Traditional Chinese medicine promoted at grass-roots medical service centers in home of ancient ‘Medicine King’

A man receives acupuncture treatment at a village medical service center in Tongchuan, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province. Photo: Xiao Yi/China Economic Weekly

In the hometown of China’s “Medicine King” Sun Simiao, a renowned doctor in the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties and author of the earliest Chinese encyclopedia of clinical practice, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is inherited and practiced to offer treatment and ease the pain suffered by local residents, becoming an important supplement to grass-roots medical services in Tongchuan, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.

At a local Sun Simiao TCM service center, a Global Times reporter will witness a patient with cervical pain receiving acupuncture treatment – inserting thin needles into skin at key points (xuewei in Chinese) of body to ease pain and treat disease.

Physician Zhang Zhijian helped the patient through some stretches and inserted a few needles into different points on the patient’s neck and shoulders. Zhang pulled out and re-inserted the needle on some of the xuewei to induce repeated stimulation of the body.

The effectiveness of acupuncture has been continuously challenged by modern medicine, but such therapy is “effective according to numerous patients over centuries” and remains popular in China and many other Asian countries.

Zhang’s patient told the Global Times the piercing “does not hurt but feels like an ant bite. However, my shoulders feel much lighter after the treatment.” Zhang noted that to maintain such effectiveness, long-term treatment is needed.

Acupuncture is one of TCM techniques listed as suitable for wider promotion. It is being taught in grass-roots medical service centers in Tongchuan to diversify treatment available for local residents and improve public health outcomes.

So far, 27 village medical centers, 8 community medical centers and two hospitals have been transformed to offer TCM services in addition to Western medicine, the Global Times learned from the Tongchuan government.

Each year, physicians at the village medical centers will attend training sessions organized at district and county levels. The curriculum mainly focuses on TCM techniques suitable for promotion, which also include cupping and moxibustion.

“They are mainly used for alleviating pain and nursing people who are not ill but in poor health. And it is convenient for many villagers who do not have a hospital nearby to receive regular treatment,” Zhang introduced.

Tongchuan was designated as a model city for advancing TCM techniques suitable for promotion in 2021, which is an honor of unique significance for the hometown of Sun Simiao.

Sun recorded his experience with herb formulas and his knowledge of medicine in his famous 30 volume work, winning the name of author of the earliest Chinese encyclopedia of clinical practice.

He believed that good health lies in engaging in light work without fatiguing oneself with excessive labor. Sun also advocated the use of massage therapies, physical exercises, and breathing exercises, which resonates with some modern methods to keep healthy.

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