From Li Dongyuan to Deng Tietao, Xiao Xinhe and Wu Mingjie: Chinese Medicine Legacy Passed Down Generation After Generation
Thirty years ago, Dr. Wu Mingjie was fortunate to apprentice with Professor Xiao Xinhe, one of the earliest five disciples of Prof. Deng Tietao, a national master of Chinese medicine. Dr. Wu became the earliest student of Prof. Xiao. However, due to the social environment of the time, they did not have a traditional apprenticeship ceremony. Dr. Wu always kept Prof. Xiao’s teachings at heart, and are very grateful to Prof. Xiao.
On March 16, 2019, Dr. Wu Mingjie made a special trip from the United States to Guangzhou, China. Under the witness of his fellow apprentices of Prof. Xiao, and his many relatives and friends, Dr. Wu received a formal ceremony to acknowledge him as Prof. Xiao Xinhe’s apprentice. After the ceremony, Dr. Wu, Prof. Xiao and Prof. Xiao’s colleagues and apprentices discussed how to collaborate to promote the Chinese medicine culture worldwide.
Professor Xiao Xinhe, Professor Li Zequan's speech at the apprenticeship ceremony and Dr. Wu Mingjie's apprenticeship vow can be found in the appendix.
Xiao Xinhe, a professor at Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the founder of the Centennial Project, is still actively teaching and treating patients after retirement. He is known for his excellent medical skills and his sincere attitude towards patients. There are always many people who would like to seek his treatment, and he tries to see them all. For example, he starts his shift at 2:30 in the afternoon, and often won’t leave the clinic until 8 or 9pm at night.
Prof. Xiao not only treats his patients very well, he often teaches them health and wellness practices that the patients can do on their own for free. This is rarely seen in other hospitals and doctors. This is an example of Prof. Xiao’s noble medical ethics. Guangdong Satellite TV station broadcasted Prof. Xiao’s "Xiao Xinhe Fruit Peel Foot Bath Method" and "Xiao Xinhe Rolling Chiropractice Method", among his other health exercises. These methods have very good effects, are simple and easy to do, and are cost free. These videoes were distributed on Youku with Prof. Xiao’s consent, and were widely circulated for the benefit of people all over the world.
Prof. Xiao also donated all the royalities of his book “The Centennial Project”, which introduces the holistic health and wellenss concepts and practices, to the students in need at the Quangdong TCM University. After retirement, he still uses some of his retirement pension to donate to these students.
According to tradition, Dr. Wu gave Prof. Xiao a money gift at the ceremony, which is 2000 RMB and 800 USD. Prof. Xiao insisted on donating this money in the name of Dr. Wu to Guangzhou TCM University’s Helping Next Generation Foundation. So far, with Prof. Xiao’s help, this Foundation has raised over 490 thousand yuan.
Prof. Xiao’s noble medical ethics and superb medical skills benefited from Prof. Deng Tietao‘s teachings by precept and example. Prof. Deng Tietao was one of the first group of Chinese Medicine Masters honored by the Chinese government. He has contributed his whole life’s works, and made many great contributions to the recovery and development of Chinese medicine culture.
In the 1980s, Chinese medicine experienced many tough setbacks. Its survival was at risk, let alone any development. Prof. Deng Tietao had been fighting against the shrinking trend of Chinese medicine. Seeing that the Chinese medicine field is declining day by day, he felt great sadness and anxiety. He resolved to contribute his whole life to the revival and growth of Chinese medicine.
Under his unremitting appeal and efforts, in December 1986, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine was formally established, and Chinese medicine finally had its own home. Since then, the development of Chinese medicine has accelerated. In 2000, Chinese medicine faced the nationwide challenge of lack of enough students. Prof. Deng invited famous Chinese medicine practitioners from all regions of China to come to Guangdong, and helped them find apprentices to pass down their knowledge and skills. Until now, famous Chinese medicine practitioners all over the country are still continuing the tradition of coming to Guangzhou to teach.
