Time and Space in Traditional Acupuncture Roisin Golding Published by Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2008 Hardback, 320 pages. Price: £44.10
(Reviewed by Sam Patel, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 4)
Chinese medicine practice is rooted in a long history and as any acupuncturist knows the field is immense. Regardless of your initial training there is the scope to delve deeper into areas so diversely rich that the thirst for knowledge is satiated yet keeping the passion fuelled. Roisin Golding takes a difficult subject and presents the only English language book focusing specially on Stems and Branches style of acupuncture and opens a door to a fascinating philosophy.
Although there have been previous books on classical Chinese medicine philosophy in English, the theory of Stems and Branches is often difficult to extrapolate. In this book the central theme draws on a wide variety of subjects and pulls them together in a cohesive and practical manner.
Roisin Golding is a graduate of the International College of Oriental Medicine, UK where this philosophy has been taught since 1972. The college was founded by Dr J.D. van Buren, who made the classical system of Stems and Branches practical for use in a clinical setting. He studied this system under two teachers: two years with Dr Wu Wei Ping and five years with Chang Bing Li. Dr Wu Wei Ping was also the teacher of J.R. Worsley, founder of the College of Traditional Acupuncture.
The material for the book outlines very well the Stems and Branches system and is well researched. Those already familiar with the philosophy will recognise the concepts and perhaps fill some of the gaps in understanding with the full explanations or even rekindle aspects that have lapsed from clinical use. For anyone unfamiliar with the material, the book introduces each topic clearly with exercises in some chapters to encourage a deeper understanding and helps to link the theory to acupuncture points.
The book is organised in three parts: Time, Space and the Dao, Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches and The Inner Core of Acupuncture. Starting gently with the rhythms and cycles of nature it rapidly gains momentum to frame the relationship of Heaven, Earth and Humankind. The one criticism of part one might be that the section on the Eight Extraordinary Meridians is too brief, but as this is an area of Chinese medicine that is already well published those wanting a better understanding of section two and three might want to look at other sources of the Eight Extraordinary Meridians before exploring these sections. Section two goes into the main topic of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches at a gentle pace, setting the scene with familiar material on the Six Divisions and Five Element theory. All the chapters in this section are well researched and referenced, followed either by practical exercises or by examples to illustrate the theory. This format is aimed at those already in clinical practice; however, students can also engage in the material drawing on their clinical modules as a resource.
The final section, The Inner Core of Acupuncture tackles some of the more esoteric concepts of Chinese medicine. It quickly moves from primary theories, to relating Stems and Branches to cosmology and astronomy, to their spiritual relationships, and helpfully giving some guidance in clinical applications. It can be difficult to make these complex theories relevant to clinical practice and to truly understand one must be willing to reflect repetitively in the light of a patient to see the patterns form. Anyone with experience of the I-Ching will enjoy the final two chapters on numerology and symbolism of the trigrams.
This is a most enjoyable book exploring some difficult subjects of Chinese medicine. With a little patience it will add a different dimension to clinical practice and fuel the passion for knowledge. Sam Patel Sam Patel is a former Director of Studies of ICOM and continues to teach there across all years in theory and clinical modules. He also used to teach on the CAM module in Brighton and Sussex Medical School and has practices in Barnstead, Surrey and East Grinstead, West Sussex.