History of ATS

(and) 30 Years of The ATS Model at Work

While studying Mandarin in Taipei in 1986, Andrew Nugent-Head was hit by a speeding taxi. Realizing he had broken the metatarsals in his right foot, he had to make a choice: go to a hospital and risk pins, screws, and plates in a strange country where he did not yet speak the language or try its traditional Chinese medicine. Along with studying Mandarin, Andrew had been studying martial arts and his teacher was also a practitioner of Chinese medicine. Andrew had been watching patients of every kind be treated by the traditional doctor every day during his training. It was a choice which changed the direction of his life. Through daily treatments of herbs and acupuncture, Andrew’s bones healed in record speed, leaving Andrew reveling in the efficacy of a medicine he knew nothing about. Wanting to learn what he had experienced, Andrew chose to move to China and study the traditional medicine he had experienced first-hand.

Moving to Beijing in 1987, Andrew set out to find the very best doctors in what was once the Imperial City and center of Chinese culture. He worked his way deeply into the traditional circles of medicine, martial arts, and internal cultivation practitioners. In just a few short years, Andrew became the go-to interpreter for them and became one of the leading authorities on where to find China’s remaining authentic traditional practices. By 1994, Andrew had been featured on NBC, ABC, ZDF, Canal+, and the PBS special Healing and the Mind for his dedication to the traditional arts.

The PBS series Healing and the Mind’s episode The Mystery of Qi was a watershed moment for Andrew and the impetus to founding the Association for Traditional Studies. The program aimed to share eastern concepts of health and wellness to the western world, but China’s political reality had different plans for the show. Wanting the foreign producers to only work with officially approved experts, the ministries of health and education required approval of all content. Bill Moyers tasked Andrew with finding traditional doctors outside of the government willing to appear on film and share their traditional practices, but few were willing to discuss practices and ideologies they suffered for just decades prior in the Cultural Revolution.

The struggle of traditional Chinese medicine in the modern world begins with the fall of the last dynasty and the founding of the Republic of China in 1911. Sun Yatsen, Cheng Kaishek, and the other founding fathers of the Republic were foreign educated modernists who had converted to Christianity, eschewing China’s rich culture. They sought to stamp out everything they believed as backward and superstitious in their bid to free China from its past. This included marginalizing traditional medicine as they pushed for the establishment of western run hospitals in the cities and Christian missionary clinics in rural areas. Declaring Chinese medicine unscientific in 1928, it was excluded from government run medicine initiatives. Following a Japanese Invasion, World War II, then a civil war from which the Communists emerged victorious over the Nationalists in 1949, health and medicine was in a shambles in China. Over the next ten years, the fledgling government ran two major initiatives for Chinese medicine and then a political campaign which forever changed how it was practiced and by whom.

The first initiative was the institutionalization of Chinese medicine. Seeking to use western science to parse out what was real and what was superstition, only made sense with modern medicine became the focus of study and research. The second was the launching of the barefoot doctors. Given the lack of any infrastructure, accessibility or electricity in countryside, Chinese medicine was chosen as a band-aid for rural areas. Quickly trained ‘health experts’ were sent out with the most basic of training and became the face of acupuncture in the country and overseas. But the true devastation to traditional Chinese medicine began in 1966 with the launching of the Cultural Revolution. According to the Washington Post, between famine and pogroms, it is now believed that Mao was responsible for the death of 40-80 million people. Among the targets of his pogroms were any who were part of China’s traditional heritage, including its doctors.

Trying to recover from the devastation of Mao’s policies, the ministry of education returned to modernizing Chinese medicine as its focus after his passing in 1976. The belief was a blend of eastern medicine with western science would yield better outcomes. Yet research by other branches of the government revealed this blended medicine was clinically less effective than its traditional counterpart. This clash came to a head in 1989, when the national government stepped in to launch a campaign to save traditional medicine as an important part of China’s cultural heritage. In 1990, 500 doctors were identified whose training pre-dated any modernized Chinese medicine influence. Each old doctor was to be paired with two disciples for deep mentorship, aiming for the disciples to return traditional mindsets and techniques back to the hospitals and teaching institutions. Sadly, politics and corrupt bureaucracies derailed the effort, and the initiative never got off the ground.

