It was challenging enough for me in the 1990’s to set myself on the path of learning acupuncture. and by then, we had established schools and clear pathways to licensure and a livelihood. But back in the early days it took a rare kind of individual with a big spirit to seek out the knowledge required to learn acupuncture.

The guest of this episode, Ted Kaptchuk, is one of those explorative pioneers that headed East because he was sure he’d find something, even though he’d no idea of how he was going to find it.

Listen into this conversation on the revolutionary spirit that took Ted from New York to San Francisco to Taiwan and then Macao. The twists and turns involved learning the medicine, and how the Web That Has No Weaver  came into being.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • It started with his best friend dying in an explosion
  • The moment Ted thought “I need to learn Chinese medicine”
  • Introduction to the medicine through a great and drunk doctor
  • Even the Black Panthers could not get Ted into Mainland China, so off to Taiwan with a $25 ticket
  • Studying with doctors who practiced strange medicine
  • Learning Mandarin and medicine in Macao, and the curious gestalt that followed
  • How reading Sun Si Miao opened Ted to a world beyond TCM
  • Further reflections on Dr Han and the long process of learning to refine your attention
  • Chinese medicine changes us, as well as helps patients
  • Standardization of Chinese medicine in China allowed it to survive into the modern moment, but also closed the door to idiosyncratic ways of practice
  • Things that don’t make sense, that don’t add up in the moment in your clinical work, these are opportunities to deepen your understanding and capacity as a doctor
  • Classic texts can be confusing
  • Learning to see the patterns will allow you to clearly understand processes that previously were invisible to you
  • It’s not possible to relieve all suffering, but you can relieve unnecessary suffering

When it comes to learning medicine, you have to have patience and not be afraid of the contradictions

Ted Kaptchuk
Professor Kaptchuk received a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Columbia University in 1968 and graduated with a degree in Chinese medicine from the Macao Institute of Chinese Medicine (Macao, China) in 1975.  He was recruited as researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1990 and became full Professor of Medicine in 2013. In 2015 he received an additional appointment as Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine. He has over 300 publications with an h-index of 100 and an i10-index of 274.

Professor Kaptchuk entered the field of placebo research after spearheading the study of East Asian medicine in the United States and Europe and establishing himself as a scholar of multiple healing traditions.  He is the author of The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, a classic textbook that has been translated into 13 languages. The World Health Organization (WHO) engaged him as a senior editor and translator (from Chinese to English) for its International Classification of Disease 11th Revision (ICD-11) chapter on Traditional Medicine, published in 2019.



Links and Resources

Visit Ted on his website


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