Posted by: corneliadavies | June 13, 2018

A UK Acupuncturist’s experience of Chinese hospital acupuncture

post-4_ed_webThis time 12 years ago I was in China.

Having qualified as an acupuncturist in the UK in 1983, in 2006 I decided to go to China and expand my knowledge of Chinese medicine “at source” in an acupuncture college in Beijing. It was a time crammed with hectically busy mornings in hospital acupuncture departments and afternoons in the classroom. I learned so much and my acupuncture practice has never looked back.

Every day I wrote about my experiences, and I’m going to share some of those diary entries in this blog for a few sessions.

April 11th

Well, I expected to see plenty of bicycles in Beijing, but I wasn’t ready to encounter one in the departure hall at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4. I loved it though: all dolled up in yellow fluorescent vinyl, with yellow panniers front and back and an operator in matching jacket. ‘London Bicycle Ambulance’, it proudly declared on the crossbars. Yes, Terminal 4’s departure paramedic ready to cycle into action at a moment’s notice. And I thought it was a great idea… but how did they get it past health and safety?

Flying to China was about as interesting as these long haul flights ever are, except that when I wasn’t sleeping in the early hours, dawn tinged the tops of a the massive Sayan mountain range north east of Urumqi. Quite staggering in size, these mountains seem to spread over an enormous area, which just slips by, silently, under the aeroplane. To my awareness, so used to comfortable, green, accessible England, I couldn’t really grasp the concept of what I was seeing: except its barren beauty, like a relief map. While the sun lit up the southern faces, the backs were thrown into shadowy relief.

… And glaciers, and long, winding rivers, and then a huge, frozen lake around Ulan-Ude.

Now I’m experiencing my first, jet-lagged day in Beijing, fresh off the plane, as they say. I’m settled into the accommodation attached to the Acupuncture Institute. It’s rather like stepping into an oriental version of the 1950’s: no frills, no recent decoration, but most things work, mostly. And tomorrow, they promise me, I’ll have Internet connection. We’ll see.

The part of Beijing I’m in seems to be ‘acupuncture supplies district’. The two nearest streets are bristling with shops and warehouses advertising acupuncture needles, guasha equipment, moxa etc. I guess it’s to do with the proximity of the acupuncture training centre and hospital campus, but I’ll find out when I move around out of the immediate district a bit more.

My favourite window items are plastic display point location models of a Friesian cow, with exposed muscles on one side and acupuncture channels on the other. I’m quite used to acupuncture models of people, ears, hands, feet and even horses, but the cow takes the biscuit. I think my reaction is partly due to having been brought up surrounded by Jerseys, Guernseys and Ayreshires, with the nearest Friesians 2 miles away: I think we always saw them as the “townie upstart cows,” but maybe that should suit Beijing…


13th April

I woke surprisingly early, and went to the piece of grass a minute away to do my QiGong and some yoga. While I was there, several people stopped for varying amounts of time and did a few minutes’ exercise. Even though I am still awake at odd times of night, due to jet lag, I have to get back into some sort of exercise habit.

Today my bicycle turned up: old, but not hugely shabby. It arrived in a sleek black VW with a VIP notice in the front: wonderfully incongruous. My friend Pat (or perhaps ‘ex-Pat’, as she’s been here a while?) borrows the driver and car when her flat mate is out of town on business.

Later I took Dobbin (the bike now has a name) to see Bicycle Repair Man, literally round the corner from the Institute. Pat had told me he would recognise it, as he had sold it again and again, to a succession of students, at a tidy profit, until an Iranian acupuncture student took it out of the loop by leaving it in Pat’s care. He did. ‘I know’, I said in English (damn, I wish I could speak Mandarin!). A few minutes later it squeaked a lot less (brake adjusted) and was easier for me to ride (saddle moved to its lowest position).

This evening I took it for a local area spin – not too far: I need to get used to the combination of bike, traffic and local driving customs. Within minutes of setting off from higgledy-piggledy high-rise modern Beijing I had turned down a street just over a busy junction and I was suddenly in old China. The street was narrow, with slow people, slow, slow cars and meandering bicycles. All the buildings were one story, and, curiously, all painted a uniform battleship grey.

As I neared the end of this street, where, once again 21st centaury life awaited, I smelled the unmistakable aroma of lamb kebabs: souvlakia, and immediately I was back in Crete – except for one small detail: apart from me, every single person was Chinese. I felt perfectly, utterly safe. In fact, very few people even showed that they noticed me, the only foreigner in their midst.

Before I left for China, a colleague told me that when he was in Nanjing, however crowded it was, the energy of the people was always very peaceful and quiet. I am beginning to notice that, too. When I observed it last night, I wondered if it is because most Chinese people at some time do some centring martial art: probably QiGong or tai chi. It must have a long term effect on the centeredness of their energy that also has a collective result. Which makes you wonder how the harmony of the whole world would be if everyone took some time for these things… or their own version.


© Cornelia Davies 2018



  1. How interesting, I could picture the man in the bike shop, and him recognising the bike he’s sold over and over. I do hope there is more about your adventures to come?

    • Hi Maria, yes, I was warned that he would recognise it, and his face was a picture. His ‘shop’ was actually a piece of pavement, crowded with bikes and tools, outside the hospital! And yes, there are more adventures to come… watch this space.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: