History of Traditional Chinese Medicine in California: A Perspective through the Stories of Four Acupuncturists

By Wu, Emily S. | Chinese America: History and Perspectives, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

History of Traditional Chinese Medicine in California: A Perspective through the Stories of Four Acupuncturists


Wu, Emily S., Chinese America: History and Perspectives


In Truckee, a small, historically frontier town in Northern California, stands a Chinese herbal shop that dates back to 1878. This small brick building is the sole remnant of the third Chinatown that the Chinese American community built in Truckee in the 1870s. (1) Archaeological studies on San Jose's historic Heinlenville Chinatown, constructed in 1887 and demolished in 1932, also identified records and remains of medicinal herb shops. (2) At the height of anti-Chinese sentiment and enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), the White community aggressively destroyed Chinatowns across Northern California by repeatedly setting fires. Chinese American communities responded by moving and rebuilding their homes and businesses, supporting one another and helped by the few sympathetic White neighbors. Throughout the repeated building and rebuilding, herbal shops and traditional Chinese healers were always crucial components of the Chinatowns in Northern California, as they had been since the early days of Chinese immigration.

President Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972 brought traditional Chinese medicine into the eye of the mainstream American public. The opening of China and the ensuing diplomatic relationship between China and the United States positioned China as a rising new ally. Chinese acupuncture also became the exciting new medical "discovery." With attention from the mainstream media, traditional Chinese medicine finally entered the consciousness of mainstream American society. By May 2009 a total of 13,110 acupuncture licenses had been issued in California. (3) Approximately one-fifth of all licensed acupuncturists in California are currently practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I conducted the ethnographic fieldwork for this article. (4)

In this article I will trace the development of traditional Chinese medicine in the Bay Area through the lives and narratives of four licensed acupuncturists, who represent important (and sometimes overlapping) phases in the local history of traditional Chinese medicine. The legendary Miriam Lee, a respected pioneer practitioner who was known for her political activism, represents a generation of acupuncturists who established a political foundation that gradually led to legal sanction of acupuncture in California. Sophia Chen (pseudonym) tells of a journey that represents resistance to the impersonal approach of biomedicine and promotion of a self-reflective, patient-centered, humanistic interpretation of traditional practices. (5) Crystal Jacobson (pseudonym) recalls the history of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, where, through selfless service and social engagement, acupuncturists gradually became part of the general health care community. (6) Finally, Jason Fan (pseudonym) shares his story on the continuing efforts by acupuncturists to enhance their professional image. (7) Perhaps reflecting how the different phases of this history relate to each other, although not forming an official lineage, Miriam Lee served as a mentor for all three other acupuncturists included in this article.

POLITICAL FOUNDATION: MIRIAM LEE

Miriam Lee (Chinese name: Li Chuan-zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), dubbed by some local practitioners and patients the "mother of acupuncture in California," was probably one of the first practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who came into the American mainstream public eye. The now-deceased pioneer was best known for being arrested for practicing medicine without a license in 1974; she was released a few days later after over a hundred of her patients, both Chinese and Caucasian, showed up at the courthouse in protest of her arrest. (8) The dramatic incident, along with the petitions and negotiations of many other pioneer acupuncturists, their patients, and sympathizers, prompted the eventual certification and licensing of acupuncture in California. (9)

In coalition with other practitioners, Lee went on to actively advocate for broadening the scope of practice for certified acupuncturists, and eventually licensing acupuncturists. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

History of Traditional Chinese Medicine in California: A Perspective through the Stories of Four Acupuncturists
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.