.
On a Sunday morning we met with a small group and a Chinese Guide and went in one of the many TCM Hospitals in the Chaoyang District. The place was hidden and couldn't been seen from the street. Already with the entrance, it felt tranquil and relaxing. We were offered a delicious jasmine tea and one of the TCM doctors explained us the basics of TCM.
Traditional Chinese medicine is an ancient practice still used by millions of people all over the world - even after the development of modern scientific medicine.
At the root of traditional Chinese medicine is the belief that the individual (microcosm) is viewed as an integral part of the forces of nature (macrocosm). By careful observation of nature, Taoist sages were able to perceive patterns common to both the external environment and the internal climate of the human body. Over a period of thousands of years, the cumulative observations of sages all over China led to an intricate system of diagnosis and healing.
One of the basic tenets of TCM holds that the body's vital energy (chi or qi) circulates through channels, called meridians, that have branches connected to bodily organs and functions. The doctrines of Chinese medicine are rooted in books such as the Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon and the Treatise on Cold Damage, as well as in cosmological notions such as yin-yang and the five phases. Starting in the 1950s, these precepts were standardized in the People's Republic of China, including attempts to integrate them with modern notions of anatomy and pathology. In the 1950s, the Chinese government promoted a systematized form of TCM.
After the session we were all checked (pulse, tongue, lots of questions) by the TCM doctor and he could confirm that we are all healthy. Now it was time to try one of the treatments offered in the hospital. We could choose from massage, acupuncture or cupping.
For me it was an easy decision: TCM massage hurts like hell (the guide confirmed it to me) and cupping left you with bruises and marks all over your body (again confirmed by the guide). This left me with acupuncture. Because I'm in a healthy condition, the acupuncture was an experience rather than a medical treatment. Let's say, just to stimulate my Qi flow. I laid down on a kind of massage table, face up. No need to undress or anything, just be able to roll up my pants and sleeves.
The doctor wiped down spots on my body with something sterile, I presume, and then as if it were nothing popped in little needles, head, leg and arm.
Needles don't bother me and these ones are pretty tiny. The acupuncture felt like a little prick - not nearly as bad as a shot or anything - and the needles don't go in very far. A few spots felt more sensitive than others. I asked the guide about this, and he explained those are the channels that are particularly "stuck". The doctor left me for ten minutes on the table. I'm not really sure what was going on, but I suppose my energy channels were supposed to be clearing and opening, allowing proper flow. It didn't feel like much.
So the aftermath?
It was quite interesting to get all the information and see a unique TCM hospital in Beijing. With regards to the acupuncture, I didn't feel any positive or negative effects. Maybe I would try it again, in case I had some health issues. But you have to be open to alternative medicine and willing to give anything a shot.