Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. September 2010. Before returning to Iraqi Kurdistan, I spent a bit over a month in Northern China visiting and traveling with a close friend. We didn’t have definite plans and while we were hashing out plans on where to go and what to do she mentioned trying out some TMC, Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The Inner Mongolian Hospital has a half dome at its entrance made of crumbling cement painted with light blue Mongolian designs, fitting for the city of Hohhot, which in Mongolian means blue city. We met with the doctor which included a consultation where he inspected our fingernails and teeth, as well as a thorough pinching of major pressure points. We were handed a 2 inch plastic cone, which contained the tips of approximately 50 needles, half long and half shorter.
We cleaned the needles ourselves, wiping each down with an alcohol solution and then arranged our beds in the treatment room. Hanging from every wall and ceiling beam were red banners with golden lettering praising the doctor and the miraculous work he had done. Most were in Mandarin Chinese, but I was able to read the few praise filled symbols of respect that were written in classical Mongolian script.
The doctor finally entered the room once the patients were prepped, he took each set of needles and without pause, seemingly without thinking, inserted dozens of needles all over the patient’s bodies. Six or so in the head, a handful in the belly and few in the legs, then after turning around dozens more were inserted all along the spinal column and the most painful, as far as I’m concerned, in the underside of the knee. Most of the needles weren’t too painful (except for the knee pit!), but if the doctor caught you holding your breath or flexing your muscles in expectation, he would smack you, much harder than necessary, in the shoulder or the butt. Once the needles were in, you had to lie perfectly still for up to three hours.
My dear friend Janar and I went together for the 10 day acupuncture treatment. She was having some sinus trouble, so the doctor inserted a few needles into her nose. According to her it really improved her sinuses, but hurt like the dickens.
Right before I took this photo, the doctor had inserted our needles but had forgotten about Janar’s sinuses. When I told him I got a nasty scornful look from Janar, and I took this photo as a keepsake.