Microsystems are defined as areas of the body which reflect the whole, containing treatment points that affect the whole. The best known of these is the ear, which resembles an upside down foetus. The book examines various microsystems in detail including the Nogier, Chinese and Russian approaches to ear acupuncture, Korean and Chinese hand acupuncture, Chinese and Yamamoto’s scalp acupuncture, oral acupuncture and New Point-Based Pain and Organ Therapy (NPPOT).
The book is lavishly illustrated with full colour plates of ears, hands, shaved heads and limbs from carefully selected models. Each photograph is overlaid with clear graphics showing the locations of the points. These superb photos and graphics are the best I have seen and make the locations clear and easy to understand. Also noteworthy is the effort taken to make things easy by the repetition of the same plates in different places in the book. No more flipping of pages to check the text against a diagram on another page. In this book all the visual information on every page matches the prose.
There are also frequent insets in black and white which summarise and contrast information on preceding pages with the main colour plate on that page. Thus on one page you can compare a Chinese map of one area of the ear with a Nogier map. This is great for understanding how, for example, different schools map out the musculo-skeletal system. The book is 336 pages long and has 344 illustrations. This minute attention to visual detail and consideration for the reader’s needs is its greatest strength.
Almost half of the book is taken up by the section on auricular therapy. It discusses point location as well as selection and treatment for many conditions. It also contains a very useful and clear essay on the treatment of addictions.
The section on oral acupuncture is clearly written for dentists and dentists only. I had a hard time orienting myself around the anatomy of the mouth from the numerous diagrams and descriptions. Other non-medical acupuncturists may also have a hard time with this chapter, and clearly the skills to perform point injection therapy in the mouth are beyond the scope of non-medical acupuncture training.
Unfortunately, the book is seriously flawed. Originally written in German, and mostly by medical doctors, the language is first of all highly medical and secondly badly translated, making it opaque and difficult to understand. I frequently came across Germanic word order in sentences such as ‘Already during the first treatment with needles, should patients experience at least an improvement in their symptoms.’ (p. 204) or ‘Just recently these aforementioned zones were thus extended to include regions H and I.’ (p.208).
Medical terms are sometimes mistranslated, or the terms used are archaic, unfamiliar, incomprehensible or simply incorrect. ‘Hepatopathies’, ‘pyschovegetative regulation’, ‘meteorism’, ‘pollinosis’, ‘kinetosis’, ‘imminent abortion’, ‘antiphlogistic’ and ‘analgetic’ are listed with more familiar and accurate terms such as hay fever, nausea and vomiting.
The auricular point Sympathetic is not listed in the index, despite being illustrated and discussed under that name in the essay on addictions. Throughout the rest of the book it is referred to as Vegetative point, a term which in my experience is found only in old Chinese textbooks and is not used in western acupuncture schools.
The language is not assisted by the layout of the text in two left-justified and hyphenated columns. The hyphenation gives it a ragged feel and makes it awkward to read.
All this is a failure not of the authors but of the publisher. It is the publisher’s role to recognise the market into which they are launching a book and to adapt it accordingly. The authors are doctors and the English readership for the most part will not be. If the original German is overly medical for such a readership the translation should have been edited. Although the English is not as poor throughout the book as the first quotation above, the general feel of most of the chapters is that they are hard to understand. Many sections take frequent re-reading to really make sense of what the authors are trying to say; for example, the differentiation of Base and Y points in the section on ‘Yamamoto New Scalp Acupuncture’.
Translation is not just about finding equivalent terms in another language. It is about facilitating comprehension of the author’s intention; to bring the work into another cultural medium where it can be assimilated and comprehended easily. Sometimes that requires creative translation and editing and this is clearly lacking here. Final stage editing by an acupuncturist, with English as a first language, would have prevented errors such as ‘pasty swellings, worrying behaviour’ as indications for the spleen/pancreas-stomach point in the mouth (p.235).
Thieme polished this diamond badly. Yet a diamond it remains. For the first time the reader can find a comprehensive summary and comparison of many different kinds of microsystem in one place. It was very interesting to read about the differences between Chinese and Yamamoto’s scalp acupuncture styles, and both chapters are beautifully illustrated. I was completely unfamiliar with Chinese hand acupuncture and found it interesting to compare the map with the meticulous illustrations of the Korean microchannels – although I regret that there was no illustration of ‘the man in the hand’. Students of Korean hand acupuncture, as well as practitioners of Manaka style Japanese acupuncture, will value these.
Microsystems acupuncture is a fascinating area of study, dovetailing in a very practical and clinically useful way with systems theory and fractal theory, also discussed here along with an interesting section on using lasers. The smallest part reflects the whole and can treat the whole.
Microsystems are likely to become a new growth area in acupuncture study and research, particularly because they can be used in a complementary way to channel acupuncture and because they are more convenient; patients can sit in a chair and keep their clothes on.
This book attempts to draw many strands of microsystem theory together and that in itself is noteworthy. All the information is in one place. The illustrations are of such a high standard that, despite the objections I have to the language and layout, I would still recommend it. Even better would be a second edition that addressed some of the flaws of the first. A UK seminar on microsystems by these authors would be very interesting.
Oran Kivity Oran Kivity graduated from the International College of Oriental Medicine in the UK in 1987. He taught acupuncture at the University of Westminster and the Northern College of Acupuncture from 1994 to 2004. He relocated to Kuala Lumpur in 2005 and is the editor of Keiraku Chiryo – International Toyohari News.