By 1992, the heartbreak among the old doctors of this failure and fear of vindictive officials who opposed the initiative changed Andrew’s calling from studying Chinese medicine into a mission to save it. Drawing from his experience with the PBS series and his relationship with the old scholars, Andrew founded the Association for Traditional Studies and set out to accomplish on a small scale what the government could not at the national level. Working directly with individual practitioners, Andrew became their student, documenter, translator, and bridge for their voices and knowledge to reach the outside world. He brought groups of westerners to China to study with the practitioners and organized seminars in Europe and the United States for them to reach an international audience. ATS’ mission: let the world know the difference between modern and traditional Chinese medicine and see the difference in efficacy themselves. The mission was also to generate income for the traditional practitioners through teaching so they could focus on recording their knowledge in their final years. While ATS helped many practitioners during its China years, Andrew focused its efforts on three specific practitioners. Over almost three decades, he archived their writings, treatment notes, herbal formulas, and recorded hundreds of hours of audio and video footage. These three practitioners were:

  • The late Professor Wang Jin-Huai, a classics scholar famous for his commentaries on Daoism. Calligrapher extraordinaire whose pieces are in collections around the world, Professor Wang was also a practitioner of Chinese medicine from a family lineage. Professor Wang shaped ATS’ early preservation years until leaving China for the United States on an O-1 Visa for persons of extraordinary talent to practice his arts free of government interference.
  • The late Dr. Xie Peiqi, the last of one of China’s most storied martial art-Chinese medicine-internal cultivation lineages: Yin Style Bagua. An outspoken critic of the modernizing of traditional Chinese culture, Dr. Xie worked with ATS in its middle years to create a comprehensive video archive of Yin Style Bagua’s authentic lineage. Already in his 70s when he met Andrew, they traveled together to the United States and England to teach his art while he still could. His efforts to record and openly teach the Yin Style Bagua lineage is the foundation of ATS’ in person seminar and online education platform initiatives.
  • The late Professor Li Hongxiang, who was one of the brightest stars of the Chinese government’s attempt to save traditional medicine in 1990. Bitter with its failure, he became a reclusive practitioner, almost impossible to find and see as a patient. Over seven years, Andrew patiently worked to befriend him, convincing him to share his knowledge before he passed. Deeply impressed with Andrew’s dedication and integrity, Professor Li made an unheard-of decision: to name a foreigner his Closing Door Disciple, declaring Andrew the final student he would pass on his knowledge to. Andrew then spent an additional six years with Professor Li as his disciple in the clinic. Along with his wife and fellow practitioner JulieAnn[1], Andrew studied and discussed ancient medical texts with Professor Li in his home, filming years of teaching. Determined that authentic, clinically focused Chinese medicine would not be lost, Professor Li demanded a level of scholarship from Andrew and JulieAnn rarely seen today.

With the passing of these practitioners, Andrew and JulieAnn returned to the United States in 2014. Honoring their teachers’ wishes, they established an open style clinic outside of China dedicated to teaching Chinese medicine free of its influence. Since 2015, practitioners from all over the world[2] have been traveling to the Alternative Clinic in Asheville, North Carolina to learn Chinese medicine the way it was taught to Andrew and JulieAnn. Through generous support in 2020, ATS moved into a two-story clinic and teaching facility, providing intensive training courses for practitioners as well as health and wellness programs for the local community. To combat the use of overharvested, pesticided and often contaminated herbs in the commercial supply chain, Andrew and JulieAnn also established Appalasia Farm. Appalasia Farm grows heirloom quality medicinal herbs, acting as a teaching facility for regional farmers to learn how go from farm to pharmacy, field to finished product. With over 30 years of incredible history behind them, Andrew and JulieAnn are dedicated to taking the three pillars of the ATS mission into the next 30 years:



  • JulieAnn and Andrew teach post graduate training programs in acupuncture, herbs, and manual therapies, exposing practitioners around the globe to clinically focused Chinese medicine theory and techniques.
  • Seminars are filmed and edited into online program content for ATS’ robust online educational platform. Using online learning as well as in person teaching creates broader audience exposure and removes geographical barriers to learning Chinese medicine.



