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by George Soulie De Morant
One who has written these new truths into the great immortal book of human potentials, thus wresting from the vastness of time a morsel of permanence, cannot be said to have lived and worked in vain.
—Professor Paul Mériel
Chinese Acupuncture, Soulié de Morant's masterwork, is the most detailed study of acupuncture in a Western language.
George Soulié de Morant went to China at the turn of the century, where he served as French Consul for Shanghai and as a judge in the French Concession in Shanghai. He remained in China for almost two decades, becoming well accepted by the Chinese people, and gaining entrance to the highest circles of Chinese society. Although his life's work was to be acupuncture, his literary output was voluminous and covered every aspect of Chinese life. He was a man of great talent, and became the only European to be recognized as a Chinese doctor by the Chinese themselves.
Soulié de Morant returned to France in 1917, where he began actively promoting acupuncture among the medical professionals. His published articles attracted the attention of two French physicians, who invited him to work with them in their hospital departments. The first two volumes of the present text were published circa 1940, and became the basis for his nomination for a Nobel Prize in 1950. Just before his death in 1955, he completed Acupuncture Chinoise, the work which lead to the first successful European acculturation of acupuncture and laid the foundation for the modern practice of acupuncture in Europe.
The text is massive, containing nearly 1,000 densely but readably organized oversize pages. Volume One of the text's five parts describes the energetics of acupuncture; Volume Two, the application of those energetics; Volume Three, their relation to physiology. Volume Four summarizes the meridians and points, organizing information around the classical concepts of energy circulation, so that the reader perceives a clinical range much greater than that found in more recent English-language texts.
Volume Five, a detailed treatment repertoire, is still the largest of its kind in a Western language. Meticulously compiled from works including the Zhen Jiu Da Cheng, the Zhen Jiu Yi Xue, the Yi Xue Ru Men, and the Zhen Jiu Yi Zi, which are the epitome of Chinese clinical experience, illnesses are presented as energetic categories, and as organ, function, and area groups. Then, within each of these categories, conditions are precisely defined and finely differentiated. This level of practical detail has been achieved since only in specialized sections of technical works, but never again at this scale.
The book is universally recognized not only as a unique and historic achievement but also as one of the best, most detailed, and most practical of clinical texts. Soulié de Morant was the first and finest advocate of seeking and treating the root of illness in the disruption of an individuals harmony with nature. He was the first to argue that there was no need to emphasize the incompatibilities between Chinese and Western medicines, and the first to propose hundreds of practical correlations with science. In many ways, he anticipated modern Western and Eastern needs by showing biomedicine how to expand its clinical gaze to include the qualities and relationships discovered by Chinese physicians.
Thus, Chinese Acupuncture has conveyed the ideals of the Chinese medical arts to Western doctors and acupuncturists, capturing the imagination of an entire generation of physicians and continuing to inspire those who write or practice today.
This book has an interesting history, which is described in the introduction by Paul Zmiewski. But it also has an interesting publishing history.
We first learned of Soulie de Morant's work in the late 1960's from macrobiotic teachers who, based upon his book with Yukikazu Sakurazawa (George Oshawa), believed that de Morant had learned acupuncture from Oshawa in France. Among those interested in acupuncture in the early 1970's, this discouraged further research because people were looking for technical instruction and assumed that Soulie de Morant's Chinese Acupuncture would thus be like Oshawa's writings. Although this rumor was clearly untrue, it contributed to an important trend in the early transmission of acupuncture by directing attention to other French writers (for example, Chamfrault). Ironically, because George Soulie de Morant learned acupuncture through twenty years of research and practice in China, his work was actually more easily applied in practice.
However, by 1975, when copies of "L'Acuponcture Chinoise" became available through Quebec, it became a primary source, not only for the theory of acupuncture energetics but also for acupoint locations and indications. In particular, his fifth book, "Treatments," was invaluable because it was arranged much like a homeopathic repertory and could be easily accessed. However, its influence did not spread beyond Europe and the Eastern United States.
In 1981 Paul Zmiewski found a GSDM translation at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. We immediately decided to pursue it. The translators, Lawrence (Dhruva) Grinnell, Claudy Jeanmougin, and Maurice Leveque were a French-American team who had translated the text out of respect for it; they perceived its greatness and wanted to assure it could be used by non-French speakers. It had become their primary source for clinical practice at the Ashram.
It was rumored that a British academic publisher had attempted to publish the translation and had for some reason failed. This did not dissuade us because we believed that their problem must have been the lack of Chinese references. Without a Chinese language glossary, the scope of Soulie de Morant's work was so great that it would be impossible to insure the transmission did not become garbled. However, we were already working with Wiseman's original lists, and GSDM was rigorous about keeping links to the Chinese. We were confident we would overcome this problem.
By 1984 when we were finally able to negotiate a contract with the French publisher, almost a decade had passed, but Soulie de Morant's work was still almost unknown in the U.S. However, T.C.M. had begun to dominate the American market. This changed the character of the project because it was now unlikely, if not impossible, for "L'Acuponcture Chinoise" to find the endorsements it would need to successfully compete with T.C.M. For example, during most of the early 1980's there were strong opinions expressed about the "five elements" as an opposition to T.C.M. Arguments about symptomatic versus root acupuncture were hotly contested and the acupuncture Soulie de Morant reported fit neither of these ideas.
Furthermore, we learned that it was true that a large university press had abandoned the project. It was probably a purely economic decision; the original translation had been typed into a first-generation, disk-based typesetting machine. That left no inexpensive option. We could typeset it as is, without translators' changes or conventional editing. This, of course, is what the machine's owners had in mind. When we refused, we were told we could have no further copies of the manuscript. Unless the machine's owners were guaranteed the typesetting job, and prepaid, we would need to start from scratch.
The manuscript languished in a desk drawer in our mailroom. Fortunately, "George," as the book was known to those of us working on it, was so fascinating that everyone kept working despite the lack of any particular commercial plan. Mary Kinneavy, then an acupuncturist, now a teacher at the New England School of Acupuncture, retyped the entire manuscript while answering phones at Paradigm. Having been trained in Japanese acupuncture, Mary found it fascinating. Diane Putt did most of the consistency checking, and text and index programming, when her then state-of-the-art 80286 UNIX machine was free from invoicing and statementing. Paul and I re-translated and did editorial chores. Martha Fielding and Dhruva Grinnel edited and proofed. Paul spent three weeks in Paris where George's heirs kindly gave him access to the original notecards GSDM used to prepare the book. Gail Neubert revised the punctuation, and Sally Rimkeit and Missa Olatunji, acupuncturists and teachers in New Zealand, also edited most of the first three volumes. Other readers worked on the project but their input arrived too late to use because we had crossed our contractual publication deadline.
Clearly, Chinese Acupuncture has never acheived the recognition it might have had it been in print in the early 80's. Regardless, George Soulie de Morant's work is one of the seminal events of acupuncture's Westward transmission and remains a significant reference for experienced clinicians.
"The most recent translation of George Soulie de Morant's Chinese Acupuncture into the English language is a monumental effort...both a clinical text and a philosophical discourse and as such has much to offer the practitioner and the academic."
—Chris Zaslawski, Meeting Point
"A classic in its own right."
—China Review International
"This scholarly work, though daunting in its size and detail...is a must-read for all dedicated students and practitioners of acupuncture."
—Pacific Journal of Oriental Medicine
Publication Date: September, 1994
Hardcover; 896 pages; 8.5 x 11; $169.95
Index; Annotated Bibliography
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