TCM Kongress Rothenburg o.d.T.

TCM Kongress Rothenburg o.d.T.

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Die Schule der Mitte, Gastro- und Neurogastroenterologie, Li Gao: Pi Wei Lun

2001 Kongressbericht

Rothenburg Congress grows from Strength to Strength

The 32nd yearly Rothenburg congress, 22 to 27 May 2001, organised by the German ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft fuer Klassische Akupunktur und Tradizionelle Chinesische Medizin e.V.’, has grown with a new record attendance of 670 to become the biggest congress of its kind in the western world. Most participants are from Germany, but I have met in recent years many new and old friends from all over Europe. Sadly the only participants from the UK I usually see are either lecturing or involved politically with the European scene. What are the reasons for this success? I have identified three for the purpose of this article: • First class programme and organisation • Inspired choice of location and venue • Opportunity to meet with colleagues from all over the world and exchange ideas about our profession from a western perspective First class programme and organisation The organisers seem to have perfected the format of this congress with over 30 years experience of holding it in Rothenburg. The 3 main days Thursday, Friday, Saturday (the actual congress) kick off on the bank holiday ‘Himmelfahrt’ (Ascension Day) , always on the Thursday 40 days after Easter). These are preceded by two days of pre-congress workshops (Vorkurse) and followed by a final day of workshops (Nachkurse). The aim is to deliver lectures on a particular theme and to bring together high profile international keynote speakers. Subjects are looked at from all angles, for example this year the categories were Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Qi Gong, Gong Fu, Tuina, Diagnostics, 5 Elements, Stems and Branches, Yijing, Daoist Concepts, History, Feng Shui and Dietetics. As well as covering subjects or lecturing on a theme the congress aims to be a platform for the ongoing debate on the nature, place and direction of Chinese Medicine and what it means to learn and practise it in the west. About 60% of lectures are in English. All this is accomplished through a series of half day or whole day workshops held simultaneously at different locations plus 2 half day plenary sessions where everybody congregates in the main auditorium of Rothenburg’s town hall (Reichsstadthalle). The latter introduces the keynote speakers as well as provides the platform for the Chinese Medicine debate. This way, apart from the plenary session, you can, and indeed have to, choose whether to follow a theme, a category, or a particular speaker. This years themes were ‘TCM Therapy for Children’ and ‘Toxic Heat’. Alex Tiberi, USA, gave a comprehensive 4 day course on the treatment of children including diagnostics, treatment techniques, ENT, hyperactivity, ADD, bedwetting, insomnia, developmental delays, digestive disorders from an acupuncture and herbal medicine perspective complete with 70 page hand-out. Annette Jonas, Germany, delivered a similar course from a Tuina perspective over 4 days. Julian Scott, who was billed originally but had to pull out, was replaced by Annette Koppang, Norway. Dr Stephen Birch and Dr Jan Schroen from Holland, also speaking in English, gave half day workshops on Japanese child acupuncture and the development of the foetus during pregnancy. Dr John Chen, USA, spoke on diabetes and hyperthyroidism from a herbal perspective as well as the influence of medical drugs on TCM treatment. Several other German speakers lectured on the main themes. Other keynote speakers were Dr Michael Smith, USA, who lectured on acupuncture as addiction therapy, Dr Steve Clavey, Australia, who lectured on diagnosis and the art of herb combining, Dr Wang Qingyu, China, who gave an Introduction to Daoist medicine, Peter Firebrace, UK, who gave an exciting workshop on the Yijing and Joan Duveen, Holland, and Dr Van Buren, UK, who both lectured on stems and branches. I apologise to the many excellent German lecturers whom I am omitting here because of my focus on the English speakers. The high point to me came with 4 speakers, Lonny Jarrett, USA, Josef Mueller, Germany, Dr Volker Scheid, Shanghai, and Heiner Fruehauf, USA , who set the platform for the Chinese Medicine debate during the plenary session. Lonny Jarrett, who lectured over 5 days on ‘The Inner Tradition of Chinese Medicine’ (see also his excellent new book ‘Nourishing Destiny’) giving a fresh take on the 5 element perspective, called for the “return to the origin”. “Healing must be concerned with the evolution of the individual rather than solely with his or her survival, or the response to the appearance of symptoms”. He emphasised that we should learn to look inwards to find again the inner light. To the subject of ‘what is an authentic form of Chinese Medicine’ another quote from his book seems to shed light on his position: “All models of medicine are based on scientific systems which, in turn, are predicated on a culture’s assumptions about the fundamental nature of existence”. Josef Mueller pointed out that the neo-confucian doctrine of the ‘middle way’, ‘harmony at all costs’, can lead to “neglect in the face of the personal and spiritual development of the human being”. According to Mueller it also leads to an over-emphasis on the rational and to a conformist mind-set which explains why Chinese Medicine in the last 60 years has been dominated by the doctrine of ‘syndromes’. He said: “Chinese Medicine is at a crossroad... please help to resurrect it as a 3 storey building and restore the dis-empowered, pathetic, to syndrome pathology reduced heart emperor to his rightful throne as the son or daughter of heaven”(my translation). Strong words that drew the loudest applause from the audience. Dr Volker Scheid provided another very interesting perspective. He gave an excellent seminar investigating the development of Chinese Medicine from 1850 to 2000 based on his extensive field studies in China. He described the passing on of knowledge through 2 types of doctors, those who derived their skills from family tradition and the more intellectual, so-called ‘scholar doctors’. Seen against the background of political changes and the predominantly neo-confucian beliefs at that time it became apparent how much ‘tradition’ is dependent on a particular history. He summed up his talk with the following statement: “To