The Chinese Medicine

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The essential difference between the two books, to put it in one sentence is Dr. Volker Scheid tells us about the history of Chinese Medicine whereas Dr. Elisabeth Hsu tries to elucidate the mystery of the Chinese Medicine. A small town in the Yangzi delta of China is known all over the world in relation to the Chinese Medicine. One who knows something about the Chinese system of medicine also knows many things about Menghe. Fei Shangyou, revered as the father-figure of the system, was a scholar before he took fascination for career as a physician in Menghe in the year 1626.

The rest is history and the Menghe medical lineage still continues, the trained physicians have set up practice all over the world and run it successfully. No serious contradictions are seen in the treatment of the subject by the two authors. The essential difference is Elisabeth Hsu is a theoretician and a Lecturer in Medical anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. Dr. Volker Scheid is a scholar physician with two decades of clinical experience in the practice of Chinese Medicine.

He is a senior research fellow at the School of Integrated Health, University of Westminster, London (UK), and lectures internationally. Moreover, a book of the year 1999 and the book of 2007, in any branch of medical science are sure to be different as research and the resultant perspectives related to medical science change and develop at a fast pace. The take-off point for Chinese Medicine, as for Volker is, Menghe learning (Menghe xuepai). This lineage produced some of the outstanding physicians in the Chinese medical tradition in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Who’s Who of China and the elite were treated by them by following the ancient principles of practices. Menghe physicians set the trend in all areas related to Chinese medical treatment and literature and were responsible to create the institutional framework in China in keeping with the modern trends and requirements. Their students have taken this system all over the world with great results and earned a name wherever they set up practice, the author records. His perspective of writing and the details in the book are highly appropriate.

He shows the relevance of social history by linking them to medical case studies and also uses the other literary tools of biography and ethnography and argues his points with clinical efficiency, with relevant evidence. It is the intrinsic worth of this system which retained its popularity even when there were drastic changes in the political scene in China, power switching over from Qing dynasty to the Republic of China and then to People’s Republic. This medical system stood the test of difficult times, retained the popularity and succeeded in increasing it.

Chinese System of medicine is a highly competitive force as compared to the Western Medicine, that has tremendous research backup and the established distribution and marketing mechanism. Dr. Elisabeth Hsu is a well-studied student of the Chinese Medicine who learnt her lessons from a private medical practitioner, a Qigong master. She attended her classes with undergraduates at Yunnan College. In the book she compares actual practice and theories of various Chinese medical traditions. Her fascination for the Chinese Medicine and her eagerness to introduce it to the Western World can be seen from the topics she has covered in her book.

The coverage is not as masterly as that of Dr. Volker, but she highlights the importance of personal transmission of medical knowledge and the subjects dealt in the Chinese classical texts. Some of the topics covered in her book are: Ways of learning, secret transmission of knowledge of practice, Qigong and the concept of qi, the standardized transmission of knowledge, styles of knowing etc. No Chinese Medicine book can be complete without the glossary of . medical and philosophical terms which Dr. Hsu has also provided. Wise people say, ‘What you do is not important; how you do what you do is important! ’ According to Dr.

Volker, the Chinese Medicine has a spiritual angle and the physician expects that the patients understand this viewpoint. A patient requires treatment at the physical, mind and spiritual levels. Western culture comes into clash with the Chinese medical system in this area. Human being is not mere an assembly of the body parts and the Western World, of late, has begun to appreciate the Chinese viewpoint. It has genuine problems to encounter strong barriers, like historical, linguistic and cultural but taking the cultural baggage to some extent along with the “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” is necessary and inevitable.

Many of the scholar physicians mentioned in the texts had a methodology. It is not enough to determine a pattern and prepare an herbal prescription for the patient. According to the scholar physician Shen Kuo (12th century), ancient physicians would “regulate the patients (mode of) dress, rationalize diet, change living habits, and follow the transformation of emotions, treating sometimes according to environmental factors, sometimes according to individual factors” (Scheid, 2007,page 43).

