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Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on a set of interventions designed to restore balance to human beings. The therapies usually considered under the heading of classic Chinese medicine include:
These forms of treatments are based upon beliefs that differ from the disease concept favored by Western medicine. What is referred to as illness by Western medicine is considered in traditional Chinese medicine to be a matter of disharmony or imbalance.
The philosophy behind Chinese medicine is a melding of tenets from Buddhism, Confucianism, and the combined religious and philosophical ideas of Taoism. Although there are various schools of thought among practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, five Taoist axioms form its basis:
Traditional Chinese medicine is over 2,000 years old. It originated in the region of eastern Asia that today includes China, Tibet, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. The first written Chinese medical treatises (as the West understands the term) date from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220). Tribal shamans and holy men who lived as hermits in the mountains of China as early as 3500 B.C. practiced what was called the "Way of Long Life." This regimen included a diet based on herbs and other plants; kung-fu exercises; and special breathing techniques that were thought to improve vitality and life expectancy.
After the Han dynasty, the next great age of Chinese medicine was under the Tang emperors, who ruled from A.D. 608-A.D. 906. The first Tang emperor established China's first medical school in A.D. 629. Under the Song (A.D. 960–1279) and Ming (A.D. 1368–1644) dynasties, new medical schools were established, their curricula and qualifying examinations were standardized, and the traditional herbal prescriptions were written down and collected into encyclopedias. One important difference between the development of medicine in China and in the West is the greater interest in the West in surgical procedures and techniques. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the opening of China to the West led to the establishment of Western-style medical schools in Shanghai and other large cities, and a growing rivalry between the two traditions of medicine. In 1929 a group of Chinese physicians who had studied Western medicine petitioned the government to ban traditional Chinese medicine. This move was opposed, and by 1933 the Nationalist government appointed a chief justice of the Chinese Supreme Court to systematize and promote the traditional system of medicine. In contemporary China, both traditional and Western forms of medicine are practiced alongside each other.
Author Info: Joan Schonbeck, Teresa G. Odle, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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