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Pinpointing growth of TCM culture

By Li Yingxue and Yang Jun | China Daily| Updated: 2024-03-08 Print


Yang Shuo (third from right) participates in the World Acupuncture Week free clinic event at the People's Hospital of Longli county, Guiyang, Guizhou province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Seasoned practitioner and NPC deputy seeks innovation in promoting and inheriting traditional medicine, Li Yingxue and Yang Jun report.

In treating temporary facial paralysis, Professor Yang Shuo emphasizes a holistic approach. "Beyond addressing the condition itself, we must also consider treating the individual," he instructs interns at Guizhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. "That entails focusing on their meridians and acupuncture points."

While juggling his teaching responsibilities, Yang attends to over 60 patients a day at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Guizhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Additionally, he dedicates time to caring for hospitalized individuals.

Adding to his impressive workload, last year, Yang assumed the role of a National People's Congress deputy. Despite his busy schedule, he prioritizes grassroots engagement, conducting visits and research to amplify community voices at the national level.

His mission: to bolster the advancement of traditional Chinese medicine and pass on its rich culture.

The 49-year-old brings 25 years of expertise to his practice, and specializes in treating spinal conditions. Employing techniques like qi (energy flow) adjustment and modern structural acupuncture, he focuses on holistic healing.

"Using pulse diagnosis and a comprehensive approach," Yang explains, "I combine traditional methods, like the assessment of meridian, bloodletting, and zangfu tuina (visceral manipulation) to treat ailments like neck and back pain."

His approach integrates ancient wisdom with modern techniques, offering hope to patients suffering from a variety of musculoskeletal issues.

The key to effective acupuncture lies in balancing the body's qi, ensuring its smooth flow, he says.

"For instance," Yang says, "if someone's breathing is rapid and they're easily irritable or experiencing insomnia or headaches, it suggests hyperactivity of the qi that needs to be regulated. Acupuncture can help bring it back into balance."


Yang (center) conducts a free clinic. [Photo provided to China Daily]

He's also skilled in treating neurological issues like strokes and facial paralysis, along with emotional disorders such as insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Yang has noticed a rising number of patients grappling with insomnia and anxiety. He attributes this to modern lifestyles — while people eat better, they move less and face greater stress, leading to more restless nights and anxious days. Surprisingly, even children are experiencing these issues.

"Many patients complaining of neck pain are actually suffering from excessive psychological stress," Yang explains. "Acupuncture can effectively relieve this by clearing the body's energy pathways."

He stresses the need for personalized treatment, as no two cases are alike. "For instance, some people's insomnia is due to overwhelming stress, and acupuncture can help them release built-up tension," he says. "Others may be struggling with overly intense emotions. Each person requires a unique approach to treatment."

Yang recently encountered a patient who had struggled with insomnia for over four years. She had undergone psychiatric treatment and followed a course of medication without relief. Despite trying various therapies like yoga, her condition persisted.

During examination, Yang noticed old scars on the patient's abdomen. The skin around the scars was cold to the touch, and pressing on them caused significant pain. After a comprehensive assessment, Yang decided to try acupuncture on the scars. After six sessions, the patient's insomnia and anxiety vanished and eventually, she no longer needed her medication.

Yang says he believes this case demonstrates acupuncture's remarkable effectiveness.

Apart from his busy schedule treating patients, Yang also teaches undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral students.

Huang Yu is one of Yang's doctoral students, and focuses on acupuncture's role in treating spinal disorders.

The 28-year-old's journey into acupuncture began during her undergraduate studies in TCM, but it wasn't until she joined Yang's research team that she truly grasped its potential.

"It's not just about treating symptoms; he evaluates each patient comprehensively," Huang explains. "Yang considers pulse diagnosis, meridian examination, and individual conditions to tailor treatment."

For example, when dealing with neck pain, Yang might target points on the back or legs, or even suggest breathing exercises instead of acupuncture.

Huang says that Yang is an incredibly patient teacher and doctor, always willing to carefully explain things, especially to patients who may not immediately understand.

"When we watch him with patients, sometimes we're puzzled by his choices, but during his lectures, everything clicks. His insights help the knowledge sink in deeper than just giving us simple answers," Huang says.