  • The clinic works to influence public opinion about alternative medicine by providing effective Chinese medicine treatments across a wide patient base. The clinic provides over 5,000 treatments each year to local, regional, national, and international patients who come to Asheville to seek care at the clinic.
  • The clinic offers advanced mentorship and real life clinical training opportunities for practitioners of Chinese medicine around the world. By training at the Alternative Clinic, practitioners take a higher level of medicine back to their cities and countries, influencing their patient bases and colleagues with the knowledge they learned at the clinic.



  • Using its own farm as a model, ATS is encouraging small scale farmers to grow medicinal herbs. The overharvesting and depletion of plants by large scale agribusiness throughout Asia means more and more herbal medicines are hard to source and are of suspect quality. The farm’s work includes the preservation of heirloom quality herbs which are vastly superior in efficacy as well as using indigenous medicinal plants already adapted to growing locally.
  • Leveraging its experience from farm to pharmacy to formula, ATS uses its vertical knowledge to help farmers grow, harvest, process and then access the Chinese medicine market domestically. There is a increasing desire to use locally grown, organic herbs, but there is little training for western farmers on how to grow and process herbs to Chinese medicine specifications, nor training for practitioners on how to use domestically grown and native medicinal plants in their clinics. ATS must fill this void quickly as the herbal supply chain from China is already being restricted due to internal demand, import restrictions and concerns of contamination.



As ATS heads into its next 30 years, growing these three pillars beyond the single efforts of Andrew and JulieAnn into an infrastructure that continues past them is ATS’ most important mission. Recreating the in-depth mentorship the Nugent-Heads experienced in China is the focus of the next phase of ATS.

The last 30 years have spread seeds of traditionally practiced Chinese medicine globally, with the digital material that will last long after the Nugent-Heads. However, to cement the legacy of the traditional practitioners, ensure authentic Chinese medicine is passed on to another generation, and that quality medicinal herbs remain available is the capstone of this great project.

[1] JulieAnn Nugent-Head met Andrew while studying Chinese medicine. After a master’s degree in Chinese medicine and hospital internships run by ATS in Beijing in 2004 and 2005, JulieAnn moved to China full time in 2006. Joining ATS, she became a second student of the old doctors. During her eight years in China, she studied with them in their clinics, helped record their knowledge, and earned a doctorate at the Zhejiang University of Chinese Medicine before returning to the United States in 2014.

[2] Aside from US and Canada based practitioners, the Alternative Clinic has trained practitioners from England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Luxemburg, Holland, Israel, Australia, and China.

I quote the passage below almost every day in the clinic, to share guidance from the ancient Chinese for cultivating health and longevity.  It is incredible to me that more than four thousand years ago, the sages understood how to live well and live long, and I find it incredibly fortunate that we have their words to guide us today.

It is easy to believe the ancients had powerful elixirs and secret lineage practices that extended life or made one immortal.  It is certain there are those who dabbled in alchemy, and it is undeniable that qi practices are helpful.  However, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, among the most famous texts of Chinese culture, does not promote anything secret or magical.  The Emperor is told one could live to 100 years of age with an active mind and agile body by simply following the rhythms of nature and being in balance; body and mind.

What is the lesson? Do not spend your resources, do not exhaust your essence. Do not overwork, do not overdrink or overeat, do not over sex, do not over desire.  By not being depleted, illness does not arise, and the body and mind will thrive as it was destined to do.  This is especially apt today in a busy world with so many influences.  We must recognize it is how we live our lives and how we deplete ourselves that results in health or illness.

