Welcome back, ladies and gents! I know the last group of posts have been a little technical, so let’s take a brain-break and talk about: TRAVEL. And even better, acupuncture-related travel!
Travel might be my favorite topic of all time. It’s an addiction. We already talked about Peru and the nonprofit Project Buena Vista and how acupuncture really can take you all over the world. In my short time in the acupuncture world, it’s taken me to Peru, China, England, and all over New England.
Today I’d like to share my trip to China with my Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (FLSAOM) classmates in 2009. I’ll post my jaunt to England to learn about acupuncture research in a week or two, and my forays around New England as an acupuncture admissions counselor shortly after that.
Without further ado:
China 2009 with the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
The China Trip is an elective class at the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. (Where I work and went to school for acupuncture.) It’s three amazing weeks of witnessing firsthand how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are practiced in the culture where they were developed.
The level of integration they have between acupuncture, herbal medicine, and biomedicine is incredible. It forever changed the way I think about acupuncture and herbal medicine. And it was especially amazing to get to experience this trip with my classmates (aka, closest friends) and my professors.
The trip is led each year by Professor Darlene Easton, who speaks fluent Chinese, studied extensively in China, and has been traveling to China every year for over a decade. The year that I went, Professor Marnae Ergil, also fluent in Chinese, traveled with us as well. All together there were 14 of us on this trip, a combination of second and third year FLSAOM students, and our two professors.
Some of these pictures are mine and some were taken by my friend and classmate Stacey Austin, L.Ac. I’m not sure whose are whose at this point, so I’ll give Stacey credit for most of the unlabeled ones. Others were taken by another classmate and friend, Dana Carruth, L.Ac. I know which ones are hers, though, so they’re labeled! Thanks to Stacey and Dana for letting me post their pictures!
China, here we come!
We flew to Beijing by way of Nerita International Airport in Tokyo. Although exhausted by the time we reached Tokyo, we managed to take a few pictures in the airport.
Look, a kimono! Annette and I are easily entertained, aren’t we?
After arriving in Beijing, we got settled into our hotel, a swanky place with THE BEST breakfast buffet of my life! Remember, the exchange rate was (and is) greatly in favor of the US dollar versus the Chinese yuan. So it was swanky, but not technically expensive. You get a lot of bang for your US buck in China. For example, it wasn’t unusual for a delicious three-course, family-style dinners to cost only about $8 each.
We spent a week sightseeing in Beijing and neighboring areas. You can’t go halfway across the world and not act like tourists!
Hong Qiao Pearl Market, Beijing
We bought ropes of pink and white pearls at the Hong Qiao Pearl Market. The deals here were amazing. I bought my mom a looooong string of pink pearls for Mother’s Day for less than $75!
The Temple of Heaven, Beijing
The Temple of Heaven is a complex of buildings in Beijing constructed from 1406 to 1420. Chinese emperors, regarded as the middlemen between heaven and humanity, visited the Temple of Heaven regularly to pray for prosperity for the Chinese people.
We walked to the Temple of Heaven through a covered walkway called the Long Corridor. Lined with flowering trees, many locals sing, play instruments, play chess, or just relax along the Long Corridor.
Me, Annette, and Easter posing on the Long Corridor.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in the Temple of Heaven
The East Annex, Temple of Heaven:
Gorgeous, intricate paintings cover almost every surface of the East Annex:
A gift shop in the gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven – in case you need a soccer playing panda bear, a Amish doll, or a lace parasol:
The Forbidden City, Beijing
The Forbidden City was built at the same as the Temple of Heaven, from 1406-1420. It served as the Imperial Palace for hundreds of years, housing the emperors and acting as the seat of the Chinese government.
As we approached the walls of the Forbidden City we could see one side of a Corner Tower:
After entering the Forbidden City, there are five bridges that cross the Inner Golden River. Each bridge represents a Confucian virtue: duty, humanity, wisdom, reliability, and propriety or ceremony.
