The theory and practice of medicine in China has a long and well documented history. Before the introduction of Western medicine into China, there was no reason to identify this set of ideas and applications as “Chinese.”
However, beginning in the Republican Period (1911-1949), traditional medicine began to be seen as an integral part of “strengthening the nation” and was promoted as part of the cultural heritage of China that could be used to help build a new China.
This course will explore how and why “Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)” has been and continues to be an important part of the political and cultural identity of both people and institutions in China.
The core of the course is a study of the concepts of health and disease in Chinese medicine. Many of these concepts, qi, yin and yang, the five phases, empty and full, and the unity of the heavens and humans are part of the fabric of Chinese culture, and are therefore central to understanding other aspects of Chinese culture, such as painting, martial arts, culinary arts, and literature. We will uncover how these seemingly philosophical notions are applied to complex clinical situations through the modalities of acupuncture, herbal medicine, qi gong, and orthopedic manipulations. Case studies from historical sources, modern physicians, and the instructor’s own practice will be discussed, and students will gain an understanding of the thought process behind diagnosis, treatment and evaluation. Scientific research on Chinese medicine and the difficulties in designing and carrying out such research will be explained.
This course is designed to give students a general understanding of the fundamental ideas and practices that constitute traditional medicine in China today. Students will complete this course having an understanding of how philosophical, political, and social frameworks effect the legitimation and transmission of medical knowledge. It is hoped that students will be able to use this as a case example when considering other instances in which “modern” versus “traditional” knowledge is at stake in development policies and discourses. Students will leave the class with a more sophisticated and nuanced view of the differences and similarities between traditional Chinese medicine, biomedicine, and “complementary and alternative medicine”.