"The value of this book functions as a follow-up to every TCM book we have ever seen. It takes up where Giovanni leaves off and explores what CAM only hints at. It takes Pirog and runs with it. This is one of the few TCM books that I wanted to read from front cover to back. And when I finished it, I started again from the front and re-read it. It's that good. It's that necessary."
—Douglas Eisenstark, L.Ac.
Channel theory is described by Dr. Wang as one of the ‘pillars’ of Chinese medicine (along with yin‑yang, the five phases and organ theory), and the essential aim of this book is to encourage students and practitioners to delve more deeply into this neglected subject. He laments the lack of emphasis given to this area in modern teaching institutions, and sets out to demonstrate that a reversal of this trend will not only make the practice of acupuncture a richer and more interesting experience, but also will pay dividends in terms of clinical results.
The book is innovatively structured, in an attempt to capture the essence of the master/apprentice tradition of Chinese medicine. Co‑author Jason Robertson spent fourteen months in Beijing with Dr. Wang before writing this book, and dialogues between the two are recreated to elaborate on the material covered. This format works extremely well and provides the reader with a welcome consolidation of the key concepts. Anecdotal narratives are also dotted throughout the book, which provide some fascinating insights into the life and mindset of a master practitioner. Plenty of case studies are used to further illuminate Dr. Wang’s methods, and to demonstrate how sometimes esoteric theory can be applied to clinical reality. This is a theme that is emphasised regularly – however intriguing or beautiful classical theory may be, it is only useful if it leads the clinician towards tangible results.
A large number of topics are covered, including an in‑depth analysis of the concept of the Sanjiao, thoughts on the various ‘fires’ in Chinese physiology, and a discussion of needling techniques. Everything is conveyed with clarity and enthusiasm, and stylish ink line drawings help to further illustrate the subjects covered. Personally, I found the chapters on the six levels particularly fascinating; a detailed picture is built up of the dynamic opening, closing and pivoting between the various levels, and how qi, blood and fluids are generated and transformed by the organs and regulated by the channels. These topics are, of course, covered in many other books, but none that I have read do so with the same sense of passion and intimate understanding.
Great emphasis is also placed on channel palpation as a diagnostic tool. Dr. Wang’s own systematic methods for this are explained in minute detail, including descriptions of the various nodules and irregularities likely to be felt on each channel, and how these findings relate to diagnosis and choice of treatment.
Various approaches to selecting channels and points for treatment are also presented, which I have found invaluable as a fledgling practitioner. There is an excellent section that explains the synergistic effects of various point pairs in terms of their classifications and channel relationships. Chize LU‑5 and Yinlingquan SP‑9, for example, are used in a wide variety of situations by Dr. Wang because of the ability of He‑Sea points to treat counterflow qi, and because activation of the taiyin channel has systemic effects on qi transformation.
There are regular references to the classics, but there is also acknowledgment that Chinese medicine is always evolving, and that modern Western medical concepts cannot be ignored. For example, Dr. Wang is convinced that the circulation of interstitial fluids represents an important mechanism in acupuncture, and he refers to this in his explanations of the Sanjiao and the extraordinary vessels. In his discussion of the Small Intestine channel, he links the axiom of ‘separating the clear from the turbid’ with the thyroid and salivary glands, and those of the gastrointestinal tract. These insights ‑ whether or not they are ever backed up by science – are always interesting, and are further evidence of the inquisitive mind of the author.
I would recommend this book to anyone who feels at all uncomfortable with the approach of modern TCM acupuncture, which Dr. Wang sees as a ‘shadow medicine’ (useful as a starting point and convenient to teach, but lacking in flexibility and nuance). Although the ideas presented are those of only one practitioner, they are clearly based on a lifetime of passionate dedication, and because of that they feel deeply authentic. I have no doubt this beautifully realised book will inspire many practitioners to re‑think or adapt their approach, and it will certainly deepen their knowledge of channel theory. What a bonus that because of its intimate style, it is also easy and enjoyable to read.