To My Teacher: Dr. Nguyen van Nghi


Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi, the eminent physician who brought true energetic medicine to the west, died December 17, 1999. This loss is felt deeply worldwide. Having been the president, founder, or figurehead emeritus of world organizations too numerous to mention, he brought the message of true classical Chinese medicine to virtually every continent, in both hemispheres, for the last 40 years. He worked, literally, until the day he died. He has left us, but not without leaving behind the legacy of his efforts: 18 volumes of his seminal works — the classical texts of Chinese medicine. These works will now have great implications in the practice of Chinese medicine as we know it today.

In a word, these implications are “wonderful”. Dr. Nguyen was always fond of saying “we are not competing with Western medicine, we are completing Western medicine”. The collateral effect of this completion will also be to resolve the current elliptical understanding of Chinese medicine into a cohesive whole that will unite the disparate so-called “schools of thought”.vannghisean The ultimate idealistic result: One biology, one medicine. This was his wish.

Over the last 25 years Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi and his compatriot Dr. Tran Viet Dzung have communicated much of the essence of this material in oral transmission and tutorial settings. I have been blessed beyond my comprehension to have been there for 18 of those years, and now find it my duty to these men, to my teacher in particular, and to this profession to make as available as possible the priceless fruits of his labor... And echoing in my ears, his instruction: “this is not me, it is not you, it is Lingshu, it is Suwen, it is Nanjing... We are nothing, we will come and go, but Chinese medicine will last forever, it belongs to all the world and must survive, you (the grand collective “you”) must see to it”.

For me, at this juncture, even the classics themselves do not represent the true gift of this man. The true debt of gratitude we owe Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi and to Dr. Tran Viet Dzung is for the synthesis of these classical treasures into a cohesive presentation. For the last 40 years, and in collaboration with Tran the last 25 years, these men have culled and mined the Lingshu, Suwen, Nanjing, the Zhenjiu Dajing, and more, to link together a full singular and unified vision of Classical Chinese Medicine.

For Van Nghi, a lifetime dedication to the accurate preservation of this most mysterious art is the true epitaph of this great man. I don’t know why we, as a species, tend to recognize the greatest amongst ourselves only posthumously. Now I am sure that only in the future, and hopefully not too distantly, we will all come to recognize the incredible gift and responsibility Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi has bequeathed to us.

I have heard it said that if one lives to see the end result of his work, he has chosen too small a challenge. Dr. Einstein did not live to see his unified field theory realized, and so his students continue his work. As we finally enter the 21st century this January, it behooves us to continue — in the most diligent fashion possible — the work of Van Nghi, and to honor him, our profession, and this science with the integrity, stringency, humility, and maturity both he and it deserves.

Sean Marshall, November, 2000