Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years. Although the first recorded history of Traditional Chinese Medicine dates back over two thousand years, it is believed that the origins of TCM go back more than five thousand years. According to the legends of China, there are three legendary emperors who played a significant role in history of Traditional Chinese Medicine. First, Fu Xi (around 3000 BC) was a leader who discovered the flow between Heaven and Earth which he embodied in the principles of Yin and Yang. He also created nine needles used in treating acupuncture points. He is considered as the father of acupuncture and moxibustion. Second, Shen Nong (around 3000 BC) is considered as the founder of Chinese herbal medicine. In order to determine the nature of different herbs, Shen Nong sampled various kinds of plants, test and analyze their individual effects. Third, Huang Di (around 475-221 BC) is associated with Huang Di Nei Jing, also known as the Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor which is the earliest and most important written documentation of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment involves the use of modalities such as herb formulas, acupuncture, acupressure, dietary therapy and body practices such as tai chi and qi gong. Although tai chi and qi gong are normally very safe and gentle, be sure to discuss any health or mobility concerns with the instructors. Traditional Chinese herbal products can be easily purchased online. Some of the herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine can interact with drugs, have serious side effects, or be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions. It is recommended that patients should check their doctors to avoid any undesired side effects if they are using any herbal products.
Acupuncture is commonly considered safe when performed by a licensed TCM practitioner. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause potentially serious side effects. Acupressure on the other hand can be self-learned. There is no need to be expert to apply some common acupressure points.
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, all illnesses, is the result of energy imbalance, either in the form of an excess or a deficiency of the body’s elemental energy. Qi, the energy or vital life force flows through your body along pathways known as meridians and is affected by the balance of yin and yang. It regulates our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Your body becomes ill if there is a blockage or imbalance in the energy flow. TCM treatment aims to restore the balance of Qi energy. Yin-yang theory is the concept of two opposing but complementary forces that shape the world and all life. The balance of yin and yang maintains harmony in your body, mind and the universe.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Education
“Develop modern medicine and Chinese traditional medicine” was put into the Constitution and the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine was established in 1986. Two years later, on the basis of the Administration, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology was established. It is responsible for the national management of traditional Chinese medicine and pharmacology, for formulation of developing strategies, guiding principles, policies, laws and regulations, in charge of TCM therapy, health care and rehabilitation programs of traditional Chinese medicine, integrated traditional and western medicine and nationality medicine; and development of scientific techniques, as well as in comprehensive control of the equilibrium between production, supply and marketing of traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine education has developed gradually undergraduate education, postgraduate education. The TCM higher education has been expanded in scale and its professional structure has been rationally regulated. In education of university and college level, with the advance of the reform, some specialized subjects such as TCM foundations, orthopedics and traumatology, massage, preparation of Chinese medicine have been gradually added on the bases of the subjects of traditional Chinese medicine, Chinese pharmacology and acupuncture.
The Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China
Traditional Chinese Medicine in China
The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China
First Edition 2016
I. The Historical Development of TCM
II. Policies and Measures on TCM Development
III. Carrying Forward the Tradition and Ensuring the Development of TCM
IV. International Exchanges and Cooperation in TCM
Humanity has created a colorful global civilization in the long course of its development, and the civilization of China is an important component of the world civilization harboring great diversity. As a representative feature of Chinese civilization, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a medical science that was formed and developed in the daily life of the people and in the process of their fight against diseases over thousands of years. It has made a great contribution to the nation’s procreation and the country’s prosperity, in addition to producing a positive impact on the progress of human civilization.
TCM has created unique views on life, on fitness, on diseases and on the prevention and treatment of diseases during its long history of absorption and innovation. It represents a combination of natural sciences and humanities, embracing profound philosophical ideas of the Chinese nation. As ideas on fitness and medical models change and evolve, traditional Chinese medicine has come to underline a more and more profound value.
Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese government has set great store by TCM and rendered vigorous support to its development. TCM and Western medicine have their different strengths. They work together in China to protect people from diseases and improve public health. This has turned out to be one of the important features and notable strengths of medicine with Chinese characteristics.
