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A short history of
the European School of Acupuncture

When Fr Claude LARRE, Dr. Jean SCHATZ and myself met in 1969/1970, we had no idea of the adventure that had just begun. Claude Larre and Jean Schatz were both born in 1919, and were in the middle of their life paths, and had already come a long way. I was only 20 and did not yet have a precise idea of what to do with my life other than to go into ancient languages and civilizations, to understand the vision they had of what is essential in life and what gives it its meaning and how they expressed specifically this vision in their own words and turn of mind.

Fr Larre had spent 20 years in Asia. First in China (1947-1952) where he studied the Chinese language while finishing his theological studies to become a jesuit, and where he was ordained in 1952. He then lived in Vietnam (1956-1966), after short stays in Japan and the Philippines. He was familiar with the classical texts and philosophy as well as with the actual people and their daily life. He saw how far people in the West were to having a correct understanding of ancient or modern China.

Back in Paris (1966), he completed his PhD at La Sorbonne in Chinese philosophy with his translation and interpretation of ch.7 of the Huainanzi, on the vital spirit of a human. But at the same time, he started to gather people together who were interested in sharing their knowledge of it and in diffusing a more accurate grasp of Chinese culture and civilization in Europe. Isabelle Robinet and Sister Ina Bergeron were among them. I was lucky enough to be introduced to this small group very early on. It was called the Jade Circle, and was the forerunner of the Paris Ricci Institute.

Dr. Schatz was trained as a Western medical doctor, but was introduced early to Chinese medicine, which was already well known in France among doctors thanks to the work of Soulié de Morant and the French homeopaths—doctors who began working with him in the 1930’s. Jean Schatz was immediately attracted to Chinese medicine and after studying in France, he went to Taiwan in the early 1960’s, where he stayed with Dr. WU Weiping.

Back in Paris, he was convinced that he still did not know Chinese medicine well enough, and that something critical was lacking. Most importantly, he felt that was what lacking could be found in the classical texts which were the theoretical foundation of this medicine.

At that time, in the late 1960’s, there were very few medical texts that had been translated into any Werstern language and even fewer well translated. When Dr. Schatz met Fr Larre, he grabbed onto him and refused to let him go until he agreed to take a look at the Huangdi Neijing, Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor, one of the most basic texts of Chinese medicine. Finally, Fr Larre gave in. He took me along with him.

We started to read the text of the Suwen, one of the 2 books composing the Neijing. It was like to jumping into the water without a lifejacket. We had no idea as to the direction to take, just a vague knowledge of the movements necessary not to sink. Fr Larre was our guide; his knowledge of classical Chinese and of ancient Chinese thought was extraordinary, constructive and informative; but still we had to learn how to swim in a classical medical text: to understand the specific use of certain characters, the precise meaning of technical terms, the references to actual symptoms and clinical situations, etc.

We used to meet one evening a week, in the house of Alice Fano, a sinologist who had spent some years in Shanghai before 1949 and was fond of the Yijing (Book of Changes) and ancient Chinese thought. Several friends, mainly acupuncturists, participated in these weekly workshops.

After 2 or 3 years, we started to be more secure in our interpretation of the text. I left in 1974 to spend one year in Taiwan to improve my spoken language (it was still the time of the Cultural Revolution on Mainland China). When I came back in 1975, the 3 of us decided to start teaching what we found in our reading of the texts. After a year, we decided to give a formal frame to our work and we founded the European School of Acupuncture.

Jean Schatz died prematurely in 1984. He was an outstanding doctor, not only by his science, but also by his gift to feel or to see inside the patient. He had a true faith in the potency of the needles, which became marvelous tools in his fingers. I learned with him the basics of the clinical practice of acupuncture. He showed me the beauty, the depths and the essentials of this practice. I have been seeing patients now for over 30 years, although I'm required to keep my practice small in order to devote my time to studying, translating and teaching the Chinese classical texts.

After the passing of Jean Schatz, Fr Larre and myself carried developing the European School of acupuncture, spreading its spirit and teachings more and more widely in other countries in Europe then in America. Even when we were working on the Grand Ricci Dictionary, this never impeded our commitment to bring Chinese medicine to others.

When he died, in 2001, Fr Larre had become a kind of legend for many practitioners of Chinese medicine. His vast knowledge, his quality as a teacher, but also his sense of humor and above all, his profound humanity have had a real impact on the life of many.

I continue to honor their memory by maintaining a methodical teaching which consists in transposing the major Chinese texts into French or other Western languages, and in the organized presentation of the great classics of medicine together with their specific terminology, seen from the Chinese perspective.

For the last thirty seven years, the EEA has presented its teaching exclusively from the Chinese texts. It uses the great fundamental classics of medicine : Huangdi Neijing (Suwen and Lingshu), Nanjing, Shanghanlun, Jingui Yaolüe, Jiayijing… Commentaries from every era, ancient manuscripts, and works of contemporary China enhance their reading. The whole of the teaching directs the participants to acquire a vision of physiology and pathology, and of a Chinese medical vocabulary included in traditional Chinese medicine.

In Paris, three week-end seminars on medicine and one of the fundamental aspects of Chinese thought are organized every year by the EEA. Others are held in different French cities and in other countries. Classes and lectures are also regularly held.

The European School of Acupuncture is aimed at people who already have a basic training in Chinese medicine or to students or people interested in China and its vision of life, and who wish to work in reference to traditional texts. It does not deliver a qualifying diploma for the practice of acupuncture and its originality lies in three aspects :

  • The rigorous approach to classic medical texts and their accurate study, which methodically tackles theoretical and clinical questions by relying on an overall vision of the Chinese medical corpus.
  • The medical questions studied are developed in connection with the great texts of traditional medical thinking, whether they be Confucian, Taoist or other, particularly those that are contemporary with the development of medical theory in the few centuries around the beginning of the Common Era.
  • An opening onto practice and experience. This research is part of a dialogue and experience of sharing with the participants, which continues in workshops offering a real application of a traditional discipline (for instance, calligraphy).

The European School of Acupuncture website can be found at www.acupuncture-europe.org.

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