“I have always known that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up, but I was afraid of blood.” This is what brought young Kevin Zhu to the University of Beijing to study Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). “Chinese medicine and acupuncture are gentle, yet powerful forms of medicine that suit my character better. Unlike other TCM programs in China, the University of Beijing offered a six year program which included many elective courses and options to graduate with a medical specialization.”
Kevin Zhu graduated in 1988 with a BA in TCM and a specialization in urology and men’s health. He worked as the Physician-in-Charge and as a Lecturer for nine years at the Beijing First Teaching Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine before moving to the United States in 1997.
In 2001 he began teaching at Five Branches University. At this time, Five Branches approved a curriculum amendment which included the teaching of classical Chinese medicine texts, and Professor Zhu was asked to teach these texts. “I did not want to do it,” he recalled. “It is hard to teach the classics in the Chinese language, let alone in the English language. In China, there are separate university departments for each of the classical schools of thought. On the one hand, this is good because it allows in-depth research and understanding of the classics. On the other hand, it compartmentalizes the medicine and causes, in my opinion, a disconnect between the classics and the other modalities of Chinese medicine. It reminds me of the Indian folk tale of the ten blind men who encountered an elephant. Each one of them could palpate a different part of the elephant and based on it, each of them created a different vision of what an elephant is. The same goes when studying each classic on its own, you don’t get the full picture.”
Teaching the classics in English, despite his original resistance, turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Professor Zhu. Through his teachings, he was able to delve more deeply into the philosophy of Chinese medicine and found it intriguing “It is a constant workout for your brain, states Kevin.
Professor Zhu recently published a book where he assembled his thoughts on the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Medicine Classics (Huang Di Nei Jing). “In the past, I participated in the compilation of eight professional books, but this is the first time I published something that is entirely my own.” As a foundational book in TCM theory, the Nei Jing is the topic of numerous research projects, and many commentaries were written about it. In Kevin’s book, Chuang Guan Ji Wo De Huang Do Nei Jing Jue Wu Zhi Lu (My Understanding of the Nei Jing), he brings together the classics, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. “From the Nei Jing you can extrapolate not only theoretical principles, but also understand how they apply to acupuncture point combinations and herbal medicine. For example, Ma Huang (Herbal Ephedrae), is the first herb you study in Chinese medicine’s Materia Medica. It enters the lung meridian, has a bitter and spicy flavor, and a warm effect on body temperature. In the clinic, we use it in cases of cold and flu, especially if they are accompanied with a constriction of the bronchi and asthmatic breathing. If you look at the properties of the Lung 10 and Large Intestine 4 acupuncture points, you can see that together they have similar effects to Ma Huang. In my clinical practice, I use mainly the points below the elbows and knees which correspond to the Five Shu-Transporting points and the Five Elements, alongside the principles of the Nei Jing. I can finally see the whole elephant,” he adds with laughter.
Professor Zhu’s book, Chuang Guan Ji Wo De Huang Do Nei Jing Jue Wu Zhi Lu, is currently available in Chinese through Dang Dang and Jing Dong Publication companies.