As a doctor, Deng Tietao has a heart of love and empathy. Over the years, he has not only used his own brilliant medical skills to do his best to relieve the physical pain of patients, but also to help them recover mentally and economically. He said: "Every life is precious; we can't give up."
Myasthenia gravis is a difficult to treat condition for doctors worldwide. This is a high-risk disease. Emergency situation can occur many times. A successful rescue may be easy for the first time but can become very difficult when it happens the second and third times. Deng Tietao participated in the rescue of patients with myasthenia gravis crisis for hundreds of times.
Prof. Deng Tietao suggested that the pathogenesis of myasthenia gravis is mainly spleen and stomach deficiency. Because of the interaction between the five internal organs, spleen and stomach deficiency can further affect other organs. Problems with the heart, lung, liver and kidney can also in turn affect the spleen and stomach, forming a multi-dimensional connection that all organs interact with each other. However, the root cause has always been centered on the spleen and stomach deficiency, which is the focus of syndrome differentiation.
Since spleen deficiency is the main contribution of myasthenia gravis, according to the "Classic on Medical Problems", "replenish what is lacking", the treatment principle should be to tonify the spleen and strengthen the Qi. In his long-term clinical practice, Prof. Deng realized that the Buzhong Yiqi Decoction is the right formula to use, but in its usual dose, the effect is not obvious. The reason is that the spleen deficiency and damage in myasthenia gravis patients is stronger than the usual dose can treat.
After repeated practice, exploration, and summarization, Prof. Deng discovered that the effective treatment strategy is to treat spleen and stomach deficiency as the root cause, and also treat other symptoms at the same time, He invented a formula called “Qiangji Jianli Drink“ to be used as the base formula for all myasthenia gravis conditions, and in clinical practices, added or subtracted certain ingredients according to specific cases.
“Qiangji Jianli Drink“ is composed of herbs such as Huang Qi (Astragalus) and Wu Zhua Long (Ipomoea cairica). There is heavy amount of Huang Qi in this formula to strongly tonify the spleen Qi. Wu Zhua Long is called “southern Huang Qi” in Canton, because it has similar functions as Huang Qi, but with a gentler effect. This formula is based on Li Dongyuan’s famous Buzhong Yiqi Decoction. The difference is that Buzhong Yiqi Decoction uses less amounts of the herbs, and its main purpose is to raise the spleen yang, and tonify the Qi, whereas Qiangji Jianli Drink, with much larger amount of Huang Qi, is designed for patients with spleen and stomach deficiency and damage. Qiangji Jianli Drink has been proven in clinical tests to be very effective for myasthenia gravis patients with symptoms such as drooping eyelids, diplopia, strabismus, limb weakness, chewing fatigue, difficulty swallowing, or muscle atrophy.
Buzhong Yiqi Decoction
Buzhong Yiqi Decoction‘s creator is Li Gao, a.k.a. Li Dongyuan (1180-1251 AD). He is a talented young man, calm and quiet, and loves to read. Although Li Gao was born in a wealthy family, he has high moral values, and his behavior is honest and respectable. When Li Gao was 20 years old, her mother became sick and bedridden. After her death due to doctors’ malpractice, Li Gao regretted that he did not know medicine himself to save her, so he decided to study medicine. At that time, Zhang Yuansu was a famous doctor in the Yanzhao area. Li Gao traveled 400 miles from his hometown and paid a large amount of money to become a disciple of Zhuang Yuansu. With his solid and profound literary skills, after several years of hard study, Li Gao learned all that his teacher knows, and went even beyond. Eventually, his reputation surpassed his teacher and became a master of his time.
Through the experience accumulated in long-term clinical practice, Li Gao put forward the idea of “all diseases are due to harms done to the spleen and stomach”, and formed a unique theory of “spleen and stomach internal impairment”. Together with Liu Yuansu, Zhang Congzheng and Zhu Zhenheng, he was honored as the "Four Masters in the Jin and Yuan Period" by later generations. He is the founder of the school of Chinese medicine philosophy called "spleen and stomach theory". He emphasized the important role of the spleen and stomach in the human body. Because in the five element theory, the spleen and stomach belong to the central earth, so his doctrine is also called the "the school of replenishing the earth."
