Chloe Harrington, Public Health in China, Summer 2014
The past few weeks have been insanely packed with amazing food, extremely accelerated Chinese language learning, adventures, travel, fun, and, of course, limited internet access that I squander away on Netflix because nobody is ever awake to talk to me with the 12 hour time difference. Since I haven’t posted in a while, there is absolutely no way that I could scratch the surface of these past few weeks with one post, so I will have to break this up into segments, throwing anecdotes into future posts. I’d like to focus this particular post on one of my classes though; Traditional Chinese Medicine.
This week in TCM has been extra exciting; today we had a professor teach us acupuncture techniques, then he let us practice on each other! When he finished placing a needle in my classmate’s arm, he said “are you guys ready to give it a try?” I 100% thought this guy was joking. 5 minutes later I was sticking a needle in my friend’s arm and hoping for the best. Turns out, I didn’t seriously injure anyone, which is a relief given my pre-med aspirations. Next, we practiced moxibustion, which involves putting a mound of ground up moxi root on your skin and then setting it on fire, which burns through to the skin. Moxibustion uses generally the same point placement techniques as acupuncture, so the intended effects were supposedly the same. Again, 5 minutes later, we were lighting each other’s skin on fire. This technique actually stung pretty badly, but when the root was all consumed, there was an intense comforting warming sensation running down the arm, which completely made up for the burn. My classmates and I all now have matching burn marks on our Nei Guan (inner elbow) points, but then again, it is very common in China to see marks of TCM practices on people every day out in public.
We then learned an exercise technique called Qi Gong, which we have actually seen people doing out in the parks at night (they just spontaneously gather anywhere there is open public space– honestly, I have seen gatherings of the elderly doing random exercises everywhere. There is a lady who practices this particular kind, Qi Gong, outside my window at 6 am, solo, complete with her peaceful music blasting from her boom box.) We practiced all 8 poses for about an hour, and it was very relaxing, yet energy boosting!
That was just today. Yesterday we had a TCM herbal medicine practitioner bring in a bunch of different herbal elements of medicinal recipes and we had a taste-testing session. He explained what type of nature (cold or hot) each herb or animal product was, what uses it could be provided for, etc. I also learned that I never truly knew the “essence” of bitter before. He handed us a bright orange root, Coptis, which is used to clear excess heart fire (not heartburn, TCM has very specific meanings that don’t translate well into English). We had been eating everything willingly up until that point, so we went ahead and popped them into our mouths, and quickly realized our mistake. As we all painfully chewed, he gloatingly announced that there was an old Chinese saying that translated into “only the foolish man will eat Coptis.” The taste was in my mouth for 2 hours.
All in all, the past two days were a very interesting experience, and we really got to see our lectures put into action. TCM is a fascinating field of study, and I feel so lucky to have studied under such highly acclaimed professionals in the field. This is honestly a once in a lifetime experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, which has sparked a great interest in me to continue studying TCM and alternative health therapies. I will definitely be making myself a mixture of “harmonizing Qi” tea when I am back at school!
I’ll leave this post at that, as I will have lots more to write after the weekend. Tomorrow we are going herb picking in the mountains, right off of the Great Wall of China. We are told it will be a 4 hour hike to the herb spot, and I could not be more excited. Even if I only collect one herb, it will be an unforgettable experience. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, 8 of my friends and I will be on a red-eye to Shanghai tomorrow night at 9pm, just 3 hours after we are done at the Great Wall;. We are literally going from the wall to the airport, which will be an interesting experience to say the least. We are going to be visiting our NU friends who are members of the Wanxiang Fellows program and see them off as they prepare to leave China this Sunday!