Traditional Chinese medicine has been evolving over several millennia. Despite the introduction of modern Western medicine in China and Taiwan, traditional Chinese medicine remains popular in these countries and throughout Asia, and is growing in acceptance around the world.
The principals of Chinese medicine have a philosophical base. These ideas permeate Chinese culture and have been a guiding force for both Chinese culture and Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
The fundamental principal of both Chinese culture and Chinese medicine can be summed up in this phrase: 天人合一 (tiān rén hé yī ), which can be translated as "the harmony of heaven and humanity". The literal translation of 天人合一 (tiān rén hé yī) is Heaven (天 - tiān), Person (人 - rén); Harmony (合 - hé), One (一 - yī): Heaven and People are One in Harmony.
This phrase expresses the idea that people are intricately connected to the universe, and that harmony is achieved by accepting natural forces of life. This means eating healthy food, getting the exercise that the human body needs, and maintaining emotional equilibrium.
Qi - The Life-force
The Chinese character 氣 (simplified form 气 - pronounced qì), has many translations, including gas; air; smell; weather; vital breath; to get angry. It is used in many compound words relating to the climate and the atmosphere, anger and aggression, and gases. Here are some examples:
- 天氣 / 天气 - tiān qì - weather
- 不透氣 / 不透气 - bú tòu qì - airtight
- 全球氣候升溫 / 全球气候升温 - quán qiú qì hòu shēng wēn - global warming
- 吸氣 / 吸气 - xī qì - sniff
- 支氣管炎 / 支气管炎 - zhī qì guǎn yán - bronchitis
- 氣勢洶洶 / 气势汹汹 - qì shì xiōng xiōng - aggressive
- 氮氣 / 氮气 - dàn qì - nitrogen
When 氣 / 气 - (qì) is used by itself, it usually refers to the life-force. The practice of 氣功 / 气功 (qì gōng) is said meant to cultivate and balance the 氣 / 气 - (qì) force.
氣 / 气 - (qì) was originally conceived of as the fundamental force of the universe which was capable of taking many forms, and as the basic building block of all matter. The Chinese principal of 陰陽 / 阴阳 (yīnyáng) is explained as the female and male aspects of the natural world (陰氣 - yīnqì, 氣氣 yángqì).
氣 / 气 - (qì) is thought to circulate through the human body, and illness is the result of blockages of this life force. The aim of traditional Chinese medicine is to heal disease by restoring the natural flow of 氣 / 气 - (qì).
The type of 氣 / 气 - (qì) that empowers the human body is known as 正氣 / 正气 (zhèng qì), which translates literally as "upright qi" or "correct qi". Health is maintained with a strong 正氣 / 正气 (zhèng qì) circulation and a proper balance of 陰陽 / 阴阳 (yīnyáng).
There are various ways to achieve this goal. Acupuncture (針灸 / 针灸 - zhēnjiǔ) is said to dissolve blockages of qi flow, and is often used in combination with moxibustion (灸術 / 灸术 - jiǔ zhú), the burning of mugwort near the skin. Herbal medicine is used to both alleviate symptoms while restoring the balance of 正氣 / 正气 (zhèng qì).
The principals of 氣 / 气 - (qì) and 陰陽 / 阴阳 (yīnyáng) have wide applications in Chinese culture. They are used in the practice of 風水 / 风水 (fēngshuǐ - literally "wind water"), the art of arranging the physical world of buildings and interiors so that the flow of 氣 / 气 - (qì) is unobstructed.
The practice of 气功 / 氣功 (qìgōng) is meant to cultivate 氣 / 气 - (qì) by coordinating the breath with bodily movements.
The Future Of Chinese Medicine
Despite the introduction of Western medicine, China and Taiwan continue to support and develop traditional Chinese medicine. There are colleges which train traditional doctors, and the practice has evolved to incorporate new technologies for diagnostics and treatment. Taiwan regulates the production of traditional medicines, and certifies pharmaceutical companies that meet the established standards.