Buzhong Yiqi Decoction is one of the famous formulas he created and is also the representative of his treatment philosophy. The formula consists of ginseng, astragalus, atractylodes, tangerine peel, Skunk Bugbane Rhizome, Bupleurum, angelica, and licorice. There are three characteristics in the herbs used. One, ginseng, astragalus and atractylodes tonify the spleen and stomach Qi, and help the lung Qi and skin; second, Skunk Bugbane Rhizome and Bupleurum can promote the rise of the spleen Qi; third, the use of licorice can not only tonify the middle Qi, but also clear the excess heat, so as to prevent too much fire from damaging the vital Qi.
Because his doctrine came from practice and has important clinical significance, there are many doctors in later generations who followed his footsteps. His knowledge was not only passed down by his disciples Wang Haogu and Luo Tianyi, many famous doctors of later generations such as Xue Lizhai, Zhang Jingyue, Li Zhongzi, and Ye Tianshi, learned from him, and further developed his theory.
As a concluding remark, we quote Prof. Deng Tietao’s words in his autobiographical article entitled “Thousand Miles of Road”, “The future of Chinese medicine is like a bright sky. We as Chinese medicine practitioners have a long way to go. We have a noble responsibility to develop our Chinese medicine skills and knowledge, and pass them down to the next generations."
Appendix 1： Dr. Wu’s apprenticeship vow
Wu Mingjie hereby takes apprenticeship with Xiao Xinhe, and vows to devote all my life to the cause of developing Chinese medicine.
Shifu Xiao Xinhe: In July 1987, I was fortunate to learn Chinese medicine and health practices with you. In July 1988, I became a formal disciple of yours. I am very grateful for your teachings. I applied to have this apprenticeship ceremony to formally acknowledge you as my teacher. In the witness of Prof. Li Zequan, the host Hu Xiaolong, my fellow disciples of Prof. Xiao, fellow Chinese medicine colleagues, I vow to respect the teacher and the Tao all my life, study all my life, work hard all my life, be heathy all my life, be happy all my life, contribute all my life, save and heal patients all my life. I believe that as long as I am modest, and eager to learn, with the help of my fellow colleagues, I will be able to continue to improve my medical skills, treat difficult diseases, and actively promote the traditional Chinese medicine culture passed down from our ancestors such as Zhang Yuansu and Li Dongyuan, and from Prof. Deng Tietao - the concept of 70% self-healing and 30% treatment, I will devote my work towards the inheritance of Chinese medicine and spreading Chinese medicine to the world, Wu Mingjie hereby ask Xiao Xinxian to officially accept me as an apprentice.
March 16, 2019
at Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Appendix 2: Speech by Prof. Xiao Xinhe at Wu Mingjie's apprenticeship ceremony
Passing on the ancestors’ teaching method
Carrying forward the treasures of Chinese medical culture
——Speech at Wu Mingjie’s apprenticeship ceremony
(Xiao Xinhe, March 16, 2019)
First, get to know Wu Mingjie
In 1988, Wu Mingjie came to Guangzhou College of Traditional Chinese Medicine to study Chinese medicine and qigong. After completing his study, he invited me to his hometown Puning to teach health and wellness classes and hold free clinics. More than 200 people were treated. After getting to know each other, he said that he would like to apprentice with me. I said that my conditions are not ready, and we can talk about it later.
In 1989, he moved to the United States, and every time he returned to China, he came to visit me and exchange ideas. He saw the news on the internet about me holding apprenticeship ceremonies for my disciples, and asked if I could hold one for him. That is why we are here today.
Second, follow the teachings of Prof. Deng
A major feature of TCM inheritance is the apprenticeship system. Prof. Deng often said to his students: "Learn from me and surpass me". Adhering to Prof. Deng’s "surpass me" concept, I decided to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. The goal is that my students will become better doctors than I am.
