Tong Acupuncture and Its Unique Approach Using the Yin/Yang Theory

Dr.Tong's style of acupuncture requires quite a few needles compared to the 14 regular channel acupuncture. (Image: pxhere/Public Domain)
Dr.Tong's style of acupuncture requires quite a few needles compared to the 14 regular channel acupuncture. (Image: pxhere/Public Domain)

According to experts and practitioners of the medical arts, like Dr.Lee, moxibustion lore was developed in China more than 3,000 years ago. However, Qin Shi Huang-Di, the first Qin Dynasty Emperor, killed many scholars and burned all the books of his time, around 2,000 years ago (210 B.C).

A lot of knowledge was lost and fragmented. After that time, the Huang Di Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic) became the dominant text and with it, the system referred to as 14 regular channel Acupuncture.

How Tong acupuncture became public

Physician and disciple, Chinese woodcut, Ming period, (Image: Wellcome Library / CC BY 4.0 )

Physician and disciple, Chinese woodcut, Ming period. (Image: Wellcome Library / CC BY 4.0 )

However, certain scholars evaded the persecution by Qin Di and fled to the mountains, an area today known as Shandong. These scholars and practitioners continued passing down their own theories and techniques within the system of family apprenticeship.

Tong Jong-Chang belonged to such a family practicing an alternative style of acupuncture and moxibustion. In his book published in Taiwan, he is also known as Shandong Tong Jong-Chang. After World war II and the Communist revolution, Dr. Tong moved to Taiwan.

But because he didn’t find his only son to be a fitting person to pass the lineage down to, he took on students, which is how Tong acupuncture became accessible to the open public eventually.

Point selection and needle technique

Dr.Tong’s style requires quite a few needles compared to the 14 regular channel acupuncture. The main principle in selecting Dr.Tong acupuncture points in a clinical setting is to choose points far away or often opposite to the site of pathology.

For example, if the pathology is located above, one needles locations below and vice versa. If the pathology is on the left side, one usually needles points on the right side. In Tong acupuncture, if there is a liver pathology, since the liver is located on the right side, points are needled on the left side.

But since the spleen is on the left, pathology related to it is treated by needling points on the right side. Dr. Tong didn’t place much value on the use of Shou Fa, as he didn’t use them much during needling.

The “Method of the Hand,” Shou Fa 手法, is basic manipulations, auxiliary manipulations used for obtaining the sensation of the needle (De Qi), as well as intricate groups of manipulations for invigorating or dispersing Qi.

Even today, there is much debate about why “Shou Fa” is so much emphasized in the manuals and in the teaching by Chinese traditional acupuncturists.

Tongs method of basic needle manipulation

[...] "Method of the Hand”, SHOU FA手法, is emphasized allot in the manuals and in the teaching by Chinese traditional acupuncturists. (Photo credit: pxhere, Public Domain

The “Method of the Hand”, Shou Fa手法, is emphasized a lot in the manuals and in the teachings by Chinese traditional acupuncturists. (Image: Pxhere / Public Domain)

Apparently, Dr. Tong, when needling points located on fleshy areas, would first insert the needle perpendicularly. Then, he would take out the needle and insert it obliquely at 15 degrees pointed up the course of the channel, then take it out and insert it 15 degrees down the course of the channel, and finally withdraw it and insert it back perpendicularly.

He would then repeat this procedure every 10-15 minutes. Dr. Tong;s points are located on the upper and lower extremities, the head and neck, and both the ventral and dorsal trunks. However, only points on the extremities are needled. Otherwise, the points on the dorsal and ventral trunk are only bled.

There is no real mention of channels in Dr.Tong’s book. But it is assumed that the points on the body are connected and that qi is set in motion by needling and will travel to the affected area. Dr.Tong’s system is based on a very thorough application of yin and yang theory.

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