For more discussion on how to live long, and live well, join JulieAnn on May 17 at the Pollinator’s Hive at Folkmoot in Waynesville, NC to drink tea, chat about longevity and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.  For more information and to register for the 2024 wellness challenge, click here.


From The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine approximately 2600 BCE

The Emperor asks: I have heard the great ancients lived to the year 100, with sharp minds and agile body. Yet, the people of today, at half of that age, are already showing illness and declie. How can this be understood, and how did the ancients achieve such longevity?

The Teacher replies: the generations before us, they understood the DAO, they followed the laws of yin and yang, lived by the rhythms of nature.  Food and drink were not overly consumed, they had regularity in activity and rest. They were not rash in thoughts or action, thus avoiding exhaustion.  They achieved sage-like longevity, living out their full destiny, and did not pass away until the age of 100.

The people of this time are not this way; they are rash in action, quickly following their heart’s desire to attain happiness and joy.  They use alcohol as a daily drink, entering the bedroom intoxicated – and thus exhaust their deep-essence. Depleting the body’s true resources, they do not achieve contentment, and they expire at the age of 50

The ancients understood that avoiding illness begins by not becoming depleted: including prevention of illness from pathogenic influences and sudden weather changes.   The ancients understood that when the rhythms of life are in harmony with nature, the qi is strengthened, the essence and the spirit is stored. By lessening one’s desires,  by being in balance, one is not affected by the influences and thus maintains great health for a great many years.



2024 Residency Teaching Clinic

Exceptional Medical Care for $75!

As an education focused not for profit, our mission is to raise the bar of medicine through meaningful and hands-on clinical training. Our 2024 resident-practitioners were selected from a competitive pool of highly experienced, licensed practitioners, and will be with us for the entire year as we aim to recreate the in-depth mentorship we had in China!

Meet Our Residents:

Tonia is a practitioner for the Austrian Olympic team, travelling with and treating athletes during competitions throughout Europe, China and beyond!

Loren is a professor at YoSan Chinese Medicine University and is in private practice in Los Angeles. Fluent in Chinese, he is a scholar and translator of ancient medical texts.

As part of their training, we are running a Residency Teaching Clinic focused on physical injuries. Available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, treatments are overseen by Andrew, JulieAnn or David, creating a platform to practice great medicine and teach others how to do the same. Teaching clinic appointments offer a longer session at a more affordable price!


Herbal prescription is not possible in this acupuncture and bodywork focused treatment.  Benefit from excellent care at affordable prices, and help us train a generation of scholar-level practitioners!

The Significance of the Chinese Zodiac

This year, the year of the Dragon, is one of the most desired Chinese zodiac signs.  Dragons are believed to be powerful, confident and talented.

In the west, there are astrological associations with personality types as well, matched to a cycle of one year rather than revolutions of twelve. Correlation with a constellation or animal’s personality is not meant to be esoteric or magical.  It is simply the astute recognition of relationships between human and nature. Depending on what zodiac year or constellation you were born into both systems recognize underlying tendencies which reflect the year of your birth, the season, and influence of the moon and starsWhatever relevance you feel the zodiac plays in your life, the point of knowing astrological correlations was not designed as blind doctrine in either east or the west. A sign neither defines one’s qualities nor excuses one’s behaviour, but rather, informs what we may need to temper or awaken in ourselves to cultivate our greatest health and balance. Zodiac correlations could thus be considered a mirror to inspect one’s strengths, weaknesses and propensities.   A zodiac sign with predilection to stubbornness or jealously, for example, encourages one to be aware of and manage the tendency rather than give in to it as if preordained. A zodiac sign encourages us to ‘tune our instruments’, make conscious choices and observe our actions.

While on the surface the Chinese zodiac is a correlation with the personality traits of an animal, in actuality, it is a method to mark the cycles of nature in small and large revolutions.  This reminds us that the timing of our choices and actions lends to luck or misfortune, encouraging us to be conscious of the changes inside and outside of us to live each cycle in harmony.

