To understand TCM, one has to have a good command of knowledge about Chinese culture, especially the knowledge about philosophy, because the theory of TCM was established in ancient times with the combination of the development in many other fields.
Another access to understanding TCM is to learn anthropology because anthropology focuses on the basic mode of thinking concerning the system of various different kinds of culture. International students are studying TCM in China.
To be aware of the basic philosophic thinking of TCM is prerequisite to the understanding of TCM theory and practice. Treatment based on syndrom differentiation is a typical example. The relationship between human body and diseases is complicated and thus there exists certain contraindication between modern medicine and "science". In Introduction to Experimental Medicine, Claude Bernard (1813-1878) said that he believed that medicine should not be special since it was a science, though doctors often told him that there existed many peculiarities in medicine. TCM believes that no person is exactly the same as any others. Thus there will be no disease that is exactly the same as any others and there will be no treatment that is unchangeable and can be used repeatedly without any modification. In TCM there also exist some decided prescriptions. However in clinical treatment, doctors have to frequently modify these prescriptions to make them suitable to the treatments of different patients. Such phenomena seem to be contradictory to the so-called "repeatability" emphasized by "science". Such a contraindication is actually easy to understand.
According to TCM, the factor responsible for non repeatability is that the treatment in TCM focuses on patients, not on diseases. Since no person is exactly the same as any others, the treatments of patients are of course different. Theoretically speaking, TCM is superior to WM.
Though there is no absolutely identical treatment, in many cases the difference is only reflected in quantity. That is the reason why TCM has developed some basic therapeutic principles and effective prescriptions. In fact the treatment in TCM is not absolutely non-repeatable. Whether it is repeatable or not depends on what criteria one uses in analyzing it. In TCM, "similarity" does not andoesnot always include the same symptoms and "difference" maym be explained as the same disease by modern medicine. If we take clinical manifestations or the "similarity" and "difference" in modern medicine as the criteria, there will be no non-repeatability in TCM.
The 20~th century witnessed twice occurrence of epidemic encephalitis. Western medical doctors used exactly the same therapeutic methods applied in the first time to deal with the second attack, but there was no effect. Doctors of TCM advised them to change the methods and it was proved effective. In the eyes of Western medical doctors, epidemic encephalitis occurred twice was exactly the same, all caused by microorganisms. But in the eyes of TCM doctors, it was different because of the change of seasons and fluctuation of "dampness" and "heat". Another example is bu zhong yi qi wan (pill for tonifying the middle and invigorating qi) developed by Li Gao (1180-1251) and used to treat stomach disease. But doctors now frequently use it to deal with anemia, neurasthenia and proctoptosis. Though the manifestations of these diseases are different, their cause and nature are the same.