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What is Chinese Medicine?

Chinese Medicine is also known as Oriental Medicine or East Asian Medicine and is a time-tested system of healing that includes herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage (Tui na), exercise (Qigong), and dietary therapy. Practiced successfully for thousands of years in China, Japan and other Eastern countries, Chinese Medicine offers a holistic approach to health and wellness. It also helps restore the body to balance and works on an energetic level to affect all aspects of a person: mind, body and spirit. The time-tested benefit of Chinese Medicine is that it can be used to correct imbalances that have become illness and pain, or even correct imbalances prior to the appearance of symptoms, preventing disease. From this perspective, optimal health can be attained by recognizing and addressing the multi-dimensional nature of the human being. Acupuncture is an important modality within Chinese Medicine.

An Evolving History

While Chinese medicine is more than 3,000 years old and often honored as an “ancient artform”, it is important to remember that – like all of us – the strength of Chinese medicine is that it grows, endures and evolves. It has been characterized by adaptability – both of the medicine and of civilization itself – that has continued for millennia. Chinese medicine is not a static model of medicine delivery, but is driven by the quest for balance. It has evolved as societal conditions and beliefs were shaped. It has constantly reexamined itself to address the advent of “new” in culture.

Here at Empirical Point, we don’t just practice Chinese medicine. We embrace it and are part of it – every patient we treat and every ailment we work to cure is part of that enduring quest for balance.

Most researchers and historians agree that Chinese medicine and acupuncture predate recorded history and is the longest existing continuous medical system practiced in the world, with more than 3,000 years of history. Chinese medicine was originally developed in the shamanistic societies of the Shang and Zhou dynasties. This tradition created a medicine that was shaped by divination, shamanism and oracles. It is believed that a pivotal conversation about the spectrum of traditional Chinese Medicine between the “Yellow Emperor” and his physician occurred around 2600 B.C. These conversations would later be the basis for the first book written on traditional Chinese Medicine, “The Nei Jing” which was compiled around 300 B.C. The Nei Jing is the most famous and influential of all the Chinese classical texts and consists of two parts: one that presents a comprehensive view of ecology (and introduces the concepts of qi, yin – yang and the interdependence of all things) that is referred to in English as “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic” and another part that deals with acupuncture. In 260 A.D., another classic text was created that identified nearly 350 acupuncture pressure points.

During China’s Han dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.), Chinese medicine further developed as an amalgam of Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist ideas. Daoist medicine’s primary goal was longevity and cultivation of health. The Confucianists were not interested in the afterlife or the divine their ideas worked themselves into the medicine as temperance in lifestyle and seasonal change and taking up the task of self-cultivating strong morals. This stance rests on the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor, especially self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucian thought focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, so that you can also serve your society.

The advent of the Silk Road also has shaped Chinese medicine. With the new travelers and goods also came epidemics and foreign invaders. Chinese medicine was called to task to adapt to new disease states that came with unprecedented climatic conditions and epidemics that ravaged populations and killed many skilled physicians that were developing new strategies to battle new diseases.

Throughout modern history in China, acupuncture and herbal medicine continued to advance and be used widely and effectively. In 1950, Chairman Mao declared that traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine would be united and acupuncture became widely available in all hospitals.

Read more about Chinese medicine in the Empirical Acupuncture Blog.

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