Two giant bronze lions, one male and one female, guard the entrance to the Gate of Supreme Harmony, in the Outer Court:
After crossing the Outer Court and the Gate of Supreme Harmony, we came to the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Inner Court:
The inside of the Forbidden City is huge. I have a few pictures of the Imperial Gardens, with amazing rock formations and gorgeous cultivated trees.
A beautiful rooftop in the Imperial Garden, lined with animal and mythical figures. The number of figures on a rooftop is thought to indicate the building’s importance.
The Forbidden City is so enormous that these pictures really don’t do it justice. There were so many other places we visited that I didn’t take pictures of. I recommend this amazing website, Kinbaloo, if you want to learn more and see some truly gorgeous pictures,
Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Tiananmen Square was originally built in 1651. It’s been the location of many culturally significant events, including the declaration of the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 by Mao Zedong. On other sides of the square, not pictured, are the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Me and Jen, with Chairman Mao in the background.
Construction of some portions of The Great Wall started as early as the 7th century BC. It has been added onto and fortified numerous times over the years, although most of the wall is thought to be constructed in the Ming Dynasty, from 1368-1644. The wall and all its tributaries and offshoots stretches to over 13,000 miles in length!
So, it may have rained a little on the day we were there. And when it wasn’t raining, there was a constant mist, like walking along the wall through a cloud. Although chilly and damp at the time, it made for some ethereal pictures:
We also visited Beijing Zoo to see the pandas! With my friends Heather and Jen at the entrance to the Panda Exhibit at the zoo:
Unfortunately, my pictures of the pandas came out all grainy. Bummer! I won’t make you suffer through them.
Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), Anhui Province
Huangshan, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a gorgeous mountain range located in eastern China. It’s a major tourist attraction for a zillion reasons: the views, the sunrises seen from over the clouds, the hiking, and the rock formations are all out of this world. It was easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my life!
To get to the mountain was quite a trek. We took a ski lift up the side of the mountain and then hiked (through the rain) for about 20 minutes to the hotel built into the rock. It was completely worth it! Once inside, the hotel was huge and warm. It gets so cold up on Huangshan that every room had heated beds (what?!) and a heavy-duty winter jacket provided for every visitor. Amazing!
The rest of the pictures in this post were taken by Dana Carruth, LAc.
We hiked up to the hotel in a serious rainstorm. We were soaked through by the time we made it!
Huangshan is internationally renowned for it’s gorgeous view of the sunrise over the top of the clouds. People travel from far and wide, and get up at 4:00am (seriously), to wait on the mountainside to see these outrageously beautiful and unique sunrises. You would not believe how crowded the mountain was at four in the morning!
After the sunrise, we all went back to our rooms and took naps 🙂 Then we spent the rest of the day hiking around the numerous beautiful trails.
Lover’s Locks on Huangshan:
On Huangshan, it’s common to see locks hung all over the railings of the hiking trails. (Seriously, they’re all over the place!) These are Lover’s Locks. Lovers hang a lock on Huangshan mountain and throw the key into the valley below. Legend says they’ll be blessed by the Chinese diety Yue Lao and will always be in love.
Of course we had to put up a lock for our class! I still love my classmates, so I’m sure it worked. Thanks Yue Lao!
And of course, a group shot on Huangshan. See all that love?
Studying at Zhejiang Chinese Medical University in Hangzhou, China
After our amazing week of sightseeing, we took an overnight train south to the beautiful lakeside city of Hangzhou.
There, for two amazing weeks, we studied at Zhejiang Chinese Medical University. We followed Chinese medical students around the hospital through multiple Chinese herbal departments, including gynecology, pediatrics, internal medicine, tuina, and more.
In addition, we spent time in one specific acupuncture department, affectionately called “The Tank” because of it’s crowded, bustling nature. We also toured Zhejiang’s mind-blowing herbal dispensary.
