New e-reader edition of the Complete Stems and Branches: Time and Space in Classical Acupuncture

Order the e-reader edition only £29.99 Paper back edition £55.00

The book now has a dedicated site at

My Book on the Heavenly Stems / Celestial Stems  and Earthly Branches / Terrestrial Branches Hits the Stratosphere!

I was sorry to see that the price for my book, The Complete Stems and Branches: Time and Space in Classical Acupuncture, had skyrocketed (1 second hand copy left on Amazon going for £1,965.00!!!.)  This price had nothing to do with me nor my publishers but was entirely due to those who sought to profit because my book was out of print.  Neither me nor my publishers received any of this money.  I am delighted, as you will be, that the price has come back down to earth.  Kindle edition now available for only £9.99 and the paperback costs £49.99.


Introduction (taken from the Complete Stems and Branches).

The appeal of the modern Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system lies in its ability to act as a bridge between a reductionist, linear way of thinking and the lateral approach more natural to the system of correspondences of Chinese medicine.
This book takes you to the far side of that bridge and into a Daoist world where Heaven, Earth and Humankind are all of one original qi, where a vibration in any part affects the whole. We will forge through a seemingly impenetrable jungle of intertwining correspondences which have appeared resistant to linear methods of cognition. Hopefully you will find the journey fascinating and even exhilarating in places but what you won’t find in this jungle are any ‘new species’ of acupuncture theory.
According to Chinese medical theory there are only three ways to categorise phenomenon: according to Heaven, Earth and Humanity, according to the Five Elements and to Yin and Yang, all of which are part of rudimentary acupuncture training. However, most acupuncturists will not have been presented with these concepts in quite this manner.
Stems and branches is a basic calendrical counting method used by the Chinese for millennia to count the hours, days, months and years. It groups ten stems and twelve branches into the same polarity (yin or yang) pairings to provide a recurring sexagesimal sequence. In the West we denote time numerically, for instance 11.30 a.m., 14.3.2007, (fourteenth of March) which contains no descriptive value. The Chinese equivalent of this time is denoted as 3.7; 4.8; 10.4; 4.12, where the first number of each pair is the stem and the second is the branch.
Certain acupuncture methods select points according to the specific stem and branch of the hour or day and are therefore essentially a numerological acupuncture system. This is widely known as stems and branches acupuncture. This method is briefly explored in one chapter of this book but is not this book’s primary focus.
Instead, this book explores time in a wider context and through this exploration we come to a profound understanding of the basic principles of Chinese medicine and of how time (of which stems and branches is but one component part) is woven into the very fabric of acupuncture theory.
As Joseph Needham so eloquently expresses it, “The earliest, and in the long run the most influential kinds of scientific explanation, those so basic that they truly pervaded the ancient Chinese world view, were in terms of time.” Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, Vol. 5, p. 222
Time is the first expression of the interaction between Heaven and Earth, philosophically speaking and also in real terms, that is time is the measurement of the apparent motion of the heavenly bodies around the Earth.
Because, according to Daoism, we are born from the interaction between Heaven and Earth, all living creatures are physiologically time sensitive. Yin and yang were early on depicted in relationship to the Sun (the Sun rising over a flag, or the sunny and shady side of a mountain). The five elements are expressions of qualities of the seasons. The twelve main meridians are related to the twelve branches, just as the ten organs are related to the ten stems. Even the number of the main acupuncture points (idealised as 360 in the Nei Jing, and presently complete at 361) is related to the calendar, the Jupiter cycle and the interaction between the Sun and Moon.
In this book the term ‘Stems and Branches acupuncture’ is used in the broadest sense: it is an acupuncture style which stresses the importance of the relationship between Heaven, Earth, and Humanity, and Time as it accords with that relationship.
The approach presented here is therefore Daoist, closely modelled on Huang-Lao Daoism. Huang-Lao Daoism , as explained by Major in the introduction to his translation of Huainanzi, is a combination of the teachings expressed by Lao Zi and cosmological ideas centred on the Sun God Huang Di.
The early Han text, Huainanzi, is heavily borrowed from by the Neijing. That the Neijing refers specifically to Huang Di in its title expresses more than a reverential bow to the mythical Yellow Emperor. It lays down Time and our connection with the heavens as the foundation stone of medical theory.