The contents of the book give vital information about the aging process, role of exercise, diets and supplements and above all the thinking process of the patients. Not much option exists for an author on Chinese Medicine to introduce new procedures. The impact of tradition on this medical system is profound; it hardly provides one with new choices. One can be a perfect, experienced physician but hardly any scope exists for innovative lines of treatment and one’s talent lies in proper diagnosis.

The language can be different, the styles may vary, the examples may be new, but the essence has to be the same. One has to be true to revelations of the past Chinese Masters of the system and Dr. Elisabeth Hsu has realized this fact. The book is based on her PhD thesis so it is a good reference book for the students. This book is the outcome of one of the first studies of traditional medical education related to an Asian Country. She has mastered the practical techniques and she has been able to convey in the book how the same technical terms derive different meanings in different contexts.

She highlights the observation power, so essential for the one who practices the Chinese Medicines, apart from the clear understanding of the concepts of theories, most of them unchangeable. The theories have stood the test of time and experience for several generations. Chinese medical tradition had, and even now it has maintained great influence on Chinese people of all Sections of the society, which speaks well of the merit of the system. Volker gives an in-depth analysis as to how the tremendous political upheavals in China affected the practice of Chinese System of medicine.

It has also influenced by the materialistic civilization of the West and the industrial and internet revolutions. In return, the western biomedicine has influenced the system much. Dr. Volker looks out for proper interpretations as to what the drive towards a nationalized system of Chinese Medicine means as for its quality dispensation. If quality is compromised much of the value of the system gets diminished. Attempts of globalization, especially its fascinating growth in the Western world, have added new a dimension to the growth of this system .

The torch of Chinese Medicine was passed on from generation to generation. A sort of medicinal atmosphere prevailed in the physician’s house and the children were ‘taught’ the qualities of herbs right from the ‘cradle. ’ The treatment aspect evaluated the patient as an integrated whole. The way of life, the personal disposition and the basic philosophy were given due respect both for diagnosis and treatment. The treatment, therefore, varied from individual to individual as the Chinese physician was a psychologist, spiritualist and a realist. Dr. Volker sees Chinese medicine as heterogeneous which has many streams.

It is not at all monolithic. The transmission aspect of this system is a matter of great interest for the anthropologist. That the system sustained through several generations of a Chinese family could only be due to its intrinsic worth and the healing properties of the medicinal properties. For a person like Dr. Hsu, who belongs to a different cultural background, it must have been a daunting task, as she had to make a study unrelated to her background. Assimilation of Chinese ideas even in the normal course is a tough task, and Dr. Hsu has successfully crossed these hurdles.

She has interpreted the different methods and styles correctly. No bias is seen in her writing and she has been true to the Chinese spirit. Her approach is scientific, she relies on analysis and proof, and that makes her observations acceptable. She successfully conveys the reality that Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine are alternative beats of the same heart, and much depends upon the beholder who is willing to hear those beats. What is theory after all? It is other man’s experience. Those who read the books of the above two authors are twice-blessed.

The authors took pains to learn the theory of the Chinese Medicine first, followed by the practical. Dr. Volker has the added advantage of being engaged in practice, wherein he has the chance of continuous interaction with many types of patients. Dr. Hsu’s account ‘of studying qi gong healing (the “secret” style), classical medical scholarship (the “personal” style), and university medicine (the “standardized” style) will be of interest to anyone studying or planning to study Chinese medicine. ’ Dr. Hsu is talented; Dr. Volker is both talented and experienced.He must have had the advantage of perusing the contents of Dr. Hsu’s book, published 8 years before his book saw the light of the day.

References Cited:

Volker, Ph. D. Scheid (Author) Book: Currents of Tradition in Chinese Medicine 1626-2006 (Paperback) Paperback: 564 pages. Publisher: Eastland Press; 1 edition (May 18, 2007) Language: English ISBN-10: 0939616564 ISBN-13: 978-0939616565 Hsu Dr. Elisabeth. (Author) Book: The Transmission of Chinese Medicine, Pub. Date: 12/28/1999, Paperback. ISBN10: 0521645425ISBN13: 9780521645423

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