Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of diagnosis and health care that has evolved over the last 3000 years. The Chinese approach to understanding the human body is unique. It is based on the holistic concept of the universe outlined in the spiritual insights of Daoism, and it has produced a highly sophisticated set of practices designed to cure illness and to maintain health and well being.

These practices include acupuncture, herbal remedies, diet, Tui na massage, meditation and both static and moving exercises call Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Although all these practices appear different in approach, they all share the same underlying sets of assumptions about the nature of the human body and its place in the universe.

The world view that underpins the principles and practices of Chinese medicine is based on the Daoist understanding of a universe where everything is interdependent and mutually interactive. Nothing is excluded; nothing is analyzed or interpreted without reference to the whole. To understand what Chinese medicine is all about, it is important first to explore this idea of holism which is best explained by the concept of Yin and Yang.

The concept of Yin-Yang is fundamental to Traditional Chinese Medicine. The idea of yin and yang developed from observing the physical world. It was observed that nature appears to group into pairs of mutually dependent opposites, each giving meaning to the other. For example, night has no meaning without the concept of Day, the concept of up doesn’t mean much without the idea of down. The idea of yin and yang is essentially a descriptor of the dynamic interactions that underpin all aspects of the universe. Yin and yang shouldn’t be thought of as things but as a key to a way of thinking about the world.

Along with the concept of yin and yang, there are other fundamental ideas or energies that define TCM. The theory of the Five Elements also comes from observation of the various groups of dynamic processes, functions and characteristics observed in the natural world.

The energies of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water relate to both the natural world and the human body. Further to Yin/Yang and the Five Elements there are the basic substances that make up the universe and the human body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine terms these are called the Qi (chee), Jing essence, the Shen or mind/spirit, the blood and body fluids.

Meridians, or energy pathways of the body, have been mapped out and acupoints determined along them. These points and meridians are stimulated by acupuncture, the insertion of fine needles into the skin, or acupressure (massaging and pressing on these acupoints). Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses herbal medicine, cupping and Gua Sha or scraping, auricular therapy, Tui na massage and physical exercises like Tai Chi and Qi gong.

The Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences trains students in all modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Below is an introduction to TCM through the eyes of the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences.

TCM is an ancient medicine

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TCM is a self-reflective medicine

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TCM is a practical medicine

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TCM is a traditional medicine

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TCM is a natural medicine

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Your compassion is fertile soil

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