justify and legitimise ourselves we perpetually invent a history of Chinese Medicine”. Heiner Fruehauf gave a talk on the universality of the principles Yin and Yang. He pointed out the similarity between the ground plans of Egyptian temples and Lo Shu’s magic square or Ho Tu’s yellow river map, both important sources of Chinese numerological correspondences. He encouraged the audience to draw parallels between our western cultural heritage and Chinese statements. He said: ”If you really want to understand Chinese Medicine you should read daoist texts outside the medical literature”. The main lectures were audio and video taped. They are catalogued under . I found the debate most stimulating. While last year’s emphasis was on the problems of translating and integrating Chinese Medicine into a modern world and seemed to give the floor more to the exponents of ‘TCM’, this year’s debate allowed the advocates of the ‘5 Element School’ to have a prominent say. I congratulate the organisers (Birgit Ziegler, Gerd Ohmstede) for providing the platform for this important and ongoing discussion. Inspired choice of location and venue Rothenburg, the ‘red fortress’, once the court of Friedrich the Fair, cousin of the emperor Friedrich Barbarossa and son-in-law of Richard the Lionheart, is a magnificent example of a medieval German free imperial town. It has a famous town wall, two storey high with ramparts, that can be walked in its entire length (this alone is worth the visit). The wall has four main gates, north, south, east and west, through which the traffic is admitted at restricted times. Rothenburg was bombed in the 2nd world war, saved from complete destruction by the intervention of an American general and rebuild to its former glory with financial support from all parts of the world. Rothenburg’s most precious treasure is the ‘Holy Blood Altar’, an early Renaissance masterpiece carving by Tilman Riemenschneider, which contains a relic of rock crystal said to be carrying three drops of Christ’s blood. To extend the symbolism further the imperial town hall, where the congress is held, is situated in an area within the town wall which, from the air, looks like the head facing due south. Feng Shui or not the setting is superbly suited to house a congress concerned with the body (Jing) and spirit (Shen) of Chinese Medicine. Opportunity to meet with colleagues from all over the world and exchange ideas about our profession from a western perspective Earlier in this article I already mentioned the ongoing debate about the nature, place and direction of Chinese Medicine that takes place during the Rothenburg congress. Questions are asked like: Can a western practitioner practise Chinese Medicine? Who understands Chinese Medicine correctly and who practises an authentic form of it? Can there be only one meaning of a traditional concept? Can an analogue, poetic language set in pictorial characters be understood with logical, rationalistic precision? Which of the 30 odd translations of the Dao De Jing is the correct one? I find this most stimulating. The Rothenburg congress, in my opinion, manages to bring together the best minds of the western world to allow for an ongoing debate on such important issues. This is why I feel it offers an unequalled opportunity to meet and exchange ideas. And not just during the day but also in the evening. When most of the tourists have left, the participants of the congress seem to take over the town. The medieval wine cellars and beer gardens throng with the familiar faces of TCM practitioners, especially one called ‘Hoell’ (hell) where the tables spill into the cobbled streets and voices can be heard until the early hours of the morning. One feels transported back to the most romantic days of student life. The fact that in recent years the weather has been glorious also helps. Another evening event is the fabulous buffet dance held on Friday night. For this occasion the town hall is cleared to function as a huge dining hall with spacious dance floor. The disc jockey, who has a standing reputation and is eagerly awaited by the time the dancing gets under way, catches the mood of the party brilliantly. The music fuses golden oldie tunes with modern techno-rhythm. To see Chinese Medicine practitioners celebrate in such a communal and ecstatic fashion is a heart warming experience. Come and join the Rothenburg experience next year There is really no reason why the UK should be so under represented at this annual event. More than half the lectures are given in English and you can organise your time table accordingly. Finding out about the programme and booking are made very accessible. The congress web site is available in an English version and contains the latest update regarding the lectures as well as addresses and phone numbers of accommodation facilities listed under the categories: Hotels, Pensions, Guest Houses and Private Rooms. The prices are amazingly reasonable, bed and breakfast in a pleasant privately run guest house cost me 35 DM (£12) per night. There is also lots to do and see in Rothenburg for the rest of the family. Though getting there is a bit of a problem. I fly to Frankfurt and take the train which is pleasant enough but takes quite a few hours since you have to change twice. It is advisable to book the hotel early, certainly no later than January. My first time I left it too late and had some difficulty finding the right accommodation. Next year is set to be another cracker. The international keynote speakers are: Ken Rose, Lillian Garnier, Felice Dunas and Arya Nielsen, all USA, Julian Scott, France, Annette Koppang, Norway, Stephen Birch, Ineke van der Ham and Joan Duveen, Holland, Michael McCarthy, Ireland, Barbara Kirschbaum, Hamburg, Prof. Sun Peilin, Belgium and Rinaldo Rinaldi, Italy. This line-up is already confirmed. Waiting to be confirmed are J.R. Worsley, UK and Prof. Zeng Yilin, a TCM orthopaedist from Chengdu. The 33rd TCM-Kongress Rothenburg o.d.T. will run from the 7th to 12th of May 2002. Next year’s themes are ‘Pain Therapy’ and ‘Lin Syndromes’. For the provisional brochure(English flyer available in October) and booking details contact the organiser: Gerd Ohmstede, Maria-Theresia-A. 41, D-52064 Aachen, Germany e-mail: For accommodation details and latest programme updates visit the English congress website:

You can also contact me on 0044(0)207-700 7078

Friedrich Staebler, past vice chair of BAcC, UK

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