Acupuncture Terminology and Translation

1. Terminology
Whenever people get together to talk about something they develop special words.  Acupuncture is no exception.  Acupuncture has special words (or normal words with special meanings) that you need to understand if you want to talk about acupuncture.

With acupuncture these words are usually easily understood because they talk about our health and experience.  So we can find out what the words mean fairly easily.  There aren’t many words that are very abstract – like you would find when people talk philosophy, or very obscure – like when chemists or physicists get together.

Most of the words in acupuncture refer fairly directly to what we can experience for ourselves. 

There are words like:

  • “qi” which is the experience of energy, or
  • “liver” which means a part of our body and sometimes a kind ofdrivenness (due to the theory about what this part of our body does).

For me this terminology that refers directly to our experience is part of the great genius of acupuncture.  And it makes it far easier to learn – you don’t need to learn a foreign language (like Latin in western medicine) to understand acupuncture.

This means that I am against terminology which moves away from our experience. 

Amongst acupuncturists there is a move to do this – to invent a special medical terminology to replace the simpler language.  I regard this as entirely counter-productive.  It makes acupuncture harder to understand and learn (and we need lots of acupuncturists and don’t need to place anything in their way to stop them learning).  Just one example will have to suffice.  There is a term for a function of  the Lung channel in Chinese Medicine it is “descend and disperse”.  This means that the qi is sent down the body (to the organs below the lungs) and then dispersed to these organs.  The proposed replacement for “descend and disperse” is “depurative downbearing”.  The individuals responsible for this travesty (and other similar ones) are called Wiseman and Ellis.  They have translated Chinese texts in this way and then published a dictionary to the special words they use in their translation.  For me a translation that needs a dictionary to read is no translation!  My preference is for simple words that refer directly to experience.

2. Translation

Acupuncture works much the same for all people everywhere. 

All people everywhere experience roughly the same things and are helped in roughly the same way by acupuncture.  This means that, strictly speaking, translation of the acupuncture terms from Chinese is not necessary.  We could come up with our own words, in whatever language, from how people describe their experience and their experience of acupuncture.  This would take a lot of work and lots of time.  Fortunately this work, over several millenia, has already been put in – by the Chinese.

There is a huge wealth of acupuncture resources still awaiting translation from the Chinese.  In the last few decades this treasure has begun to be unlocked by translators.

We then have the choice about which translations to use.  My own preference – as stated above – is to use words that refer as directly as possible to experience and that are in everyday use.  Anything else makes learning acupuncture more difficult than it need be; and so is to some extent restricting the practise of acupuncture and is indirectly impeding people’s healing.

15 Responses to “Acupuncture Terminology and Translation”

  1. Ralph Lone says:

    yea pleasing information

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  3. Ethan Jones says:

    Acupuncture helps me in my allergies. I have hay fever ever since i was a kid.;:,

  4. acupuncture is good for a large number of bodily disorders, i use it to help me ease my rhinitis.,;*

  5. Blake Rogers says:

    Acupuncture is a great stress reliever on me. it is also great for headaches :

  6. Henry Barnes says:

    acupuncture seems to be a good alternative medicine ~“

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  8. i like acupuncture, it is simple yet effective treatment for minor health problems~’,

  9. i love acupuncture because it is a great stress reliever and it does not have bad side effects too _

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