This picture captures our legacy.

By the 1960′s, Dr. Boning Li was appointed as The Director of Acupuncture Anesthesia by an honorable promotion of The Health Ministry of The People’s Republic of China. This was around the same time that James Reston famously reported President Nixon’s 1971 visit.

Dr. Boning Li and his daughter, Lily Li, have run the Acupuncture & Oriental Health Care for over 20 years. After Dr. Boning Li passed away, his daughter has continued his legacy. The office continues to treat many patients with all different cases. They have outstanding results for pain management, and their patients, as a result, live a better and quality lifestyle.

This was a recent successful case treated for back pain by Lily Li, LAc; the 70-year-old patient came to her office in January 2014 and complained about pain on his back, specifically on the lumbar area (L4,L5,S1). The pain had caused pain on his lower abdomen, and he also mentioned pain on his upper right leg area.  He had been in pain for twenty years and it had recently gotten worse. It affected his daily activities (walking the dog and golfing) and quality of life.  He was referred to the office by his friend who had a similar problem and was successfully treated in her office.

After the first treatment, he called the office a couple days later and told us he was pain-free the whole day after the initial treatment. And he began his weekly acupuncture treatments. After four treatments, his condition and pain have been reduced from 10 to a range of 1 or 2 or 3.  Since then, he has been coming back to the office on a monthly basis. He is feeling great now that he can enjoy his golfing and volunteering job at the hospital. Since then, he was able to travel and even sent Lily a postcard on his trip. He keeps track of his progress and always brings a report chart when he comes in for his monthly treatment.


Above is one of the postcards the patient sent to Lily to show how happy he was on his trip, and a monthly report of his recovery, as this was his way of recording how he is doing. These are magnificent results. 

For twenty years, this office has had many successful pain management treatments and this is just one of the recent cases, and it has helped many of their patients to reduce pain and decrease consumption of pain medication, therefore living a better life.

For half a year, he was not able to raise his arm. After one treatment, his arm now has complete freedom of movement.

How acupuncture works from a scientific point of view:

  • It stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body.
  • It closes certain nerve gates by strategically overloading them with impulses, thus reducing pain transmission.
  • It affects certain neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and noradrenalin.
  • It has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body’s release of vasodilators such as Histamine, in response to acupuncture.

Acupuncture’s approach to pain

Acupuncturists recognize that there is a vital life energy, called Qi (pronounced “chee”), circulating within the body.  Qi flows through a series of pathways called Meridians.  Meridians are like rivers within your body.  Wherever a river flows, it brings with it water that provides nourishment and life to the land, plants, and people around it.  Likewise, Meridians transport life-giving Qi that provides nourishment to every cell, muscle, organ, and gland in the body.  Therefore, a blockage to the flow of Qi anywhere in the body will inhibit the amount of nourishment that reaches our cells, tissues, muscles, organs, and glands.

What causes Qi to become blocked?

Many things can cause Qi to become blocked:

  • Poor diet
  • Physical trauma
  • Emotional trauma
  • Inherited weakness of Qi
  • Chemical, physical, and emotional stress

Under normal circumstances, your body easily returns to good health and vitality.  But when the disruption of Qi is prolonged, excessive, or if your body is at a weakened state, Qi flow becomes restricted and a variety of symptoms, including pain, may arise.

What does acupuncture do?

By inserting fine, sterile needles at specific points, an acupuncturist is able to break up blockages that have hampered the smooth flow of Qi.  Once this is done, Qi can freely travel throughout the body, promoting pain-free health, well-being, and vitality.

Acupuncture can not only treat signs and symptoms of pain and discomfort, it can get to the root of what initially caused the problem.  When the problem is corrected, your body can begin to heal on deeper levels.

During the twenty years that we have been in business, our office sees many patients ranging from construction workers, nurses, to office workers and professionals such as dentists.  Most of our patients have either acute or chronic pain.  The pain differs in frequency and degree which varies according to the kinds of occupation and injuries of the patients.

