China, known as a long history and
large population, is a nation with a venerable civilization.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been playing an
important and effective role in curing illness, promoting and
maintaining health of Chinese for the last three thousand
years. Traditional Chinese medicine is a complete medical
system that has diagnosed, treated, and prevented illness.
While it can remedy ailments and alter states of mind, Chinese
medicine can also enhance recuperative power, immunity, and the
capacity for pleasure, work, and creativity. Two classic
medical texts, the Huang Di Nei
Jing (The Yellow Emperor Classic of Internal Medicine, compiled
from 100 B.C. to 100 A.D.) and the Nan Jing (written
circa 100 to 200 A.D.) were important early documents that
presented the core concepts of TCM, and they have informed
generations of scholars and practitioners ever since.
It wasn't until 1971,
however, that Western world really became aware of TCM and of
acupuncture in particular. This came about because James Reston,
a New York Times reporter became stricken with
appendicitis while doing a story on a ping-pong tournament in
Beijing, and was treated for post-surgical pain with acupuncture.
In a front-page Times Story he wrote, "I've seen the
past, and it works!" This exposure came at a time when many
Americans were looking for a more holistic, naturalistic approach
to health care, and caused quite a stir among the Western medical
community. Since then, acupuncture has become a widely accepted
form of treatment in the US and UK, and other aspects of TCM are
gaining supporters as well.
Principles of TCM
The Chinese approach to understanding
the human body is unique. The principle and practices of TCM is
based on the Daoist understanding of a
universe where everything is interdependent and mutually
interactive. Within this universe our mind, body and spirit are
merely different manifestations of the same life force and
consequently cannot be considered separately. The Chinese believe
that health is achieved, and disease prevented, by maintaining
the body in a 'balanced state'. This concept was applied to both
individuals and society at large. In individual terms the ancient
Chinese physicians preached moderation in all things, such as
alcoholic intake and gastronomic excess. They also stated that
daily activities should include mental as well as physical tasks.
The wealthier Chinese visited their doctor when they were well,
paying a retainer to the doctor to keep them healthy. If they
became ill the doctor lost his fee.
Such a highly sophisticated and personal
system of health care is impracticable within the current
limitations of Western society, but the concept behind such ideas
represents a radically different approach to health and disease.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine define
their patientís illness in terms of that
naturally emerge from the Daoist
philosophical principle. The
diagnosis will place the signs and symptoms into an
interdependent tapestry where physical symptoms and emotional
reactions are set alongside social and environmental factors in
order to understand how the energy dynamics of the individual
lead to health and disharmony.
As TCM evolved over the centuries, it
came to include treatment of disease using acupuncture, herbal
medicine, dietary principles, physical
manipulation of the body tissues, therapeutic exercise and
movement (Tai Chi), and the mind-body practice of Qi Gong.
Most of people in the West are very
difficult to understand their health and sickness in terms of
Chinese medicine. Therefore it is very important to understand
what is Chinese medicine all about. In
order to explore this different frame of reference, the following
concepts will be described.