Dr. Jason's Beijing Travellog: ancient palaces, acupuncture classes and Chinese pet culture
Last month Arnica and I (Dr. Jason) spent ten days in Beijing, China. I was there to study acupuncture, but we also explored ancient palaces and back alley hutong neighbourhoods. It was such a fascinating trip, I thought you might like to see some pictures and see what we were up to!
First to the acupuncture training... for the last couple of years I've been taking Western Herbal courses from the College for Integrative Therapies, and Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine from the Chi Institute for Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. Taking this courses makes me feel like a new grad again, even after 16 years of being a vet: I'm constantly learning and adding new tools to my medical bag. Studying Chinese herbs, I was enthralled by the different diagnostic approach of Chinese medicine. It amazes me how 5000 years of practice jives with current medical research, and often gives us answers we don't have in conventional medicine. Anyway, acupuncture was the next step....
I've had the privilege of learning online and in person with Dr. Xie, the founder of the Chi Institute. He's really the grandfather of TCVM, bringing traditional Chinese medicine to the western world. He teaches everywhere, from South Africa to Bali, but I thought what better place to learn than originating China! I did a couple of courses online, and then five days of intense practice in a hotel in Beijing. We worked on racing greyhounds in small groups, learning acupuncture points with veterinary colleagues from all over the world.
Being in Beijing really gave me a strong appreciation for the depth of culture in China. Visiting ancient palaces and learning about the dynasties really puts our young western culture in perspective. This is a place that measures documented history in thousands, not hundreds of years. For example, we took a boat ride up a canal that has seen local fisherman and floating emperors for literally millenium ...
Arnica had a chance to explore while I was in class, and she learn even more about the diversity of cultures in the huge country. They have 56 different ethnic groups, many with their own languages and all with their own cultures.
Most of the tourists we came across were actually domestic tourists, from different parts of China. It's such a huge country with so much diversity, that the Chinese travel dominantly in their own country. Visiting attractions like the Great Wall, we became part of the show for rural tourists who hadn't seen Westerners before.
Beijing itself is anything but provincial. It blew us away: 30 million people in one city. That's like 3/4 of the population of Canada in one sprawling, dense metropolis. Beijing is so technically advanced and well managed: the subway is fantastic, every street corner is landscaped and even the public toilets are spotless. Much of the city was built up in the last 60 years, and Beijingers consider anything over 5 year old, well, old.
With a modern urban culture, pet ownership is skyrocketing in Beijing. There are hundreds of small veterinary hospitals, dominantly practicing western medicine combined with acupuncture, whereas people use traditional Chinese herbal and food medicine at home with their pets. Yet with all these small brown poodles, you see very few of them on the street. In fact, I learned that the majority of dogs in Beijing never leave their high rise apartments... yup, they just "go" inside.
That said, there are more dogs wandering around the old neighbourhoods called hutongs, and they just wander the streets or hang out with their owners. "Heeling" hasn't hit Beijing yet... dogs either follow their owners down the street offleash, or lunge on a lead. There is a future market in dog training in that city! It's fascinating to see a new culture of family pets evolving in a place that traditionally used dogs as protection only.
And let's not forget cats... apparently cat ownership is also on the rise, but most still perform the function of keeping mice down in stores and factories. In her neighbourhood travels, Arnica saw several people stopping in the street to feed stray cats, with homemade raw food and even bags of kibble. There aren't that many strays, but it seems that the community feels a responsibility for taking care of them.
I really enjoyed our trip, and I'm so glad I got to visit Beijing. I plan on continuing my acupuncture training over the next two years, with the eventual goal of becoming a certified (Master) acupuncturist. There are only 3 in BC! So it's a big goal, but I'd love to get to that level of competency. In the meanwhile, I've been practicing on our staff's pets and select patients. If you are interested in learning more about our acupuncture services, just give us a shout.
Yours in holistic pet health,