Huang has also observed an intriguing practice: During doctoral classes, Yang sometimes chooses a student suffering from discomfort to be a model patient. The opportunity is eagerly sought after in the class, as the students who are chosen are able to feel firsthand the effectiveness of Yang's healing capabilities.

In addition to clinical work and lectures, Yang encourages his students to delve into traditional culture and classic Chinese medical texts.

Yang says that modern medical students have abundant resources at their fingertips. He hopes future TCM practitioners will blend modern technology with ancient wisdom to innovate and develop new techniques, enhancing healthcare for all.

"Our students should look beyond Guizhou and aim to serve people nationwide, and even globally," he emphasizes.

Yang has noticed a rising interest among young people in TCM, with many looking up TCM-related knowledge themselves. He advises them to start with classics like Huangdi Neijing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor) and Shanghan Lun (Treatise on Febrile Diseases Caused by Cold).

"When studying these classics, it's crucial to understand TCM's original creative thinking patterns," Yang explains. "Diagnosing a patient requires considering not just the individual, but also their environment."

He suggests exploring the wisdom within TCM culture to boost self-awareness and better prevent future illnesses.

Yang says young people can learn simple TCM techniques like meridian tuina (therapeutic massage), but stresses the importance of guidance from qualified professionals to avoid mistakes.

In cases where patients have limited time for follow-up visits, Yang teaches them basic meridian tuina techniques to maintain the effectiveness of treatment. "It's safe, effective, and saves time," he says.


The doctor (second from right) inquires about a patient's condition in Meitan county, Zunyi, Guizhou. [Photo provided to China Daily]

'Made in China'

Yang says that TCM proudly bears the label of "Made in China".

"Its strength lies in preventing and treating illnesses and chronic diseases in their early stages, with clear effectiveness. Techniques like acupuncture, moxibustion, tuina and cupping are simple, accessible, and bring significant socioeconomic value," he explains.

As a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress last year, Yang advocated for the promotion of TCM culture and advancement of the TCM industry.

He emphasized the importance of improving TCM training and fostering high-quality development, while also highlighting the need to promote Chinese traditional culture, with TCM at its core.

To spread and promote TCM culture, Yang believes in a multipronged approach.

He suggests increasing the introduction of traditional culture and TCM culture during compulsory education. This could be done through mediums like picture books and animations in primary and middle school classrooms, he says.

He also emphasizes the importance of educating university TCM students. Yang proposes adding mandatory courses on classic texts like those of Zhuangzi, and Laozi (Lao Tzu), alongside elective courses covering topics such as folklore, traditional opera, and arts like calligraphy and Chinese painting.

"TCM practitioners must not only learn the technical aspects of the practice, but also inherit the cultural essence of TCM," Yang says.

According to Yang, passing down and advancing TCM culture requires a fresh and innovative approach to spread awareness.

He suggests leveraging new media platforms like the internet and social media, and forming TCM cultural promotion teams led by national authorities to create engaging and informative videos, educating people about TCM through entertaining content.

"For example, we could provide reliable information based around topics like the 24 solar terms and offer related health tips," he suggests.

At the local level, Yang recommends organizing TCM cultural events and health education programs through community platforms like health centers and neighborhood communities. This would help increase grassroots understanding of TCM culture and encourage both tradition and innovation, he says.

"For instance, in workplaces where neck-related issues are common, educating employees about neck care, such as using ergonomic chairs or practicing specific exercises, can prevent health problems and reduce the burden on healthcare," Yang explains.

Over the past year, Yang has been busy visiting grassroots communities, gathering public opinion and participating in various activities promoting TCM culture. He's been involved in training sessions for TCM clinical techniques, spreading TCM culture in schools, communities and corporate environments, and giving interviews to promote TCM on social media platforms like Healthy Guizhou.

"Being a part of the National People's Congress has broadened my horizons and improved my ability to identify and tackle issues," Yang says.

"I feel a strong sense of responsibility as a deputy. My proposals for this year's two sessions focus on TCM culture inheritance and improving grassroots medical services," he says.

His proposals also cover topics like county-level medical consortia, TCM service pricing, and acupuncture clinic development.

"I aim to be a compassionate and insightful deputy," Yang says.


Yang treats a patient at the Qingzhen Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Qingzhen, Guizhou. [Photo provided to China Daily]

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