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Tradition chinese Medicine of Formation and Variation

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Updated: Monday, Mar 22,2010, 3:58:01 PM
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It is true that for quite a long time in history Chinese people regarded their country as the greatest land in the center of the world and taken their culture as the most excellent one in the universe. However, China has never stopped absorbing nutrients from cultures developed in other countries. In the medical field, the influence of foreign cultures on Chinese medicine appeared quite differently at the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and in the early period of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Before the period between the Late Ming Dynasty and the early stage of the Qing Dynasty, medicines from India,Arabian world and the middle southern Asian and western southern Asian regions were already introduced into China. However, such an introduction did not lead to any conflict because these medical systems were not totally   Por different from Chinese medicine in nature. That was why most of the therapeutic methods and medical knowledge   dis~ from these medical systems were adopted by the Chinese medicine. The adoption of the technique for removal of cataract was a typical example. Even in 1805 when smallpox vaccination was introduced into China, Chinese doctors still maintained their traditional way of thinking and believed that smallpox vaccination would be safer than variolization because cows were meeker than men.

Later when Western medicine, which was based on anatomy and substantial evidence, was introduced into China, Chinese doctors still rigidly stuck to the ideas that the Western medicine can be incorporated in the Cl~inese medicine and Western studies were originated from that of the Chinese. Only when some people appealed to abolish TCM as was done in Japan during its reform did Chinese doctors realized the unprecedented crises facing them.

Things have changed with the lapse of time. Now when we are studying TCM as a system of knowledge, it is unnecessary to mention the efforts made by TCM doctors in the past to struggle for the existence of TCM. The important thing is to see what has changed in TCM under the influence and pressure of foreign medicine.

Firstly, there would be no such a term as TCM if Western medicine had not been introduced into China. And there would be no such a concept of traditional medicine if the Western medicine developed in the West had not dominated over the whole world. Only when the Western system of medicine was introduced into China did Chinese people begin to think about the difference between the Chinese medicine and the Western medicine. Only when the existence of Chinese medicine was threatened did Chinese medical doctors start to defend for themselves, expounding the advantages and value of Chinese medicine and making use of the advantages of the Western Tools used to prepare medicines in the Imperial Hospital of the Qing Dynasty. medicine. If one looks at the medical journals and books published in the early 20th century, he will find how doctors of TCM imitated those of the WM to establish the theoretical system ofTCM from the aspects of etiology, pathology, therapeutics and pharmacy. By carefully analyzing the compiling styles of these journals and books, one can easily find that doctors of TCM then unconsciously imitated the thinking of WM and tried to learn how to analyze problems and think rationally.

Secondly, the introduction of WM into China had brought much basic scientific knowledge of biology to TCM. According to Huang Di Nei ling (Yellow Emperor's Canon of Medicine), the region beneath which the heart beats was considered as the major Collateral of the stomach because human beings depended on food to exist and perform physiological activities; urine was infused into the bladder from the small intestine. Such ideas in TCM were gradually replaced by modern scientific knowledge of biology. Similarly, only when the WM had been introduced into China were practitioners of TCM able to understand that the so-called jing luo (Channels or meridians) were not blood vessels. And that made them to think carefully about the nature of jing luo and zangfu (viscera). It was just based on such a new understanding that the theory of jing  luo and the theory of zang xiang (viscera and their  manifestations) were established.

Thirdly, under the pressure of WM, doctors of TCM actively took measures to defend, promote and invigorate TCM by means of setting up schools, starting training programs, publishing journals, organizing societies, translating TCM books from Japanese into Chinese and  developing traditional Chinese drugs. All these changes show that the introduction of WM into China, to some extent, has promoted the development of TCM. Historically, the introduction of any culture into a country will inevitably enrich and sublimate the culture of that country. Modern Western science is also a sort of culture and will not bring any harm to TCM. Instead, it will provide TCM with more chances to develop.

As a continuity of the collision between TCM and WM in a special period in history, the compilation of textbooks of TCM in 1958 by several colleges of TCM under the supervision of Health Ministry had epoch-making significance. Ever since then, there appeared a course known as Essentials of TCM and the concept of Basic Theory of TCM. To compile a new-styled textbook of TCM is of cause a systematic study of TCM. But it is more like a re-establishment of the traditional ideas about medicine, selecting the essential parts as the basic foundation of TCM through carefully differentiating the false from the truth. Several decades later, the  basic structure and content of TCM textbooks have almost remained  unchanged, though the textbooks have been re-compiled and revised for several times.

In this re-constructed "tradition", the theory of Channels no longer includes the ideas that the visible ones in the body surface are Collaterals while the ones running deep in the viscera are Channels and that the bluish color of the vessels indicates cold while the reddish color of the vessels indicates heat. According to the revised theory of TCM, wu zang (five zang-organs) and liufu (six fu-organs) are defined as a physiological unit, not equivalent to the anatomic organs and no longer relating them to the hierarchy of imperial court. The theory of acupuncture and moxibustion is no longer a collective term for external therapeutic methods including incising ulcers and carbuncles, but defined as "the therapeutic methods for adjusting the flow of qi and blood and regulating the functions of viscera through physical stimulation".

It has been worked out that the basic feature of TCM, which is also its major difference from WM, is treatment based on syndrome differentiation, which means to  differentiate the clinical manifestations of various diseases, with the  consideration of the constitution of the patients, into different syndromes (such as deficiency, excess, cold or heat syndromes). Many TCM doctors believe that this therapeutic principle was established by Zhang Zhongjing (150-219), a great doctor in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). However, such an idea could not be so sophisticated if WM had not been introduced into China.   Because in Chinese language, the original Chinese characters for syndrome and symptom mean the same thing though their morphological structure is a little different. And actually doctors in the past had never thought about differentiation between the two characters and the two concepts. In the old books, no matter deficiency, excess, cold and heat or abdominal pain and dizziness, they were all used as the names of diseases.

Tags: Traditional Medicine Chinese

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