First day of acupuncture: Becky Wissel and Jessica Chapman, University of Illinois, June 3, 2013

Today was our first day of the acupuncture course at China Agricultural University.  We were met by 3 university students who graciously escorted us on the bus route to the campus.  On our way through campus to our classroom, we got to walk through the veterinary teaching hospital- what a sight!  The building was smaller than our teaching hospital but they were well-equipped with radiology, laboratory, internal medicine, surgery, and large treatment rooms where the owners can accompany their pets while they receive IV fluids and various other treatments.  It was interesting to see owners walking all through the hospital with their cats in their arms – no carriers or leashes in sight! We were greeted by several professors in the classroom and were given a warm welcome before the day officially began.  Dr. Zhongjie Liu dove right into the material and we were given a brief history lesson on Tradition Chinese Veterinary Medicine.  It dates back nearly 3,000 years to the Western Zhou Dynasty!

Modern day TCVM students at the University are still required to know by the heart the earliest book on Chinese Medicine Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine).  After our history lesson we were taught about the theory and applications of acupuncture and about Yinyang and the Five Elements. Acupuncture is a very versatile therapy that can treat all different species and even different body systems within an individual animal.  There are virtually no harmful side effects and effects can be seen very rapidly.  It is an easy attainable skill, though not so easily mastered.  More than 200 diseases are known to be treated with acupuncture. To understand the theory of acupuncture and its use in medicine, you must have an understanding of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine.  The basis of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine is the Yin Yang Theory and the Five Elements.  Yin Yang may be a popular idea across the world, but there is more to it than a black and white symbol.  The Chinese believe that everything has a dual nature, composed of Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang are symbolized by water and fire, since they directly oppose each other.  Things with properties of fire, such as heat, movement, and brightness pertain to Yang.  On the other hand things that have properties of water, such as cold, stillness, and dimness pertain to Yin.  Yin and Yang are always relative: Yin can transform into Yang, and vice versa.  All things can infinitely be divided into Yin and Yang.  The Yin and Yang aspects of any one thing will restrict each other to maintain a balance. The Ancient Chinese divided their world into five main elements: wood, fire, metal, earth, and water.  People used this to generalize and explain the nature of organs and the relationships between them, and the relationships between animals and the natural world.  The ancient Chinese people used this theory as a basis to guide diagnosis and treatment of disease.  For instance, the character of wood is to grow and flourish.  The character of fire is to be hot and flare up.  The character of earth is to give birth to all things.  The character of metal is to descend and be clear.  The character of water is to be cold and flow downwards.  Different major organs are classified according to an element based on their function.    Early doctors used these characteristics to classify diseases and thus used the relationships between the elements to treat disease.  The goal is to balance the elements and the Yin and Yang.  As it turns out, they actually had a deep and accurate understanding of physiology by using this theory.

After our day at school we walked to a nearby shopping mall.  In order to get anywhere by foot, you are taking your life in your hands, as pedestrians do not ever have the right of way and cars just swerve into the middle of the crosswalk without any notice and miss your arm by inches. It really is like human Frogger, with slightly higher stakes. The mall was strikingly similar to an American mall – with cool white tile on the walls and floor, and neatly arranged displays in all of the stores. We wandered around for a little while (luckily the prices are written in Western numbers so we didn’t have to ask), and then headed in search of dinner. There was a cute ice cream place on the second floor, but when we got to the front of the stand there were no pictures or case of ice cream to point at, and no English to be found, so we gave up and found a Hagen Daaz on the ground floor that had a case and sample cups that we could point at. Across from the Hagen Daaz was a cute little bread and pastry store where a couple of girls bought breads filled with chocolate and shaped like panda faces. On the way home from the mall, we stopped in a local grocery store to pick up a few things, and were amazed at the size of the place – it was two stories (complete with ramp escalator in the middle that you can take shopping carts on!) and filled with stuff to buy. We didn’t spend long wandering the aisles, and instead headed straight for essentials – a hair straightener and face wash – and then called it a night.