For more than 30 years, there have been many students who have studied with me. Many of them have asked me to accept them as disciples. Since the situation was not ready or due to my busy work schedule, I have not made a decision.
At the end of 2014, I believe that all aspects of the situations are relatively mature, so I talked with my colleagues at the Centenial Institute and my students about holding a ceremony to facilitate the inheritance and promotion of Chinese medicine, and to contribute to the development of the Chinese medicine in the 21st century. The reasons for me accepting apprentices and the conditions for my readiness are as follows:
Third, why did I decide to accept apprentices?
(1) In order to promote the fine tradition of apprenticeship in traditional Chinese medicine, this is an educational method for passing down knowledge, facilitating the training of successors, developing Chinese medicine, and benefiting the people;
(2) My parents gave me physical life, and the party gaves me political life. The country, the people and the society helped me grow. I wanted to give back to them much more than they gave me.
(3) The motherland gave me everything I have. My medical knowledge and diagnosis and treatment techniques were obtained with the help of teachers, classmates, patients and assistants. "teachers and students teach each other", "students are the best teachers", "patients are the best doctors", like "the best food is the best medicine." I will not forget those who helped me.
(4) I was able to publish the set of 4 "Centential Project" textbooks (about 1.8 million words), because of the good platform of Laogan University, the active participation of the trainees, the help of the assistants, and the cooperation of patients. I want to pass down the knowledge and skills covered in these books to successors.
(5) I have a better understanding of pulse diagnosis theory. I owe my thanks to my patients, and I hope to pass down this treasure of Chinese medicine to next generation.
(6) My disciples love Chinese medicine and have completed the training of Chinese medicine courses. They have a good basic knowledge of Chinese medicine. They respect the teachers, carefully record medical records, patiently answer questions and teach health and wellness methods to patients. They adhere to professional ethics, and strive to improve themselves, and work hard to become a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner.
Fourth, I have met the conditions to be a qualified teacher
(1) Being able to conscientiously implement the strategic decision of Professor Deng Tietao, my teacher: "The soul of medicine is benevolence;" The strategy of medicine "Treating conditions before they progress into diseases"; and striving to train "hardcore Chinese medicine practitioners";
(2) I am 83 this year, with 55 years of experience in Chinese medicine. I have practiced, taught, and researched Chinese medicine my whole career, and have accumulated some experience and should pass them down to the next generation;
(3) I have a heart of love for the students, and I have taught the medical treatment and health and wellness methods that I have learned without any reservations;
(4) My unique techniques of pulse diagnosis offer simple quantitative ways to help the students master the TCM pulse diagnosis method quickly.
(5) I have written or compiled several books such as "Quick Ways to Learn Pulse Diagnosis" and "Centenial Project", about 1.8 million words, which can be passed down to my disciples;
(6) With the help of many people, I have set up teaching clinics in Jiangnan National Medical Center, Yihe Chinese Medicine Center and Hengdun Chinese Medicine Clinic, which provide a good learning environment for the disciples; I teaches the centennial class at the city’s adult education university, which provides convenience for the training of disciples;
(7) I take teaching seriously. I only see 4 patients in a hour, so that I can teach my disciples pulse diagnose and Chinese medicine principles such as "four diagnoses and eight classes" with hand-on demonstration, which make it easy for the disciples to understand.
(8) I treat patients as my family. I have never been sloppy or impatient when interacting with patients. I prescribe medicine as well as teach patients health and wellness practices. This way, my disciples can learn how to treat a disease from its root cause.
(9) Through learning human physiology and pathology, and through accumulating more than 50 years of experience, I created the “Eight Practices to Stay Healthy and Obtain Longevity”. I strive to stay healthy so I can fullfill my obligations as a teacher to my disciples;
(10) I also have a determination and confidence to devote my life and all my energy to help Chinese people become the most healthy and long-lived population in the world.
