By Liu Lihong
Translated by Gabriel Weiss and Henry A. Buchtel with Sabine Wilms
Edited by Heiner Fruehauf
This book uses simple language to explain the essence of Shanghanlun (Treatise on Cold Damage), a monumental ancient medical classic, paired with cases the author encountered during years of practicing Chinese medicine, allowing readers to understand the melding of theory and practice and philosophical views of nature and life. The author’s concise writing style leads readers to the core of Chinese medicine.
About the Author:
Liu Lihong is a professor at Guangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, China.
Gabriel Weiss is a naturopathic doctorate of the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM).
Henry A. Buchtel is an acupuncturist and herbalist.
Sabine Wilms teaches at the School of Classical Chinese Medicine, National University of Natural Medicine.
Heiner Fruehauf is the founding professor of the School of Classical Chinese Medicine, NCNM.
Praise for Classical Chinese Medicine:
I would like to start my review of Liu Lihong’s book with the words with which he ends it:
“Why is this book titled “Contemplating Chinese Medicine” in Chinese? What is it that we are contemplating? It is nothing other than these underlying principles, nothing other than the mysteries of nature and life as deciphered through the orientations of time.”
Liu Lihong was the person who invited me eight years ago to come to China to give an introductory seminar on five element acupuncture, and has since then steadfastly promoted five element acupuncture as a valid discipline of traditional Chinese medicine. It was therefore a lovely moment of recognition for these years of my work in China since then to read the following in Heiner Fruehauf’s introduction:
…”Liu Lihong has developed the Institute (for the Clinical Research of Classical Chinese Medicine) into an influential platform that has reintroduced multiple classical lineages to contemporary scholarly discourse, most notably the Fire Spirit School of Sichuan herbalism (huoshen pai), the traditional system of emotional healing synthesized by the Confucian educator Wang Fengyi (1864-1937), and classical five-element-style acupuncture. Each one of these efforts has had a considerable impact on the grassroots momentum of Chinese Medicine education in China.”
Joyful at thus seeing evidence of the importance of my work in China, I was delighted at last to be able to read the book which was the catalyst those eight years ago for Mei Long to write to Liu Lihong, urging him to acquaint himself with this discipline of traditional Chinese medicine, one which she recognized was very close to his own approach. It has been with much surprise and delight now to receive confirmation that all that I was taught by the great master of five element acupuncture, JR Worsley himself, all that I have since learnt for myself and from my readings of the classics through translations by Father Larre and Elisabeth Rochat, all of this finds strong, almost eerie echoes in what Liu Lihong writes.
Though the book includes much detailed discussion of herbal remedies, since Liu Lihong is a herbalist, I have come to regard it much more as a profound philosophical exposition of Chinese thought, and it could well have been entitled Classical Chinese Philosophy. Certainly the profound insights about Dao, yin yang and the five elements, which are the main emphasis of the book, also form the bedrock of my five element practice. In particular, he emphasizes, as JR Worsley always did, the importance of regarding ourselves as embedded in nature. As he says:
“When discussing Chinese Medicine, the backdrop of the natural world cannot be forgotten. If you have a thorough understanding of the natural world, your foundation in Chinese Medicine will be sound and your understanding can progress.”(p. 375)
Of the many insights I gained from my reading of this book, none impressed me more than the clarity with which he compares traditional Chinese medicine and modern Western medicine, clearly seeing that they spring from different approaches which cannot be melded together into one system as so many people now attempt to do. Instead he regards them as complementing each other, provided that their fundamental differences are acknowledged. For instance he writes:
“Western Medicine is clearly biased towards objectivity rather than subjectivity…..Chinese Medicine is vastly different in this respect and places great emphasis on the subjective experience.” (p.262)
I also find the humility he shows in relation to his own understanding of his discipline quite startling and very impressive, such is his respect for his masters whose influence on his development he acknowledges. I always feel that teachers who are not afraid to know that they have more to learn are the ones I can truly learn from.
And here I encounter a slight problem, for though, quite rightly, he claims that the best, if not the only true way of learning is to sit at the feet of an acknowledged master of whatever discipline we wish to practice (and did I not do exactly that when I was fortunate enough to find my way to JR Worsley?), how are we to find such masters in a world, as he says, where institutionalized classroom learning is valued more highly than the kind of personal transmission from master to pupil? And even more pertinently, where are the great clinical teachers without which there can be no transmission of such profound age-old disciplines? Liu Lihong, too, is also deeply concerned about the increasing depletion in the number of those who have sufficient clinical experience to warrant being given the name of masters of their discipline, whilst there are ever-increasing numbers of those eager to learn from such masters.
This is something I have had to struggle with during my time in China, for I often ask myself how can I and my small cohort of two other five element teachers, Guy Caplan and Mei Long, alone pass on as much as we can in the form of personal transmission through our seminars to as many people as we can. It is with great relief, therefore, that, thanks to Liu Lihong’s efforts and that of those working at his Tong You San He foundation, I can at last be reassured that there is an ever-larger group of Chinese five element teachers who can now pass on their understanding of five element practice to others.
The world needs people of vision, such as Liu Lihong, and I am honoured to have been able to work with and for him. I am profoundly grateful that my efforts to re-introduce five element acupuncture to the country of its birth have been recognized by him as making a significant contribution to his work in so firmly and courageously ensuring that classical Chinese medicine, including five element acupuncture, now takes its rightful place at the forefront of modern medicine as a profound medical discipline in its own right.
Finally, I want to express my admiration for the team of translators, led by the book’s editor, Heiner Fruehauf, who have made such a tremendous job of creating an English version which reads so beautifully and eloquently. As a former translator in another life, and still a translator from French into English of Elisabeth Rochat’s work, I appreciate from a very personal point of view the many hours, days and weeks of hard work such an excellent translation would have demanded.
–Nora Franglen June 2019