I took this photograph on a Saturday morning in a dorm at Yale University. Every week, undergraduates of various fields of study met to practice calligraphy. No one received ‘credit’ for the time spent there. Even toward the end of the semester when papers were due and exams needed studying for, they would faithfully come to learn and practice this ancient skill, no doubt a relief after spending the week in front of computers. Some of them put together a show called “Pursuing the Brushstroke” in celebration of Yale-China’s Centennial. The late Charles Chu, master painter and calligrapher, came and held the students and visitors spellbound with his eloquent and lively explanation of what being a master of any art entails:
“You learn the law and then you break it—according to your own taste and personality. Do it the way you do it. Freedom—this is the key word. Remember, you learn, you practice, then after you practice—create your own! That is the key.”
Chu could discern the balance of mind and body of the artist by merely observing the strokes. Breathing fully, clearing the mind to focus and inspiration are all key ingredients in the process of creating a mix of strokes that draws in the viewer.
Charles Chu’s wisdom, gained from decades of teaching, work, and life applies to acupuncture as well. As acupuncturists, we study for years to learn hundreds of point locations on the body, Chinese medical theory, and different techniques to treat various diseases. We work on each other for three years and on patients in a clinic for our last year. After graduating and passing the National Boards, we open our own practices. Eventually, we gain the confidence to take what we have mastered and infuse it with our unique gifts to make it our own. Acupuncture does not only involve placing needles strategically. It requires a clear intention, clarity of mind and ease in the body of the practitioner. That is why it is not only a skill but an art as well.