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Lu Zhijun and his Medicine of Revolution - Short-Lived Innovation in the History of Acupuncture

Kim Taylor (University of Cambridge)

Pre-Liberation China was, to the Communists, a Revolutionary China. Chairman Mao called for the creation of a New China, according to criteria derived from the Soviet model of Marxism. Yet China had its own special conditions which would shape its course towards the ultimate goal of communism. Communist Party members were constantly calles upon to participate in this remoulding of Chinese society and each expected to put forth their own contribution according to the guidelines of the Party. Much emphasis was placed on developing the fields of agriculture and industry, but no such structure was given to the development of medicine, until Mao's Yenan speech in October 1944 addressing 'The United Front in Cultural Work'.

In this speech Mao called for the forming of a united front with those from the 'old schools', and in this way help remove the feudal stains of illiteracy, witch-craft and superstition which still existed in the Communist base areas. Medicine was one of the subjects he discussed and Mao's words were to have a huge effect on the medical world in Yenan. After this speech, doctors of the 'old school' came forward to 'unite with' doctors of the 'new school', and the slogan 'The Scientification of Chinese Medicine and the Popularisation of Western Medicine' was formed. The aim was not only for Western medical doctors to study this 'old medicine' but they were to reform it as well, according to the political criteria so crucial to revolutionary Communist China. This was a time when medicine could earn prestige more through its political integrity than its medical integrity, and as such whole new interpretations of classical Chinese medical doctrine were suddenly possible.

I wish to illustrate this impact of politics on medicine with a case study of one such doctor of the 'new school' who responded to this revolutionary call and who devoted the next ten years of his life to the creation of such a medicine. Lu Zhijun was unique in that he was not a Chinese medical doctor who had a personal interest to protect. He was first and foremost a Western medical doctor. He was also not developing acupuncture along a pre-determined path but was responding voluntarily to the direction of development in which he saw the Party heading. In this paper I hope to discuss the revolutionary fervour which made this medicine so relevant, and also to describe the subsequent radical innovations which Lu Zhijun brought to acupuncture. His political learnings earned Lu Zhijun much prestige in the years following Liberation, and although the form of acupuncture he advocated was later criticised for shortcomings in its medical content, it was still treated with the reverence due to what at the time was a significiant contribution to the 'upgrading' of Chinese medicine in China.

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