What is Classical Acupuncture?

The short answer is that classical acupuncture is any acupuncture that is not TCM- Traditional Chinese medicine. This means that carriers of its lineage likely left China before the mid 1950's and taught protocols to students in other parts of Asia such as Vietnam, or the West. 

TCM is the form of acupuncture that is taught and practiced in the West and in China today. It was developed in the 1950's to standardize the vast local forms of acupuncture being practiced throughout China into a system that was easily teachable and had a theory that fit with the practice of Chinese herbalism. TCM is what is taught in 98% of acupuncture schools in the United States and is necessary to learn to become Board certified in the field. Its protocols rely heavily on the herbal theories that became more popular than acupuncture by the end of the 19th century. 

Having a universal language for the practice of acupuncture has benefits, but in the standardization of TCM, many treatment strategies were lost. According to Ann Cecil-Sterman, “classical acupuncture is distinct from commonly practiced acupuncture. It is a rare, holistic medical system that encompasses a complete understanding of the development of illness, treats an incredibly wide array of conditions, and a brilliant, specific and detailed theoretical understanding of optimum health."

Classical acupuncture also implies an interest in using the classical medical texts of Chinese medicine from over 2000 years ago as primary sources. Unfortunately, as with many ancient texts. as these books were copied and passed down, much information was edited or lost. However, much information was also passed down through oral tradition as to the intention and practice of the theory written in the classical texts. 

Many of the tenets of Classical acupuncture laid out in the Classical medical texts as early as the Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), the height of the practice’s development. This Classical methodology was refined during the enlightenment of the Northern Song dynasty (960 – 1279) and it continues to be enhanced by the interpretation of the texts by master practitioners who follow this approach. One of the current masters is the internationally renowned Jeffrey Yuen. Yuen is a Taoist priest and through his family lineage and its oral traditions learned the theory and practice of many more channels than are commonly used in TCM. 

Classical Acupuncture as Theo and other students of Jeffrey Yuen practice it, utilizes 68 meridians (energy pathways) of the Classical texts while TCM uses 20 meridians. This gives the practitioner many more strategies for treating acute, emotional and chronic conditions, including the Sinew, Luo, Divergent and Eight Extraordinary channels. Treatment of these channels is largely omitted from TCM practice.