I. The Historical Development of TCM
1. History of TCM
In remote antiquity, the ancestors of the Chinese nation chanced to find that some creatures and plants could serve as remedies for certain ailments and pains, and came to gradually master their application. As time went by, people began to actively seek out such remedies and methods for preventing and treating diseases. Sayings like “Shennong (Celestial Farmer) tasting a hundred herbs” and “food and medicine coming from the same source” are characteristic of those years. The discovery of alcohol in the Xia Dynasty (c. 2070-1600 BC) and the invention of herbal decoction in the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC) rendered medicines more effective. In the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC), doctors began to be classified into four categories – dietician, physician, doctor of decoctions and veterinarian. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Period (770-221 BC), Bian Que drew on the experience of his predecessors and put forward the four diagnostic methods – inspection, auscultation & olfaction, inquiry, and palpation, laying the foundation for TCM diagnosis and treatment.
The Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon) compiled during the Qin and Han times (221 BC-AD 220) offered systematic discourses on human physiology, on pathology, on the symptoms of illness, on preventative treatment, and on the principles and methods of treatment. This book defined the framework of TCM, thus serving as a landmark in TCM’s development and symbolizing the transformation from the accumulation of clinical experience to the systematic summation of theories. A theoretical framework for TCM had been in place. The Shang Han Za Bing Lun (Treatise on Febrile Diseases and Miscellaneous Illnesses) collated by Zhang Zhongjing in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) advanced the principles and methods to treat febrile diseases due to exogenous factors (including pestilences). It expounds on the rules and principles of differentiating the patterns of miscellaneous illnesses caused by internal ailments, including their prevention, pathology, symptoms, therapies, and treatment. It establishes the theory and methodology for syndrome pattern diagnosis and treatment differentiation. The Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Shennong’s Classic of Materia Medica) – another masterpiece of medical literature appeared during this period – outlines the theory of the compatibility of medicinal ingredients. For example, it holds that a prescription should include at the same time the jun (or sovereign), chen (or minister), zuo (or assistant) and shi (or messenger) ingredient drugs, and should give expression to the harmony of the seven emotions as well as the properties of drugs known as “four natures” and “five flavors.” All this provides guidance to the production of TCM prescriptions, safe application of TCM drugs and enhancement of the therapeutic effects, thus laying the foundation for the formation and development of TCM pharmaceutical theory. In the late years of the Eastern Han Dynasty, Hua Tuo (c. 140-208) was recorded to be the first person to use anesthetic (mafeisan) during surgery.
The Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing (AB Canon of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) by Huangfu Mi during the Western Jin time (265-316) expounded on the concepts of zangfu (internal organs) and jingluo (meridians and collaterals). This was the point when theory of jingluo and acupuncture & moxibustion began to take shape. Sun Simiao, a great doctor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), proposed that mastership of medicine lies in proficient medical skills and lofty medical ethics, which eventually became the embodiment of a moral value of the Chinese nation, a core value that has been conscientiously upheld by the TCM circles. A herbology and nature masterpiece, the Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) compiled by Li Shizhen in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was the first book in the world that scientifically categorized medicinal herbs. It was a pioneering work that advanced TCM pharmaceutical theory.
The Wen Re Lun (A Treatise on Epidemic Febrile Diseases) by Ye Tianshi during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) developed the principles and methods for prevention and treatment of pestilential febrile diseases. It represents the theory and results of the practice of TCM in preventing and treating such diseases. Following the spread of Western medicine in China from the mid-Qing Dynasty, especially during the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949), some TCM experts began to explore ways to absorb the essence of Western medicine for a combination of TCM with Western medicine.
2. Characteristics of TCM
During its course of development spanning a couple of millennia, TCM has kept drawing and assimilating advanced elements of natural science and humanities. Through many innovations, its theoretical base covered more ground and its remedies against various diseases expanded, displaying unique characteristics.
First, setting great store by the holistic view. TCM deems that the relationship between humans and nature is an interactive and inseparable whole, as are the relationships between humans and the society, and between the internal organs of the human body, so it values the impacts of natural and social environment on health and illness. Moreover, it believes that the mind and body are closely connected, emphasizing the coordination of physical and mental factors and their interactions in the conditions of health and illness.
