Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) expert and practitioner Giovanni Maciocia died on March 9, 2018, after a long illness. Maciocia was a highly respected professor and author who brought TCM practice to greater prominence throughout Europe and the United States. He was born in 1945, in Naples, Italy, and was the youngest of four children.
After earning a four-year business degree with a focus on accounting, Maciocia left Italy to travel around Europe, where he spent much time in Finland. Around 1968, he arrived in London and got a job in the accounting department at Fiat UK. Around this time, he was trying to find relief from his chronic migraines. By chance, he met a woman who suggested he try acupuncture. He was so impressed with the experience that, coupled with his interest in Chinese philosophy, he was inspired to start reading the few French books about acupuncture that existed then. In 1971, he embarked on a three-year course at the home of Diedericus van Buren, who, in 1974, founded the International College of Oriental Medicine in West Sussex.
These were very early days for acupuncturists in the United Kingdom, with only two elementary books available in English: one by Felix Mann and a book of acupuncture points by Wu Wei-Ping. They were considered precious to students in the ’70s and generated enthusiasm about this system of medicine, which was largely unknown in the West.
Starting in 1974, Maciocia taught my first through third years of acupuncture and TCM, and he had a rare talent for imparting his knowledge clearly and concisely to his students. The college considered my note-taking to be exemplary, so my notes of his lectures became part of the college source material. Those notes were photocopied and sold around the world; such was the demand for information on Chinese medicine in English.
Maciocia had many interests, and he pursued them with huge devotion. In the early ’70s, he became interested in early American folk music, especially blues great Huddie Ledbetter (“Lead Belly”). He taught himself to read music, then play the guitar and piano, becoming proficient at both. When he started teaching acupuncture, he realized the need to learn Chinese in order to expand his knowledge. Within two years, he became proficient in the language, adding to his fluency in English, Italian, French, Finnish, and, later, Spanish.
Maciocia was blessed with a photographic memory and studied extensively from the Chinese classics. Eventually, he developed an encyclopedic knowledge of TCM, which he later was able to impart to his students. He learned tai chi, which he practiced daily for many years, and later became an instructor. Maciocia also had an interest in Western herbal medicine, so he took the National Institute of Medical Herbalists course and qualified in 1977. He traveled to China in 1980, 1982, and 1987 to complete postgraduate courses in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He worked with eminent physicians there, earned numerous certificates, and later was appointed Honorary Associate Professor at the university. He also completed a two-year course in Chinese herbal medicine with Ted Kaptchuk, DOM, in the mid-’80s in the United States.
In 1987, Maciocia launched the first school of Chinese herbal medicine in London with Michael McIntyre. He then created a range of Chinese herbal formulas designed to treat common Western ailments. His line of “Three Treasures,” “Women’s Treasures,” and “Little Treasures” pills comprise 91 different formulae. He recognized the need for more comprehensive books on Chinese medicine, so he turned his attention to writing some of the most highly regarded textbooks on various aspects of TCM. Over a period of 28 years, he wrote seven books in total, as well as five new editions of the originals, and they have been translated into 10 languages.
Maciocia loved opera and knew many arias by heart. Beethoven was another passion of his, especially the Third Symphony because it “broke all the rules.” He was also very keen on English football, or “soccer.” He admitted his two heroes were Kenny Dalglish (a footballer) and Sun Simiao (a famous Chinese doctor from the Tang dynasty). This exemplifies Maciocia’s diverse character.
His passion for Latin American music led him to learn salsa dancing in the last decade of his life. He continued to dance during his illness, and was famous for hosting the best salsa parties in Santa Barbara, California, complete with mariachi bands, fire dancers, and taqueros. In the months before his death, he became interested in the history of World War II, and read great tomes on the subject. His thirst for knowledge was insatiable throughout his life. His greatest gift was his generosity in sharing his knowledge with others, particularly his students of Chinese medicine. He did this by lecturing worldwide, hosting webinars, creating numerous online courses, giving clinical tips on social media, making videos, and writing articles and books.
The world has lost a great mind and an inspirational teacher. I am extremely grateful to have been one of his students and a close friend for 45 years.
—Linda Upton Member,
British Acupuncture Council Member,
Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Cheltenham, United Kingdom