Here is just a sample list of problems that we treat:

  • Stress: Spinal and emotional (posture)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lumbar instability
  • Ligament strain
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Sciatica
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Disc protrusion
  • Muscular tension
  • Arthritis
  • Bursitis

Here is an article by James Reston who had traveled to China as part of the advance team before President Nixon’s 1971 visit.  He suffered an acute attack of appendicitis and his appendix was removed in an emergency procedure.  During his recovery, Mr. Reston experienced a great deal of post-operative pain.  Rather than giving him standard pain killers, the Chinese doctors performed acupuncture anesthesia to relieve his pain.

Now, Let Me Tell You About My Appendectomy in Peking.
by James Reston

New York Times, Monday July 26, 1971

PEKING, July 25 — There is something a little absurd about a man publishing an obituary notice on his own appendix, but for the last 10 days this correspondent has had a chance to a learn little about the professional and political direction of a major Chinese hospital from the inside, and this is a report on how I got there and what I found.

In brief summary, the facts are that with the assistance of 11 of the leading medial specialists in Peking, who were asked by Premier Chou En-lai to cooperate on the case, Prof. Wu Wei-jan of the Anti-Imperialist Hospital’s surgical staff removed my appendix on July 17 after a normal injection of Xylocain and Bensocain, which anesthetized the middle of my body.

There were no complications, nausea or vomiting. I was conscious throughout, followed the instructions of Professor Wu as translated to me by Ma Yu-chen of the Chinese Foreign Ministry during the operation, and was back in my bedroom in the hospital in two and a half hours.

However, I was in considerable discomfort if not pain during the second night after the operation, and Li Chang-yuan, doctor of acupuncture at the hospital, with my approval, inserted three long thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow and below my knees and manipulated them in order to stimulate the intestine and relieve the pressure and distension of the stomach.

That sent ripples of pain racing through my limbs and, at least, had the effect of diverting my attention from the distress in my stomach. Meanwhile, Doctor Li lit two pieces of an herb called ai, which looked like the burning stumps of a broken cheap cigar, and held them close to my abdomen while occasionally twirling the needles into action.

All this took about 20 minutes, during which I remember thinking that it was a rather complicated way to get rid of gas in the stomach, but there was noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distension within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter.

I will return to the theory and controversy over this needle and herbal medicine later. Meanwhile, a couple of disclaimers.

Judging from the cables reaching me here, recent reports and claims of remarkable cures of blindness, paralysis and mental disorders by acupuncture have apparently led to considerable speculation in America about great new medical breakthroughs in the field of traditional Chinese needle and herbal medicine. I do not know whether this speculation in justified, and am not qualified to judge.

Hardly a Journalistic Trick

On the other side, it has been suggested that maybe this whole accidental experiment of mine, or at least the acupuncture part of it, was a journalistic trick to learn something about needle anesthesia. This is not only untrue, but greatly overrates my gifts of imagination, courage and self-sacrifice. There are many things I will do for a good story, but getting slit open in the night or offering myself as an experimental porcupine is not among them.

Without a single shred of supporting medical evidence, I trace my attack of acute appendicitis to Henry A. Kissinger of the White House staff. He arrived in China on July 9. My wife and I arrived in South China the day before, just in time.

But when we reached Canton we were told by our official guide that there had been a change in our plans. We were to remain in the Canton area for two days and proceed by rail to Peking on the evening of the 10th arriving in the capital on the 12th. We debated and asked to fly to Peking at once, but we were told it was out of the question.

Three days later, at precisely 10:30 AM, while I was describing to several Foreign Ministry officials at the Peking International Club the unquestionable advantages of my interviewing Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Premier Chou and every other prominent official I could think of, Chen Chu, the head of the ministry’s information service interrupted to say that he had “a little news item.”

“Mr. Kissinger had been in Peking from July 9 to July 11.” He said, and it was now being announced here and in the United States that President Nixon would visit Peking before May.