Second, setting great store by the principle of harmony. TCM lays particular stress on the importance of harmony on health, holding that a person’s physical health depends on harmony in the functions of the various body organs, the moderate status of the emotional expression, and adaption and compliance to different environments, of which the most vital is the dynamic balance between yin and yang. The fundamental reason for illness is that various internal and external factors disturb the dynamic balance. Therefore, maintaining health actually means conserving the dynamic balance of body functions, and curing diseases means restoring chaotic body functions to a state of coordination and harmony.
Third, emphasis on individuality. TCM treats a disease based on full consideration of the individual constitution, climatic and seasonal conditions, and environment. This is embodied in the term “giving treatment on the basis of syndrome differentiation.” Syndrome differentiation means diagnosing an illness as a certain syndrome on the basis of analyzing the specific symptoms and physical signs collected by way of inspection, auscultation & olfaction, inquiry, and palpation, while giving treatment means defining the treatment approach in line with the syndrome differentiated. TCM therapies focus on the person who is sick rather than the illness that the patient contracts, i.e., aiming to restore the harmonious state of body functions that is disrupted by pathogenic factors.
Fourth, emphasis on preventative treatment. Preventative treatment is a core belief of TCM, which lays great emphasis on prevention before a disease arises, guarding against pathological changes when falling sick, and protecting recovering patients from relapse. TCM believes that lifestyle is closely related to health, so it advocates health should be preserved in daily life. TCM thinks that a person’s health can be improved through emotional adjustment, balanced labor and rest, a sensible diet, and a regular life, or through appropriate intervention in the lifestyle based on people’s specific physical conditions. By these means, people can cultivate vital energy to protect themselves from harm and keep healthy.
Fifth, simplicity. TCM doctors diagnose patients through inspection, auscultation & olfaction, inquiry, and palpation. In addition to medication, TCM has many non-pharmacological alternative approaches such as acupuncture and moxibustion, tuina (massage), cupping and guasha (spooning). There is no need for complex equipment. TCM tools, for example, the small splints used in Chinese osteopathy, the spoons used in guasha, or the cups used in cupping therapy, can draw from materials close at hand, so that such treatments can spread easily.
3. TCM’s Contributions
TCM is an important component and a characteristic feature of traditional Chinese culture. Applying such principles as “man should observe the law of the nature and seek for the unity of the heaven and humanity,” “yin and yang should be balanced to obtain the golden mean,” and “practice of medicine should aim to help people,” TCM embodies the core value of Chinese civilization. TCM also advocates “full consideration of the environment, individual constitution, and climatic and seasonal conditions when practicing syndrome differentiation and determining therapies,” “reinforcing the fundamental and cultivating the vital energy, and strengthening tendons and bones,” and “mastership of medicine lying in proficient medical skills and lofty medical ethics,” all concepts that enrich Chinese culture and provide an enlightened base from which to study and transform the world.
TCM originated in the Chinese culture. It explains health and diseases from a macro, systemic and holistic perspective. It shows how China perceives nature. As a unique form of medicine, TCM exercises a profound influence on the life of the Chinese people. It is a major means to help the Chinese people maintain health, cure diseases, and live a long life. The Chinese nation has survived countless natural disasters, wars and pestilences, and continues to prosper. In this process, TCM has made a great contribution.
Born in China, TCM has also absorbed the essence of other civilizations, evolved, and gradually spread throughout the world. As early as the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC-AD 220), TCM was popular in many neighboring countries and exerted a major impact on their traditional medicines. The TCM smallpox vaccination technique had already spread outside of China during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). The Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) was translated into various languages and widely read, and Charles Darwin, the British biologist, hailed the book as an “ancient Chinese encyclopedia.” The remarkable effects of acupuncture and moxibustion have won it popularity throughout the world. The discovery of qinghaosu (artemisinin, an anti-malaria drug) has saved millions of lives, especially in developing countries. Meanwhile, massive imports of medicinal substances such as frankincense and myrrh have enriched TCM therapies.
(Source: The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China)