A small cluster of photos emerged from among the thousands made by the CCAS delegations depicting rarely-seen images of acupuncture therapy during Cultural Revolution. The first delegation was taken to the Guangzhou Deaf-Mute School, known at that time for its experimental use of acupuncture to treat deafness. One photo showed a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) member inserting an acupuncture needle into a student’s lower arm. The PLA’s presence and role as medical staff were the result of Mao’s decision to place members of the Army into civilian and public administration. The delegation recounted that “the needle was long, thin, and silvery in color,” and that the PLA member “inserted the needle to a depth of about one-and-half inches, rotating it gently” (CCAS 1972, 61). The feedback they gathered from the school indicated that not all of the students responded to the treatment equally well.
Two photos were taken during a performance presented by the students of the Guangzhou Deaf-Mute School. One photo shows a skit in which a soldier provides medical care for the villager, most likely using acupuncture on the ear. The other photo captures a group of female students dancing and singing. The large character signs behind the students show a fragment of the once-popular slogan “Qiannian tieshu kai le hua, Rujin yaba kaikou shuole hua” (“The fact that mutes can eventually speak in the new era is as magical as flowers blooming out of an iron tree”). This slogan originated in the 1969 documentary film “Chairman Mao’s Victory on a Proletarian Health Route” which depicted the inspirational story of a mute and deaf village girl who, after going through acupuncture treatment, learned to shout out “Long live Chairman Mao!” (Hong 1969). The performance at the school echoed a nationwide call for the use of acupuncture to treat the mute and deaf.
What the CCAS delegations found even more dramatic about this ancient Chinese medical technique was the use of acupuncture for pain relief in the operation room. Two photos provide a glimpse of surgeries assisted with acupuncture anesthesia. The fact that both delegations were invited to observe and take photos of such surgical procedures suggests that China wanted the Western world to know how rigorously and effectively the ancient technique was being adopted in the medical field. Indeed, press coverage of surgeries in China using acupuncture anesthesia incited the curiosity of the Western medical world and led to a brief period of popularity of acupuncture therapy in the United States (Kaptchuk 1983, ix).