The First Stab of Pain

At that precise moment, or so it now seems, the first stab of pain when through my groin. By evening I had a temperature of 103 degrees and in my delirium I could see Mr. Kissinger floating across my bedroom ceiling grinning at me out of the corner of a hooded rickshaw.

The next day I checked into the Anti-Imperialist Hospital, a cluster of gray brick buildings with green-tiled roofs behind high walls of the middle of Peking.

The hospital had been established by the Rockefeller Foundation of New York in 1916 and supported by it, first as the Union Medical College of Peking and later as the Peking Union Medical College.

By coincidence I had had a letter before leaving New York from Dr. Oliver McCoy, president of the China Medical Board of New York explaining that his organization had been responsible for building and running the hospital with Rockefeller money until it was nationalized by the Communist Government in January, 1951. Dr. McCoy said that if we should happened to notice “a large group of buildings with green-tiled roofs not far from the southeast corner of the Forbidden City, it might be interesting to inquire what those were.” It was interesting indeed.

My wife and I were taken to Building No. 5, which is the wing used to serve the Western diplomatic corps and their families. On the right of the entrance was a large sign quoting Chairman Mao (it was removed during our stay). “The time will not be far off” It said, “when all the aggressors and their running dogs of the world will be buried. There is certainly no escape for them.”

We were taken at once by elevator to the third floor and installed in a suite of plain but comfortable rooms with large light-blue-bordered scrolls of Chairman Mao’s poems on the walls and tall windows overlooking a garden filled with cedars. It was a blazing hot and humid evening, with the temperature at 95 degrees, but a revolving fan at least stirred the air. I stripped and went to bed.

Tests and a Checkup

A few minutes later the two doctors who had originally called on me at the Hsin Chiao Hotel came in and said they had arranged some tests. They were Prof. Li Pang-chi, a calm and kindly man who was the “responsible person” for the case, and Chu Yu, a visiting surgeon and lecturer at the Anti-Imperialist Hospital.

Professor Li, who understood and spoke a little English, explained that other doctors would examine me later and that there would be consultations about what was to be done.

A parade of nurses and technicians then slipped quietly into the room. They bathed me with warm towels. They checked everything I had that moved or ticked. The took blood out of the lobe of my ear. They took my temperature constantly, measure pulse and blood pressure and worried over a cardiogram showing a slightly irregular heartbeat. They were meticulous, calm and unfailingly gentle and cheerful.

An hour later the consultants summoned by Premier Chou arrived; surgeons, heart specialists, anesthetists, members of the hospital’s revolutionary committee, or governing body. Each in turn listened to the offending heartbeat.

I felt like a beached white whale at a medical convention and was relieved when they finally retired for consultation and returned with the verdict; “Acute appendicitis. Should be operated on as soon as possible.”

They sought my decision. It did not seem the time to ask for a raincheck.

Accordingly, at a little after 8:30 in the evening they rolled me through the dim, hot corridors to an air-conditioned operating theater and Dr. Wu Wei-jan, a remarkably bright and lively man with a quick intelligence and a compelling smile, took over. He bound me tightly but comfortably on the operating table, put a small iron stand with a towel over my head so that I could look backward to the interpreter but not forward, and then pumped the area anesthetic by needle into my back.

Everything Was Roses

Everything was roses after that. I was back in my room talking with my wife by 11. The doctors came by to reassure me that all had gone well and show me the nasty little garbage bag they had removed. They asked my interpreter, Chine Kuei-hua, to remain at the hospital, gave me an injection to relieve the pain and lit a little spiral of incense to perfume the room for the night.

Since then I have lived with the rhythm of what must be the quietest city hospital in the world, constantly regaining strength and acquiring an intense curiosity about the politics and medical philosophy of the doctors in attendance.

They insist that the two cannot be separated and they are quite frank in saying that the sole purpose of their profession since the Cultural Revolution of 1966 – 1969 is to serve all the people of China, 80 percent of whom live on the land.