The ancient Chinese were constantly searching for patterns and repetitions to understand the world around them and predict and prepare for coming years. Calendaring the movements of sun, moon, and stars was one of the highest mandates in ancient China. Through incredible observation, they recognized patterns in the sun and moon, the stars and seasons, and repetition in a 12 year cycle. Thus, the zodiac has 12 animals.  The ancients noted recurrent changes through 5 cycles of 12 years, as well as 10 revolutions of 12. Thus, to achieve the greatest longevity is to cultivate balance within oneself, to live through 10 cycles of 12 and achieve the ripe age of 120!

Changes for us in 2024

As Andrew and I personally look at whether we are making the choices to age ‘successfully’ in our 5th cycle of 12, we recognize the important balance between self cultivation and our clinic’s not for profit mission to pass on the medicine we learned from our teachers. We thus gently begin to shift away from teaching to large groups around the world, and focus on deeply training select individuals at our clinic in Asheville.

2024 is our first year to welcome long-term residents, and are excited to introduce Loren Stiteler and Tonia Scharpantgen. Both have trained with us for many years, and were selected for an in-depth year long mentorship program. Their mission is not just to learn from us, but to take exceptional medicine back to their home clinics and become the next generation of scholar-practitioners.  We are excited to have them with us as they give back to our community through practice sessions and increased availability for wellness treatments.  We hope you will support their development by booking treatments, giving feedback and helping them hone skills. This, we feel, is the capstone to our mission to continue our teacher’s legacy of great medicine.


Foot Massages Now Available!

With Tonia and Loren on board, I am ecstatic to announce we now have foot massages available. If you haven’t experienced a Chinese foot massage, please treat yourself to this fantastic service! Foot massage is truly what I miss the most since returning from China. Andrew and I, with our children Ian and Niame (28 and 25 years old this year), enjoyed foot massages every week when we lived in Beijing, admittedly a much more affordable treatment compared to massage in the west.  In China, rows of reclining armchairs in large open rooms allow business men and groups of friends to relax and chat away over a cup of tea.  Foot massage is not only common for all walks of life, it is a crucial component of successful business deals! As a culture that recognizes the importance of longevity, Chinese foot massage utilizes bodywork and pressing points on the feet to relax feet and legs, improve circulation, stimulate internal organs and enhance the immune system.

While our clinic cannot re-create the vibrant social experience of a foot massage in China, it is the wellness treatment I am most excited to offer. I will be receiving a foot massage as often as I can, and hope to reverse some of the aging my body is humbly revealing!

As New Year holidays, east and west, encourage us to demarcate a moment of time, it is a wonderful excuse to reflect, and return to being conscious of our actions and our choices.  If each day is deemed anew, we have each new day to enjoy as the gift it is. I wish all of you a wonderful year to come.

JulieAnn, Asheville February 2024

2024 Is The Year of the Dragon: Are You Ready?

My teacher, Dr Xie Pieqi, used to say: “Age is not the number of years we have lived, but the number of injuries we ignore. As they add up, we slow down. We are able to do less and less, and we blame our age instead of addressing our injuries.”

It is certain we are responsible for how we age, yet our age is not responsible for how we feel. As I personally approach 60, I am taking this to heart in 2024. It is never too late to put our health first and enjoy age without infirmity. My own focus this year is addressing my ignored injuries and illnesses–and I invite you to join me in this commitment to self-care and wellness at our clinic.

To make ourselves healthy again, we are expanding our clinic team. Along with JulieAnn, myself, David and Hannah, we have two seasoned practitioners training with us for a year long residency: Loren and Tonya. Both of these practitioners will focus on treating physical injuries and rebuilding body-health. We also welcome Danielle Hill to our team as massage therapist. Dani is excited for immersion in our clinic while she completes her Chinese medicine degree. We are training her in several Chinese massage techniques to ensure her treatments don’t just make you feel good, but address those old injuries and make you better!