Zhejiang Chinese Medical Hospital, Internal Medicine
In China, things run a little differently when someone goes to the doctor than they do here. Each patient is responsible for his or her own medical record, which is essentially a little booklet. They must bring it to their doctor’s appointment, and the MD writes their notes directly into the booklet. You can see a stack of the booklets on the doctor’s desk here:
The next amazing thing is that there are virtually no HIPAA regulations. No patient privacy laws, can you imagine! The seated young woman in the picture below is the patient, and the other women standing around her (on top of her, essentially) are other patients. They’re total strangers, waiting for their turn.
Each patient gets his or her time with the doctor. They talk about their condition right in front of all the other patients, no matter how embarrassing or private their condition may be. (Think of this in the gynecology department?) My favorite was when the waiting patients would offer advice about medical remedies to the seated patient! Seriously, no privacy, and not many people seemed to mind. They’re used to it. No big deal.
After taking the patient’s pulse and talking with him or her, the doctor dictates the herbal prescription to the medical student intern. The interns did all the typing and computer work. They submitted the herbal prescription via their online system directly downstairs to the herbal dispensary, so the patient could go down and pick it up immediately. Talk about efficiency!
As observers, we were assigned a medical student each morning and followed him or her around the hospital. The student, fluent in English, would translate for us all day long while we took notes. Piles and piles of notes! Our assignment for the trip (because it was an elective class, after all) was to submit a long list of condensed patient cases and treatment protocols.
Below is a shot of Easter, Stacey, and Annette lounging in the break room before our shift at the hospital one morning. The white jackets were provided by the hospital, and the dress code was surprisingly casual. Dressing up is simply not a priority in most Chinese hospitals.
Why the toilet paper? In China, toilet paper is not provided in most bathrooms, so you better bring yo’ own! Just a word to the wise.
Zhejiang Chinese Medical Hospital Herbal Dispensary
West Lake, Hangzhou
Zhejiang Hospital is located in Eastern China, in Hangzhou. Hangzhou, one of the Seven Ancient Capital Cities of China, was founded around 589 AD, is the capital of Zhejiang Providence and is situated on the edge of beautiful West Lake.
We had plenty of time after our clinical rotations each day to walk along the edge of this beautiful, serene lake.
So what did I learn from this incredible three-week trip?
Now, four years later, there are two big concepts that I think of when I think of my time in Zhejiang Chinese Medical Hospital:
1) In China, acupuncture and herbs are considered a first line of treatment. People grow up in a culture where Chinese medicine concepts are ingrained in them. Essentially, acupuncture makes sense to them, so they’re not afraid to use it. It’s never a last resort like it is here in the US. Imagine not having to convince people to give acupuncture a try!
2) Integration between acupuncture and biomedicine was seamless and really inspiring, providing a guide for what I hope will one day be the future of medicine in the US.
Examples of these ideas:
- A patient might come in with knee pain, and if the acupuncture doctor thought it was necessary, they could order an x-ray. The patient would go right over, get an x-ray, and bring it back up to the acupuncture department. It was not just integrated but efficient.
- We also went on grand rounds with one acupuncture doctor. It was impressive to see inpatients getting acupuncture right in their hospital beds!
- In China, herbal medicine was prescribed for patients of all ages, including infants. It was fantastic to see herbs prescribed for tiny babies and the moms didn’t even bat an eye – they just went right downstairs to the dispensary to pick up their baby’s herbs.
Want more China? Check out the blog of current FLSAOM acupuncture student Danielle, called Acupuncture Flow. She has two amazing posts up so far about her April 2014 trip to China with her FLSAOM classmates and professors. Check them out here:
- The China Chronicles – Beijing City Part 1
- The China Chronicles – Beijing City Part 2: The Great Wall
(Plus don’t miss my interview of Danielle about what it’s like to be an acupuncture student.)
And another post about studying in China can be found here:
- Studying Advanced Chinese Herbal Medicine in China with Diana Hermann, L.Ac.
Thanks for stopping by to check out my trip to China with my FLSAOM classmates! It was a life-changing trip and I encourage anyone who studies acupuncture to travel to China to experience it for themselves. It will change the way you see this medicine!
Have you studied acupuncture and herbal medicine in China or other countries? What was it like? What were the big concepts that you took from your experience? Share with us!