For this purpose medical education and medical procedures have been transformed. The doctors at the Anti-Imperialist Hospital make an average of about 150 yuan, or $65 a month and take their turn for six months of more, training barefoot doctors in rural farm and industrial communes. The is to prepare a medical army of young men and women for public-health service all over the People’s Republic as fast as possible. Their training begins with political indoctrination in the thoughts of Chairman Mao.

The Anti-Imperialist Hospital is run by a four-man revolutionary committee–Tung Teo, chairman and his deputies, Huang Chung-li, Shen Pao-hung and Tsui Ching-yi–two of whom are qualified physicians and two of whom are not.

Discussion and Criticism

They meet with the professional staff of the hospital constantly for discussion of the philosophy of Chairman Mao and for common criticism of each other and their work, and they discuss the procedures with the zeal of religious fanatics, constantly repeating, as in a litany, the need to improve their work and their moral purpose in the service of the state.

To understand the urgency of China’s medical problem and its emphasis on the quantity rather than the quality of medical training, it is necessary to understand the problem’s scope. Edgar Snow quotes Dr. William Chen, a senior surgeon of the United States Public Health Service as saying that before the Communists took over this country in 1949, four million people died every year from infectious and parasitic diseases and that 84 per cent of the population in the rural areas were incapable of paying for private medical care even when it was available from the 12,000 scientifically trained doctors.

That helps explain the current emphasis on rapid expansion of the medical corps and the determination of the Government to increase the use of herbal medicine and acupuncture.

Dr. Li Chang-yuan, who used needle and herbal medicine on me, did not go to medical college. He is 36 years old and learned his craft as an apprentice to a veteran acupuncturist here at the hospital. Like most young apprentices in this field, thousands of whom are being trained, he practiced for years with the needles on his own body. “It is better to wound yourself a thousand times than to do a single harm to another person.” He said solemnly.

Effects Were Observed

The other doctors watched him manipulate the needles in my body and then circle his burning herbs over my abdomen with obvious respect. Prof. Li Pang-chi said later that he had not been a believer in the use of acupuncture techniques “but a fact is a fact there are many things they can do.”

Prof. Chen Hsien-jiu of the surgery department of the hospital said that he had studied the effects of acupuncture in overcoming post-operative constipation by putting barium in a patient’s stomach and observing on a fluoroscope how needle manipulation in the limbs produced movement and relief in the intestines.

Even the advocates of Western medicine believe that necessity has forced innovation and effective development of traditional techniques.

Mr. Show quotes Dr. Hsu Hung-tu, a former deputy director of the hospital as saying: “Diseases have inner and outer causes. The higher nervous system of the brain affects the general physiology.”

Professor Li said that despite his reservations he had come to believe in the theory that the body is an organic unity, that illness can be caused by imbalances between organs and that stimulation from acupuncture can help restore balance by removing the causes or congestion or antagonism.

Dramatic Cures Reported

The controlled Chinese press is reporting on cases that go well beyond the relief of pain in the gastrointestinal tract and illnesses of the nervous system or those of neurological origin. It is reporting not only successes in treating paralysis and arthritis but spectacular results in curing blindness and deafness.

While I have no way of knowing the validity of the reports, the faith even of the professionally qualified doctors at the Anti Imperialist Hospital is impressive. Maoism itself has obviously become an infectious disease, even among many of the well-educated urban citizens who had a hard time during the Cultural Revolution.

“We are just at the beginning of all this.” Professor Li said as he prepared to unstitch me and set me free. “We have gone through great changes in this hospital. We are now treating between 2,500 and 3,000 patients here every day–over a hundred of them by acupuncture for everything from severe headaches to arthritis–and we are learning more about the possibilities all the time.”

I leave with a sense of gratitude and regret. Despite its4name and all the bitter political slogans on the walls, the hospital is an intensely human and vibrant institution. It is not exactly what the Rockefeller Foundation had in mind when it created the Peking Union Medical College, but like everything else in China these days, it is on its way toward some different combination of the very old and the very new.