Join me in my commitment to self-health in 2024–whether you see me as a patient or you gift yourself wellness treatments from our excellent staff, I urge you to take charge of how you age. Whether you are young and proactive or aging like me, everyone has something they can work on. Let “Be Well This Year” be your motto.

On behalf of all of us, I thank you for your support of our not for profit clinic.  We in turn are thankful to be part of your health-care team.  Schedule an appointment in this new year and take that first step to living your best–regardless of how old you are.

Andrew Nugent-Head
founder & Chief Practitioner
Alternative Clinic Asheville

The oldest surviving Chinese materia medica, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Farmer’s Classic of Materia Medica), categorised 365 herbs according to three categories: 120 ‘upper’ (上 shang) herbs, 120 ‘middle’ (中 zhong) herbs; and 125 ‘lower’ (下 xia) herbs. This article discusses the clinical implications of this tripartite organisation, which goes far beyond being a mere indicator of the level of toxicity of the herbs documented. It also includes a discussion of the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing’s categories of jun, chen, zuo or shi (chief, assistant, envoy and messenger), the meaning of which differs significantly from the typical current interpretation of these terms.

The First Materia Medica- The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing

Herbs classified by upper middle and lower category by the Shen Nong Ben Cao and Ming Yi Bie Lu:  SNBC & MYBL herbs


Yin Style Bagua is system of personal cultivation that can be divided into two major categories: martial arts and health. The healing practices of YSB include the practice of Chinese medicine to heal others and the practice of internal cultivation (Daoyin, often referred to as Qigong) to heal oneself of illness and maintain vitality into old age.

The self healing side of Yin Style Bagua contains 3 major practices. They were drawn from Daoist and Buddhist roots and then interwoven within the Book of Changes understanding of the universe and of the human as its reflection.

• The Eight Healing Sounds of Yin Style Bagua

• The Twelve Guiding Energy Sitting Meditations of Yin Style Bagua

• The Luohan Patting System of Yin Style Bagua

These videos are available from our store at traditionalstudies.org, as part of the Healing Without Medicines series filmed with Dr. Xie Pieqi.  Below, find Andrew Nugent-Head offering a brief introduction to one of the three Daoyin practices of YSB; the Luohan Patting System.

Patting Introduction Video

Simple Patting Practice


Please find the video instructions for large pot preparation below:


Please find the video instructions for thermos method herb preparation below:


Please find video instructions for stovetop herb cooking method below:

If the Yi Jing (Book of Changes) is the flesh and bones that make up classical Chinese thought and culture, then Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing is its heart and soul. Continually sparking new translations and commentaries, it is second only to the Christian Bible in the number of books, commentaries, writings and arguments generated since it was first ‘published’ in the Warring States period–and it is certainly the most important for any practitioner or scholar of the Chinese arts.

Long the dream of ATS founder Andrew Nugent-Head to translate and elucidate this classic in the manner in which the late Professor Wang Jin-Huai taught him, Andrew has begun sharing the Dao De Jing in seminar format.

We have created this page as a resource for our patients to watch and learn more about the Eight Healing Sounds which are part of the Chinese medical paradigm of Dao Yin, commonly understood today as internal cultivation, or Qi Gong.

Traditionally, a doctor would practice internal cultivation to keep his own body healthy, as well prescribe sounds and other Dao Yin exercises to patients.  In Chinese, Dao Yin simply means guiding and leading.  In these videos one guides their attention, breath and sound to different areas of the body, and thus leads and flows circulation.  By having good flow and circulation the 100 diseases will not manifest.  We hope you enjoy these videos.

Ways To Practice the Eight Healing Sounds

01 The Ah Sound

02 The Ha Sound

03 The Heng Sound

04 The Hu Sound

05 The Mer Sound

06 The Xu Sound

07 The Yi Sound

08 The Hong Sound

Questions About The Eight Healing Sounds?