TCM: A Critique

There has been a misconception that acupuncture is primarily relegated to China. This idea is far from the truth and in the United States has even went as far as being the principle theory for acupuncture licensing. In the US, there are two primary licensing agencies that conducts exams, National Certification Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and the State of California Acupuncture Board (Yes, California has its own licensure!). Both organizations have determined that “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” which isn’t too traditional and only dates back to Mao’s Cultural Revolution, as the primary standard for testing.

What does this mean? This means that Chinese cultural hegemony and domination has spread abroad, overshadowing the vast array of modalities that acupuncture encompasses. To some degree, it’s a slap in the face to cultures that are fighting for independence such as Tibet, who practice gSowa-rigpa (Sowa Rigpa), which has an entirely different method and point system than Traditional Chinese Medicine. Along with Tibetans, practitioner trained in methods originating from Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, Chinese cultural hegemony has affected their diaspora community and forced them to learn a completely foreign modality of medicine.

In addition to the cultural implications, adopting “Traditional Chinese Medicine” as the standard has its fallacies amongst even Chinese medical practitioners. Within the Chinese medical community, there are a cornucopia of schools of thought. In the US in particular, there are methods such J.R. Worsley’s Five Element Acupuncture and umbrella of schools that are classified as “Classical Chinese Medicine,” ranging from lineage acupuncturists to those specifically focusing on classical texts such as the Lingshu (靈樞經) and Suwen (素問). Whatever the case may be, the notion of a standardized modality of acupuncture is analogous to having a standard for a contemporary painter. The times have changed and the culminations of different cultures and traditions cannot risk diluting the variety of beautiful art.

In the coming weeks, there will be more discussions on what the possibilities can be made in the acupuncture community and hopefully a greater dialogue can occur without the threat of eliminating precious knowledge.

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