The Association for Traditional Studies (ATS) grew out of founder Andrew Nugent-Head’s early work translating for westerners visiting Beijing to meet and study with traditional practitioners there. In 1991, he was hired to work as a production assistant for Bill Moyers, who was filming the Mystery of Qi episode of his Healing and the Mind series which aired on PBS in 1993.
The Bill Moyers project threw into stark relief how fast the traditional arts were dying out. The few practitioners that were left were either too scared or too scattered around China to be filmed easily, and only a few practitioners were able to be interviewed. This sparked the creation of ATS, and the late professor Wang Jin-Huai (the calligrapher featured in the documentary) and Andrew Nugent-Head began traveling rural China by jeep to document the last traditional practitioners out there.
Guided by the late Dr. Lu Binkui, retired director of Chinese Medicine for the Ministry of Health, Professor Wang and Andrew drove throughout northern China to visit practitioners over a two year period. From remote villages to monasteries to factories, the two tracked down, interviewed and filmed some of the last traditional voices of pre communist China.
With the release of the Mystery of Qi on PBS, Professor Wang and Andrew found themselves invited to lecture and teach in the United States. Thus began the China Culture Lecture Series tours run by ATS and bringing different traditional practitioners to the United States and England. From 1994 to 2001, ATS organized 7 tours to the west, and from 1996-2005 12 intensive trainings to China. ATS also released over 60 educational videos and generated over $250,000 in income for the practitioners themselves.
By 2005, most of the old practioners had passed on. Professor Wang passed away in 2002, and the great Yin Style Bagua practitioner Xie Peiqi passed away in 2003. Realizing how little time was left before all of that generation was gone, ATS changed its focus from education and went into deep documentation of the last Chinese medicine doctor still practicing in a completely traditional manner left in Beijing: Dr. Li Hongxiang (1924-).
Andrew became Dr. Li Hongxiang’s closing door disciple and has spent the last 8 years with him in the clinic and in his home documenting his incredible knowledge base. ATS has generated hundreds of audio and video hours or recorded treatments and conversations, tracked hundreds of cases, and help Dr. Li write The Study of Chinese Medicine, to be published in Chinese and English December 2015.
But ATS’ true calling has always been in education. In 2011, ATS returned to this as its primary mission and has actively returned to presenting seminars and training programs. Teaming with the Institute of Acupuncture & Oriental Medical Studies in New York City, Andrew committed to teaching a 300 hour clinical program: Acupuncture in Orthopedics & Rehabilitation: A Classical Chinese Medicine Approach. He is also traveling extensively around the world to pass on the traditional knowledge ATS has been recording all these years. Every seminar will be filmed and available to all on the traditionalstudies.org website time and funding permitting.
The ATS legacy is creating an education focused video library for all to access, now and in the future. It is a tragedy that we cannot see or hear the traditional practitioners of the past speaking to us today, helping keep their knowledge authentic and effective. Video makes knowledge come alive and gives the presenters a direct influence on students now and in the future, long after they are gone. As ATS heads into the next decade, it is the creation of this direct window into the teachings and lives of the last traditional practitioners that ATS is dedicated to.