Dr. Wu: A beautiful, moving and meditative song — In memory of Dr. Jing Nuan Wu, a pioneer of acupuncture and a Chinese medicine doctor in the United States. Part 2
by Arthur Yin Fan
2 Dr. Wu’s achievements
Dr. Wu established an acupuncture detoxification center, which is the first notable work of him in 1980s. Due to his deep concern for young American addicted to drugs and being encouraged by the initial success of his acupuncture detoxification test, Dr. Wu established a drug recovery center in 1983 or 1984 called the GreenCrossCenter for Traditional Medicine, located at 1510 U Street NW, Washington, D.C. This center was well-known because it was probably the second most successful acupuncture detoxification center in the United States. The first was established by Dr. Michael Smith in the LincolnHospital in the Bronx, New York, which saw 200 to 300 patients every day, and is financially supported by the state. In contrast, Dr. Wu did all the work on his own with great difficulty. His clinic had no funding from the city, the state, or the federal government. In an interview7 by Dr. Redwood in early 1990s, Dr. Wu said that he and his associates at Green Cross did the work because they had hoped that it would encourage other people to do the same. However, the clinic required a great deal of money and dedication. “I know of many groups throughout the country that have tried to do what we have done, and they have not been successful because of the lack of one or the other. I can not tell you how much dedication it really does take. The staff are burnt out. We are basically on our second group of staff in seven years. Luckily, our practitioners work for very little. So what has happened is that no one works full-time except two of the administrative staff. Everybody else works part-time. They make money outside of this work, so that they can keep body and soul together. I subsidize the clinic through my personal work, and one or two of my friends have put in substantial amounts of money.” At that time, his detoxification clinic might have been the only one using Chinese herbs, alongside the acupuncture, to treat drug addiction and acquired immune deficiency syndrome8 in the United States.
His second notable work was the push for the first acupuncture regulation in Washington, D.C., which was released in 1989. He served as the chairman of the Acupuncture Advisory Committee for the District of Columbia, which has advised the Board of Medicine, Washington, D.C., on the regulation and licensing of acupuncturists in the District for over 10 years. He did “one of the more frustrating jobs” in his career — the Washington, D.C. Board of Medicine, and Dr. Wu had agreed early on with regard to the acupuncture guidelines. It then took Dr. Wu and his colleagues three years and five lawyers to put out only 12 pages of rules and regulations. “That is because Washington, D.C. mires in a system of bureaucracy that is impossible to understand. That impossibility stems from one critical lack — that they have no one in the city bureaucracy that can type! So we ended up in a situation where the lawyers get so frustrated that after five months they quit. In dealing with this, it was not until our fifth lawyer that we finally got the rules and regulations into a piece where we could publish them. It is that type of procedure which I think is analogous to the drug situation.”7
Dr. Wu also played an important role in acupuncture development in the United States. In 1994, as one of three licensed acupuncturists (the other two were Dr. Lixing Lao, and Dr. Xiaoming Tian) was invited, he gave a presentation on acupuncture as a medical device and the safety of acupuncture in a workshop cosponsored by the Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institute of Health (NIH), and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since this workshop, acupuncture needles were no longer listed as an investigational device in the FDA regulations (as it did for 20 years prior to the workshop). This was a milestone in acupuncture development and make acupuncture have broader applications in clinical practice. As a renowned acupuncturist, a Chinese medicine scholar and a practitioner, Dr. Wu was also invited to be one of the key board members listed for the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine — one of main journals in the research of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, in which he published an article introducing the history of acupuncture.
His third notable work was his introduction of Taoism and promotion of Chinese medicine in GeorgetownUniversity, GeorgeWashingtonUniversity, and many other institutions all over the country. He translated and published several important classic books related to Chinese medicine, completing the “homework” that his elder relative had given him many years before. Such works were the Spiritual Pivot (Lingshu, 《灵枢》, published by University of Hawaii Press, 1993), Yi Jing (I Ching, 《易经》，published by The Taoist Center, 1999 and earlier), and An Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica with the collaboration of Dr. Qian Xinzhong, the former Minister of Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China (published posthumously by the Oxford University Press, 2002). These books have been widely cited by Western scholars. Before his death, Dr. Wu also completed a translation of Tao Te Ching/Lao Tzu（《道德经/老子》）, which, sadly, was not published.
Dr. Wu’s fourth notable work was the use of multiple natural remedies to treat patients. In the 1980s, there was a natural healing center located at Wisconsin Avenue and 30 Street that included acupuncture, Chinese herbology, nutrition consultation, Chinese medicine lectures, as well as an Oriental medicine book store and a small Oriental dietary therapy restaurant. One of my patients recalled that this center was also established and administered by Dr. Wu. Dr. Wu invited several renowned practitioners to take part in the center’s work. The center was unique and attracted many people. However, because of financial difficulties, it closed after several years.
Dr. Wu was involved in promoting Chinese herbology. He said that among Chinese medicine therapies, Chinese herbology is the major one. He was one of the earliest well-known Chinese herbalists in the Washington, D.C. area. Besides his daily clinical work, he carried out a clinical study for women going through menopause using Jia Wei Xiao Yao San, also called Free and Easy Wanderer Plus Powder under a NIH funding. His work was recommended by FDA to the public as an alternative therapy for menopausal women.
3 Dr. Wu, the artist for healing
In the 1980s, Dr. Wu began creating abstract art that embodies the holistic ideas of the traditional Chinese healing system, and had an exhibition at the National Botanical Gardens (Washington, D.C., USA). “My vision for the artwork grew when a patient who was ill with cancer asked me to paint a picture for him. Suddenly I realized that I had found a way to heal many more people than the number I could see in my office every day,” he said. His paintings and sculptures eventually evolved into therapeutic devices, used to promote health, balance, and relaxation by evoking responses from the inner aspects of our being (see Figure 1). Once upon a time, Dr. Wu mentioned that “visual art can and should be celebrated not only for its aesthetic and decorative value and as a record of historical events but also for its potential to help us express, understand and heal ourselves”. He said: “The quest for the transcendental experience has been a popular trip for mystics, and religious persons through the ages. They have followed the paths of meditation and spiritual practice. In the empirical vision and methods of traditional Chinese medicine, entry to the transcendental is an every day experience. The most significant outward manifestation of the transcendental state is relaxation of the physical body. I attempt with my art to change and to reset the clockwork of our inner being to the most beneficial and health-inducing rhythm. When reset and unburdened from the tics of anxiety and social pressure, one is being entered a calm field where new patterns of behavior can develop and take hold within. These quiet inner fields are my new medical country and my artwork is the way of passage.” Ten years after his death, his paintings are still available for purchase online9.
Dr. Wu passed away at age of 69, after almost 30 years of acupuncture and Chinese medicine working in Washington, D.C. During his practice, many patients were amazed by him and his work. “He was a genius,” Elizabeth Drew (an author and journalist, and a patient of Dr. Wu) recalled: “He thought beyond the normal ranges.” In a 1985 profile of Dr. Wu published in the Washington Post, the author observed that “there is something about this man. You believe him. His smile defuses skepticism. His Chinese slippers make no noises. In a city founded on convention, Wu is a soothing reminder that there is another way”.6
Dr. Wu did many beautiful things; people will remember him. His life of promoting acupuncture and Chinese medicine was just like the beautiful, moving and meditative song that shares his name.