Chinese Medicine is defined by the very fact that it has held onto its ancient philosophical roots, its profound knowledge about the human condition, while Western school medicine is still depending largely dependent on the natural sciences and academic research.
Body, Mind and Spirit of the patient are perceived as a complex energy field, a holon as it were, constantly in communication with itself, the immediate environment, the specific conditions of this planet and the cosmic forces beyond.
Humanity itself is seen as the product of a continuing evolution driven by the forces of Heaven and Earth and the dynamics of Yin and Yang. Forces, that may appear oppositional in a certain sense, but may not be perceived as simple opposites we find first in Pythagorean philosophy, like good or evil, right or left, male or female, straight-curved, light-darkness. We could add either/or, black and white and so on.
As the YinYang symbol shows, a seed of the other is always contained in the field of the one, so that a constant dance arises between the two and the observer can never get more than an approximate idea of the state of affairs.
This dynamic is clearly expressed in the buddhist teachings, particularly in the Heart Sutra, which states “form is emptiness, emptiness is form”. The one is never without the other, both are perpetually arising out of each other, a little like clouds arise in a blue sky and disappear again.
Likewise, the cosmos of the daoist teachings, while being orderly, is not static. Nor is order seen as the antagonist of or saviour from, chaos, but rather the fruit of it. Thus “all under heaven” is, like heaven itself, incessantly changing in quite an orderly way.
Like other medical models, Chinese Medicine tries to understand what is needed to make things work and what is getting in the way. Obviously, this is a wide field and consequently there are all sorts of physiological and pathological aspects to be considered.
Lets, for example, look at the concept of the Five Vital Substances, which are considered to be the basic elements of human life. The are Shen (Higher Consciousness), Qi (Energy), Jing (Essence), Xue (Blood) and Jinye (Bodyfluids). These are interdependent. They need to be, in sufficient amount or strength or ratio, where and when they are needed. They should not be disturbed or impeded by internal or external factors, i.e. emotions and environmental factors or pernicious influences.
When this can be achieved, well-being is experienced. If the equilibrium is disturbed or permanently weakened, tension, anxiety, malaise and finally disease will arise.
In Chinese medicine, the aim of diagnosis is not to find out which part of the body is “the problem”, but why this part of the body is out of balance because the quantity, quality or flow of the Vital Substances is impeded. The aim of prescription or treatment is to restore the balance so that Body, Mind and Spirit may heal.
This view of disease, the causes of disease and the treatment or prevention of disease has brought about a rather sophisticated collection of models of pathology and related interventions and treatments.
There are eight basic forms of intervention and treatment, which fall into two groups.
The first four are concerned with what the patient can do for herself, namely physical exercise, breathing, meditation and diet.
The other four being applied by the therapist.
They fall into two groups:
The first working with meridians and points like massage (tuina), acupuncture and moxibustion, and QiGong healing.
The second using “medicine” as we know it, i.e. pills and concoctions made of herbs and other substances. Herbs are often used for diseases that have reached the metabolic level and effect the organ that way rather than through imbalances in the flow of Qi.
In Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet and other Asian cultures, we find a variations of the theme. The most recent addition being the Japanese therapy of Shiatsu, which is closely related to various forms of Chinese Anmo massage and QiGong Healing.
Read about the history and recent development of Chinese Medicine here >>>