More than 100 medical students from Asia and the West recently arrived in Shanghai to study acupuncture for two to 12 months at Shuguang Hospital, one of several local hospitals that specialize in traditional Chinese medicine.
While the number does not appear to be impressive, it is a fivefold increase than that was enrolled in 1992, when the hospital began teaching foreigners acupuncture, which treats illnesses or provides local anesthesia by inserting needles at key points on the body.
Shuguang's numbers appear to reflect what is happening citywide. While there are no comprehensive statistics on the number of foreigners studying acupuncture in the city, government officials and health professionals said the number has grown, mirroring the increasing popularity of traditional Chinese medicine.
"The foreign students are very interested in acupuncture and they study hard," Shuguang's Zhou Xiaobo said of the students from Japan, Singapore, the United States and several European nations. "While some have scholarships from their medical schools, some are studying at their own expenses."
As she treats several patients, student Claudia Suciu, 27, of Romania, said she wants to master acupuncture because it is "a mysterious science" that can relieve or even cure prolonged medical conditions. One of Suciu's patients, Xu Jinglan, a 69-year-old woman suffering from quivering hands, added: "We are willing to be treated by foreign medical students, although their skill still needs to be improved. I was even hurt sometimes. But no practice, no improvement."
The foreign students are very kind and work carefully, Xu added. "We are happy they can promote Chinese medical sciences back in their countries," she said.
Suciu was so eager to practice acupuncture after lessons on its theory that she used herself as a guinea pig. "Without my teacher's permission, I experimented on my own hands to improve my skill in finding the pressure points. My hands were blue all over."