This arti­cle is part 9 of 10 in the series Beijing Acupuncture

At 0830, as sug­gest­ed by the concierge, I had fin­ished a light break­fast at the hotel restau­rant and exit­ed the hotel to a wait­ing cab.

Entering the cab, I gave the dri­ver a slip of paper which had been pre­pared by the concierge des­ig­nat­ing my des­ti­na­tion in Chinese.  I also car­ried a sim­i­lar slip with the hotel’s address to give to a return­ing cab­bie and we head­ed off to Number One Dahua Road, Dongcheng District (wher­ev­er that was).

It was a pleas­ant sur­prise to be deposit­ed at the entrance of a fair­ly mod­ern build­ing with a bright and invit­ing interior.

I approached the recep­tion desk and hand­ed anoth­er slip of paper to the lady there.  As she read it, she asked, “English?”

“Well, Canadian, actu­al­ly,” I said. “But yes, English if you please.”

“Third floor.  Elevator to your left.  I’ll call up and have some­one meet you,” she said in almost flaw­less English.

“Thank you,” I replied, and head­ed to the elevators.

The ele­va­tor opened with­in sight of the recep­tion desk for the floor and I was instant­ly greet­ed by a young lady in a trim nurse’s uniform. 

“Mr. Tallent?  This way, please,” was the effi­cient greet­ing I received.

As we walked down the well-lit and immac­u­late hall­way, I took note of the room num­bers.  The incred­i­bly pre­cise infor­ma­tion that L.T. had pro­vid­ed even had the num­ber of the room which was always uti­lized by Yeung and the assigned acupunc­tur­ist.  Three rooms beyond Yeung’s was the one assigned to me.

“If you’ll go ahead and get undressed, Mr. Tallent, your tech­ni­cian will be with you short­ly,” the nurse said as she ush­ered me into the room and walked back toward the elevators.

I removed my jack­et, shirt, trousers, shoes, and socks and sat on the table in the mid­dle of the room.  I left my shorts on, believ­ing that doff­ing them would not be nec­es­sary for the treatment.

In only a few brief min­utes, a man I judged to be in his mid-thir­ties entered the room.  Judging by his fea­tures, he was obvi­ous­ly Chinese, but his English was quite good.

“Good morn­ing, Mr. Tallent.  My name is Chou.  I under­stand that you are hav­ing some neck and shoul­der pain.  That’s a pret­ty sim­ple prob­lem and we should be able to make you feel quite bet­ter before you leave.”

“Thank you, Chou.  Your English is quite good and I apol­o­gize for not know­ing your lan­guage well enough to con­verse.  You also seem quite young to be doing this.”

“English is a sec­ond lan­guage in most of our schools.  I have been study­ing the art of acupunc­ture for 8 years now and the school where I study is asso­ci­at­ed with this hos­pi­tal so that we can do our train­ing here.  Trust me, we are close­ly super­vised.  You’re in no dan­ger,” he said, flash­ing a friend­ly smile.

“Just relax,” he con­tin­ued.  “Most peo­ple expe­ri­ence some fear the first time, but there is no pain, I assure you.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” I mut­tered.  “At least for now.”

He was right.  There was no pain.  And even though I real­ly was not suf­fer­ing from neck and shoul­der pain, the treat­ment, which last­ed about forty-five min­utes, seemed to relax me and I actu­al­ly felt bet­ter when it was over, despite my look­ing down at my body dur­ing the pro­ce­dure and being some­what star­tled by the num­ber of nee­dles pen­e­trat­ing var­i­ous parts of my anatomy.

As Chou com­plet­ed his work anoth­er man entered the room.  This one was old­er, per­haps in his 60s, although it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to gauge the age of the Chinese.  He appeared to exam­ine the work of Chou and spoke to him in Chinese, nod­ding and ges­tur­ing the whole time.

At length, Chou turned to me and said “Mr. Wu wants me to ask you if you are feel­ing alright and if the pains you were expe­ri­enc­ing have dissipated.”

“Please tell Mr. Wu that I am fine and am deeply grate­ful for your work.  I am in no pain at all right now,” I said, still lying on the table with mul­ti­ple nee­dle insertions.

After anoth­er brief con­ver­sa­tion between the two, Mr. Wu bowed in my direc­tion, turned, and left the room, at which point Chou began remov­ing the nee­dles.  I was sur­prised to find that there was vir­tu­al­ly no sen­sa­tion of the removal and breathed a sigh of relief when Chou announced that he was finished.

“Mr. Tallent.  It’s been a plea­sure to meet you.  I sin­cere­ly hope I’ve been able to help and that you will tell your coun­try­men that you were well treat­ed while in China.”

“I’m very grate­ful, Chou.  Please rest assured that I shall be com­pli­men­ta­ry in any com­ments I make regard­ing your coun­try and its hos­pi­tal­i­ty.  Incidentally, how shall I pay for your services?”

“China is a social­ist coun­try, Mr. Tallent.  Even the med­ical care of for­eign­ers, while on Chinese soil, is cov­ered by our gov­ern­ment.  Have a nice day.”

With that Chou said I could get dressed and he closed the door behind him as he left.

Donning my street clothes, I placed a one hun­dred yuan note on a near­by table.  I doubt­ed that even a staunch com­mu­nist would shun a six­teen-dol­lar tip, con­sid­er­ing what the aver­age rate of pay was in China.

Leaving the room, I opened the door care­ful­ly to peer into the hall­way to see if it was occu­pied.  It appeared that only one staff mem­ber was vis­i­ble and she was mov­ing away from where I watched so I entered the hall­way and pulled the door qui­et­ly closed behind me, head­ing for the room three doors toward the elevators.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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