This approach to acupuncture could therefore be called Huang-Lao acupuncture, or maybe simply Daoist acupuncture, but what it is not is an acupuncture by numbers system that has unfortunately become associated with ‘Stems and Branches’ when this term is used in its narrowest sense to refer to the specific stem and branch of the day or hour.
This book is organised in three sections.
Section One – This section deals with the basic principles which underlie acupuncture. It is my intention that this section provide not simply a quick revision of familiar concepts, but that it deepens our understanding of the fundamentals.
Section Two – This section deals with the technicalities of time and fits the sexagesimal stems and branches into the broader context of time and its interweaving cycles.
Section Three – This section deals with more advanced concepts which, while not absolutely imperative to the practice of acupuncture, will undoubtedly throw a light on the more obscure passages from the Nei Jing and put to rest most of the shadowy confusions and perplexities which bedevil a substantial number of acupuncturists. In fact in exploring these concepts, I was struck by how even the most esoteric passages were easily illuminated by reframing them in the context of time. Many of the frankly occult references were settled by an understanding of Han astronomy.
This book sets out to explain this system in detail, both its philosophical basis and its practical applications. Regardless of one’s preferred acupuncture ‘style’, many of these concepts can easily be integrated into practice.
Because of the interconnected nature of this theory you may at times feel lost, as if in a maze of disturbing complexity. This feeling can initially accompany a shift in mental processing that happens once we build up a substantial linkage between the various groups of correspondences.
I can only say that if you take it slowly and, if you wish to, integrate the concepts one step at a time, you will eventually reach the heart of this maze. The odd thing is that once you reach the centre and grasp the core concepts, the previously opaque walls turn crystal and it all suddenly seems so very simple.
I do hope you enjoy The Complete Stems and Branches: time and Space in Traditional Acupuncture, as others have done.

Reviews of the Complete Stems and Branches: Time and Space in Traditional Acupuncture.
“This is the best, most practical explanation in English to date of Stems and branches theory. You will thank yourself for buying it and your patients will thank you as well.” Chinadoc.
“When I picked up your book I knew I had found someone who really understands and can teach the fundamentals of Traditional Taoist Acupuncture. I find this very exciting.” Nell Carr, acupuncturist Maryland, USA
“I have found this book an incredible resource for my own use in the treatment room and my understanding of Traditional Chinese medicine. This area of Traditional Acupuncture has been quite difficult to understand. This book is quite a demanding read but it is incredibly informative and interesting and with relevant case histories and practical questions and advice.” Penny Clay, acupuncturist Southampton.
“This is a most enjoyable book exploring some difficult subjects of Chinese medicine.” Sam Patel, acupuncturist and acupuncture teacher – Journal Of Oriental Medicine.
“I have taken it upon myself to thoroughly research and understand the notions of the celestial stems and terrestrial branches, and their pertinence to chrono-treatment methods. This led me to purchase your book, and I must say I’ve found it wonderful resource for helping one to dig further into the many puzzles that emerge from this very complex subject.” Grayson Wood – acupuncturist Rhode Island, USA
“This book is worth reading for those who wish to get closer to the essential roots of classical acupuncture. If one spends any time in China, Korea, or Japan, one is struck by the constant and obsessive attention to the calendrical cycles and issues of time and space and the stars in general. Indeed, study of the Bazi as related to astronomy, little known by many contemporary physicians, was an every day part of medical culture in East Asia up until the twentieth century. This should be a book to whet your interest in an area of much fascination and of considerable clinical significance.” James Flowers, Acupuncturist and Chinese medical practitioner, Australia.
“This is amazing work and I thank you for sharing it with me. Much of what I read here is new to me. There is a great wealth of information here … I find the discussions of time, elements, lunar phases and natural cycles to be very illuminating and reveal more of the depth and breadth of Chinese medicine with each paragraph.…I have found what I have read to be very helpful in connecting me with those wisdoms which are inherently contained within Chinese medicine.” Dr. Stephen Gascoigne, acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist, author.
“This author has done a great deal of research on a very complex concept, and has done a good job on explaining it in terms that the occidental mind can easily grasp. I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to understand the approaches to acupuncture treatment on a much deeper level than is commonly taught in modern schools.”Amazon .com
“This book is indeed a highly aspirational work, as stated in the foreword by Peter Firebrace… to understand the nature of time in all its changing patterns and manifestations and to restore it to its all-but-forgotten position at the heart of Chinese medicine.” To render this theory into print in an accessible and enjoyable format is not an easy task. It is clearly a useful book for the practicing acupuncturist or student of stems and branches acupuncture and also ideal for those who want to delve deeply into Chinese medicine and learn about its resonances with Chinese cosmology.” Rob Hughes, acupuncturist, acupuncture teacher, Journal of Chinese Medicine.
“If you really want to have access to the classics, then you cannot ignore the stem and branch system, as classical authors discuss the cosmology behind medicine at least as much as they discuss diagnosis.” Richard Goodman, author of Chinese Classical Medicine Texts.
This book is also on the recommended reading list of Jeffrey Yuen.