Historical development of Chinese medicine

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Chinese medicine consists of many different schools, all of which have developed under differing environmental and geographical and political influences, but it is accepted that the Shang Han Lun system is the classical basis for all of these later schools.

As communication between China and the west opened up, western medicine began to exert greater influence on Chinese medicine. Many in China became excited with western ideas, seeing them as new and modern. Some doctors event tried to integrate Chinese and western medical theories.

During the late 19th through the 20th century, China underwent a number of political reforms, all of which greatly affected the practice and development of Chinese medicine. These reforms were promoted by individuals with no medical background and who were motivated by ideological rather than clinical considerations. Traditional ideas and practices became frowned upon to the point of persecution.

The upshot of this is that Chinese medicine changed from a system that was passed on from a teacher to a small number of students in an educational system that emphasized a deep understanding of theory and mastery of practical techniques, to a system that could be taught to large numbers of students in an institutionalized setting in a short space of time and that could easily communicate with western medicine. Leading to the development of what is now known as TCM (traditional Chinese medicine)

As such TCM was developed on the basis of a much less classical system. Instead it attempted to integrate Chinese medicine and western allopathic biomedicine. Although it does sound progressive. it leads to the problem that the end result is not a fully cohesive system but rather an amalgamation of ideas that were never intended to be used alongside each other and were held together by rather tenuous links.

TCM can be seen to be halfway between the holistic ideas of classical Chinese medicine and western allopathic medicine. Although it does attempt to assess each patient individually, its diagnosis and treatment is still based on a western medical influenced foundation of disease assessment rather than patient assessment. The result is that patients are categorized according to their biomedically defined condition and then slotted into any one of a number of Chinese medical diagnostic “boxes” that fit that condition. This approach works well for roughly 50% of people, but what if you stand outside this 50%. This is the very problem that a holistic system should solve!

The system of classical Chinese medicine is based upon a solid foundation of fully cohesive theories that were developed over a period of thousands of years and standardized two thousand years ago, and have henceforth undergone two thousand years of clinical testing to validate them. Classical Chinese medicine focuses on an in depth understanding of the function of the human body and not the external disease causing agent. It aims to resurrect the disrupted bodily function and if the body is functioning correctly, there is no disease present. This holistic approach is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago because, even though there may be new diseases, the human body still functions the same as it did two thousand years ago.

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