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Source:China Daily Published:2024-04-01 17:15

German student embraces traditional medicine

Locals who frequent a traditional Chinese medicine hospital in Zhengzhou, in Central China's Henan province, are often surprised when they are treated by a German practitioner specializing in acupuncture.

Joel Mikael Walker, who hails from Dresden in eastern Germany, went to Henan province in 2015, when he was 20, because it is widely considered to be an important center for medical practice, education, and research for traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM.

The province boasts numerous renowned TCM hospitals, practitioners, and schools, as well as fertile land and a favorable climate for the production of herbs used in TCM.

Following a year of intensive Chinese language study, he enrolled in the Henan University of Chinese Medicine, one of the earliest of its kind in China, and after an eight-year study journey, Walker, as a master's student nearing graduation, has developed into a proficient practitioner.

"He excels in techniques such as pulse diagnosis, acupuncture, and cupping therapy. He is fully capable of practicing independently," Yu Dongdong, Walker's mentor and an associate professor at the university, was cited in media reports.

Having fully adopted the lifestyle in Henan, Walker has not just involved himself in TCM but has also delved into the culture of the region, which has made him an online sensation on Chinese social media platforms.

Walker, who is also known by his Chinese and screen name Wuming, is now an influencer with more than 1 million followers. He speaks fluent Henan dialect in front of the camera and is dedicated to promoting TCM and popularizing local customs and practices.

"Without seeing his face, you wouldn't be able to tell that he's a foreigner speaking," read a comment on his video.

His expertise in TCM also fascinates Chinese netizens and he often uses ancient Chinese medical texts that have been treated as doctrinal sources to explain the philosophy behind the treatments.

One such book is Huangdi Neijing, or Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon, which was compiled more than 2,000 years ago and crafted in classical Chinese, a form of written Chinese that is roughly comparable to the use of Latin in post-Roman Europe.

Many native Chinese speakers find classical Chinese difficult to understand but Walker can decipher quotes in the book.

Other Chinese classics, such as I Ching (Book of Changes), Zhuangzi, Lunyu, and more, which have long been foundational texts in Chinese philosophy, are also on Walker's reading list.

The 29-year-old takes pleasure in absorbing ancient wisdom because he finds many ideas deeply intertwined with TCM practices.

"For example, one fundamental worldview of TCM highlights the unity of nature and humanity, which informs the holistic approach of TCM," he says. "This means the human body and the external environment are viewed as an integrated whole. So, in treatments, TCM doctors emphasize achieving balance. By adjusting dietary habits, exercising, or changing one's mindset, one can correct factors in daily life that lead to the imbalance of body and nature, thereby achieving a state of harmony."

Walker takes acne problems as an example to further explain the philosophy. The system of Western medicine suggests that acne is a skin condition that occurs when your hair follicles become plugged with too much oil, while TCM often attributes it to a "disorder" between the human body and the external environment, he says.

"TCM points out that having spots on your face is also due to bad living habits, such as staying up late or unhealthy diet, and excess oil production is only a part of the question," he says. "This is like a place being very humid. Just cleaning of the mold can only have a short-term effect. Changing the overall environment is what brings long-lasting results."

Whether it is the holistic approach or the pursuit of balance and harmony, Walker views it as part of the "unique wisdom" inherent in Chinese culture, and he believes these concepts can not only benefit physical well-being but can also extend beyond medicine and offer excellent guidance for the whole world.

"Using myself as an example, in the past, I might have experienced significant emotional ups and downs, and tended to be somewhat stubborn, often viewing things from my own perspective. However, now I have become more tolerant, approaching issues from multiple angles and with a more inclusive perspective. So, my personality has also become more balanced," he says.

"If more people could understand this (TCM) wisdom, I believe the world would become more peaceful. I also hope to do my best to spread awareness of TCM, Chinese culture, to those around me, including my family and people in the West.

Editor:Zhou Jinmiao