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Love of TCM leads Algerian to China

By Wang Xiaoyu in Beijing and Liu Kun in Wuhan | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-02 08:07

Mounir Zerrougui treats a patient using acupuncture at his TCM clinic in Tigzirt, Algeria. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Practitioner Mounir Zerrougui hopes to quench his thirst for knowledge of the treatment in Wuhan

Mounir Zerrougui first discovered the power of traditional Chinese medicine while he was studying biology in college in 2016. By following online tutorials, the Algerian native learned to massage acupuncture points on his hands to relieve chronic pain in his shoulder and back.

Over the years, his connection with TCM has grown increasingly stronger since he began giving acupuncture treatment to family members and friends. He enrolled in local TCM courses and launched his own TCM clinic in the seaside town of Tigzirt in 2020.

Nearly a decade of acquiring TCM knowledge will finally bring Zerrougui to China. He will come to China next month and study for his master's at the Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan, Hubei province.

"I applied for the program because China is the home country of TCM, and there are many things to learn and to discover. Also, coming to China is a chance for me to discover and practice other parts of TCM, such as tai chi, and I am very interested in this field," the 26-year-old said.

"After graduation, I plan to go back to my home country to help more patients and cure them from sickness, and that's all I want," he added.

Algeria was the destination of China's first foreign medical aid group dispatched in 1963. With their arrival, acupuncture began to gain popularity across the North African country.

For Zerrougui, his first exposure to TCM began in 2016 with a set of acupuncture massage pens that he bought at a local store. An online tutorial taught him how to use the pen nibs to press at acupuncture points on his hands.

"After two months, my shoulder and back felt much better. I was really surprised by the outcome," he said. "I wanted to try more advanced treatment, so I bought needles and moxibustion equipment to experiment further."

Gradually, he learned how to properly insert needles into his hands, shoulders and back.

"I would say that 95 percent of my pain has disappeared thanks to self-delivered treatment," he said. "Some of my family members also asked me to perform acupuncture for them, and their symptoms have also eased a lot."

The remarkable results motivated Zerrougui to do whatever he could to learn more about TCM in Algeria. He read extensively, searched the internet for information and participated in a number of online and offline training courses.

In 2018, he signed up for a course at a TCM research institute located about 400 kilometers from his home. He spent the next three years traveling to the institute every two months to take classes for a week.

His efforts paid off. In 2020, Zerrougui graduated at the top of his class and opened a TCM clinic in Tigzirt with the support of his family.

The small facility — consisting of a consultation desk, three beds and a variety of TCM equipment — has gained admiration from both locals and overseas travelers.

"These days, I see about 10 to 20 patients per day. Common conditions treated with acupuncture include pain in the shoulders, neck, knees and head, as well as blurred vision, asthma, intestinal and gynecological disorders and skin problems," he said.

"Because Tigzirt is a tourist town, many travelers from Canada, France and Switzerland have also visited me through recommendations from social media platforms or their friends," he added.

In June, he learned from a Chinese TCM specialist visiting Algeria that the Hubei University of Chinese Medicine accepts international students.

Liu Qiang, a doctor from Xianning Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hubei and a member of the 27th Chinese medical aid group in Algeria, led Zerrougui on a tour of their base and showed him their acupuncture skills. "Chinese medical aid workers have trained nearly 300 people in Algeria in acupuncture and TCM, and have helped inspire many young Algerians to practice TCM. So I am not at all surprised that Zerrougui, a biology graduate, is yearning to study further in China," Liu said during an interview with Changjiang Daily, a local newspaper in Wuhan, Hubei province.

"Zerrougui has obtained a solid understanding of acupuncture methodology, but his learning of TCM's approach to identifying constitution (a person's unique physical, physiological and psychological function) is insufficient."

Zerrougui said that he is eager to gain more TCM knowledge in China.

"I have a clear purpose, which is to learn more," he said.

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