Fifth, outlook (conclusion)
"Teacher-apprentice" relationship is a responsibility. It can improve both parties. Strive to make yourself a "hardcore Chinese medicine practitioner", promote Chinese medicine, and serve the people of the world.
Appendix 3: Speech by Professor Li Zequan at the ceremony of Xiao Xinhe accepting Wu Mingjie as an apprentice
Create "hardcore Chinese medicine practitioner"
To learn the ancestral culture
——Speech at the ceremony of Xiao Xinhe’s accepting apprentice ceremony
(Li Zequan, March 16, 2019)
Congratulations to Prof. Xiao Xinhe for holding the ceremony again.
Today, Xiao Xinhe is holding a ceremony to accept Wu Mingjie as an apprentice, and once again he entrusted me to be the witness. It is really a noble responsibility.
I recall when I visited the 104-year-old Chinese medicine master Deng Tietao. On the National Day of 2012, I and the provincial level famous TCM doctor Huang Jianye visited Prof. Deng. He gave us one of his books titled "The Chinese medicine master Deng Tietao's view on training hardcore Chinese medicine doctors." He said, "we should all take up this important responsibility.”
In this book, he wrote: "In many places, Chinese medicine hospitals are no longer ‘Chinese’!”
Prof. Deng made this remark in 2005 at the National Conference of Chinese Medicine Senior Professionals. Prof. Deng’s Mandarin and Cantonese are very good. It is a pity that people don’t understand what he meant. If people did understand it, now eight years have passed, why the Chinese medicine hospitals are still not “Chinese”?
The words of the 97-year-old master of Chinese medicine, who tried very hard to bring this phenomena to our attention, are very touching!
Today's trend is using artificial intelligence, attaching importance to the transformation of objects, neglecting the transformation of one’s own brain. Since the May Fourth Movement, education in China has been westernized. Traditional Chinese medicine has become the only specialty that inherits the ancestral culture today. If we want to teach Chinese medicine, and train "hardcore Chinese medicine practitioners", what should we do to make Chinese medicine “Chinese“ again?
The first is to learn the excellent culture of the ancestors. The reason why it is excellent is that it teaches people how to think correctly.
The National Association of Clinical Medical Sciences held the "Academic Exchange of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Academic Forum on the High-tech Achievements Using Ancient and Modern Tested Formulas" in Guangzhou on March 26, 2011. At this conference, I gave the speech "Power of TCM Thinking", and questioned the slogan "Modernization of Traditional Chinese Medicine". I proposed using "using modern technology guided by Chinese medicine thinking" instead, but this idea has not yet been accepted.
One might wonder, what are the advantages of old things passed down to the present day? There are no such things as artificial intelligence such as mobile phones in ancient times. But in ancient times, did you have to think correctly?
A person’s growth, the seizure and stabilization of a regime, the maintenance of a livelihood, the prosperity of a business, health and longevity, how to win a war, etc. all rely on practice. To practice and to succeed, one need the right thinking. Therefore, people in ancient and modern times all need to think correctly. In ancient times, Chinese has begun to study repeatedly on correct thinking and many classics were handed down.
Such as: "Yi Ching", "Guan Zi", "Lao Zi”, “Zhuang Zi", Confucius and Mencius' Four Books, Chinese Medicine classics "Nei Jing", "Shang Han", "Jin Gui", "Altar Sutra" from the Tang Dynasty, and "Contradiction Theory" and " Practice Theory” of the modern era.
Chairman Mao led the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people to stand up again. The country made an eternal and unprecedented recreation of the excellent Chinese literatures. Moreover, they are expressed in today's language and are easy to understand. To learn the ancestral excellent culture, one should start with the "Contradiction Theory", use this golden key to open the door to the ancient classics.
Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine has been in existence for more than 60 years, what good inheritance did it pass down? After I graduated, the books I used most often are Liu Chixuan’s "Lecture on Warm Diseases", and "Women's Rules" commented by Luo Yuankai, and Han Shaokang’s method of “use a single point”. However, I have now put all these down, and switched to teach "Laozi", and I used a modern mobile phone to remotely treat patients.