Chinese Medicine is a complete system of healthcare that includes:
- Chinese Herbal Medicine
- Tui Na (Chinese therapeutic massage)
- Moxibustion (Heat therapy)
- Qi Gong (Exercise and breathing exercises)
- Diet and lifestyle advice
History and Philosophy of Chinese Medicine
The written history of Chinese Medicine goes back to 200 BCE, when the oldest recorded text, the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor), has been dated to. However it is believed that this text is in fact hundreds of years older, and had been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth.
The oral history of Chinese medicine is believed to go back as far as 5000 years, and had its roots in prehistoric shamanistic medicine. It has evolved and grown a lot since then, with refinements and improvements being made by practitioners through the years. It is now one of the most common complementary medicines in the western world, and is still used as a primary form of healthcare for many people in China.
The philosophy of Taoism was very important in the development of Chinese Medicine. Taoism is centred around the idea that a person should follow the rhythms of nature to keep themselves in optimum health. Humans are seen as a part of the natural world, and they need to remain in harmony with nature to continue to remain in good health.
Qi (pronounced Chi) is one of the most basic and fundamental concepts in Chinese Medicine. In English it is generally translated as energy or life force, and though these are certainly a part of what Qi is, it isn't the complete picture. Qi is also seen as a function as well, so it can describe how something is working, as well as the motivating force behind it.
In terms of this motivating force, it is seen as a substance that flows through the body, providing energy to all the functions that are required for life. If this flow is blocked, or there is an inadequate supply, then the body fails to maintain health and vitality, and pain and illness are the result. The aim of Chinese medicine is to restore the correct flow of Qi in the body, thereby reducing pain and illness. This not only allows for the relief of the immediate symptoms, but also treats the underlying cause of the health problem, thereby reducing any chance of a reoccurrence.
The body is a microsystem
In Chinese Medicine, the body is seen as a microsystem of the rest of the natural world. As in the natural world, there needs to be a balance between all the different elements for the system to work effectively. If there is too much heat and dryness, raging bushfires can be the result. If there is too much rain, this can lead to devastating floods. And if there is too much debris in a river, water won't flow through smoothly.
And it is seen as being the same in the human body. A traumatic sporting injury, like a bruise or sprain, leads to swelling, which means Qi and blood can't flow through the area smoothly, causing pain. Too much exposure to the wind and rain can lead to catching a cold, causing a runny nose. And a bad sunburn can lead to feelings of heat and dryness.
Balance of Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang are two interrelated forces which, together with the concept of Qi, form the basis of Chinese Medical theory. Yin-Yang theory is a dialectic theory, where a part can only be understood in relation to the whole. There are no absolutes, nothing is ever seen as being fixed. There is constant movement in this theory, and it has been described as being the study of motion and change in the world.
Nature of Yin and Yang
There are basic attributes that are ascribed to Yin and Yang, and from this starting point every phenomena can be seen as either one or the other. Yin is regarded as cold, heavy, dark, downward moving and still. Yang, in comparison, is seen as hot, light, bright, upward moving and always in motion. So night is seen as Yin, day as yang. Water is Yin, Fire is Yang. Matter is Yin, and energy is Yang.
But these differences are only relative. Something may be Yin in relation to one thing, but Yang in relation to another. This can be seen in parts of the body. The chest is Yang compared to the legs, as it is higher on the body. But when compared to the head it is Yin, as it is lower. And just as it is relative, it is also never absolute. Within Yin there is always a part that is Yang. For example, water is a Yin substance, but water is always moving, which is a Yang quality.