Master Tung acupuncture was until recently passed down through an oral tradition thought to have dated back to the Han dynasty (206 CE – 220 CE). The last descendant in this family lineage was Master Tung Ching Ch’ang, who was born in 1916 in Pingdu. Master Tung Ching Ch’ang has been referred to as one of the greatest acupuncturist to have lived. Until the communist revolution, Chinese medicine and the way it was taught was through family lineages. Culturally this is how knowledge was transmitted, not just in medicine, but also in many other areas of Chinese culture such as martial arts and Feng Shui, from master to disciple, father to son. It could be considered that the Cultural Revolution was both a blessing and a curse for Chinese medicine. The horrors that ensued in 1950’s China meant that it became unsafe for Taoists, and Master Tung Ching Ch’ang had to flee to mainland China in the 1960’s and he settled in Taiwan. As an acupuncturist he treated hundreds of thousands of patients. Not having a descendent that was willing to learn acupuncture, he was concerned that this knowledge might be lost, and it was in the 1960’s that he took his first student and subsequently trained 73 students in his lifetime before passing away in 1975.
A standardised and universal approach was created out of some of the lineages so that a more consistent and universal medicine system was offered. This was then widely disseminated, taught in universities and practised in hospitals. A cheap and useful healthcare system was created for the whole of China. Yet many different and ancient styles were lost in this process. Some lineages did survive, often outside Mainland China. One lineage was Master Tung Acupuncture, an extraordinary system, which is known for being very effective and which can on occasion produce instantaneous clinical results. This style is particularly renowned for treating pain. Unlike some approaches, which involve needling the area that is in distress, Tung Acupuncture uses distal points, which are often located far from the site of pain. An example is points that work very effectively for neck pain that are located on the Achilles tendon. Often the more distal the points, the more clinically effective they are. Once the needles are inserted distally the patient can be asked to move the area in pain to see whether there has been a change. With this system we don’t have to wait to see whether the treatment was helpful by asking the patient on the next visit. We are looking for an immediate change in their symptoms upon insertion of the needles.
There are at least 500 Tung acupuncture points, unique to this lineage. An example is that in TCM there is only a single point on the plantar surface of the foot, Kidney 1. Tung has 9 points, 4 of which are particularly useful for treating eye diseases. A major part of Tung acupuncture is the use of ‘pricking’ or blood letting. Releasing a few drops of blood can be the fastest way of clearing heat, such as with a fever, for blood stagnation and paradoxically for treating blood deficiency. A major part of diagnosis in this system is based on palmistry and face reading. As a system heavily based on Dui Ying, or correspondence, in true Taoist thinking by observing or treating one part of the body, it is possible to gain information and treat the whole system. I believe we have a lot to gain from searching out these family systems, and the best way of preserving these traditions is by using them with our own patients to help alleviate suffering.