by Xinhua Writer Lv Dong
BEIJING, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Maximin Gaillard, a French student
obsessed with traditional Chinese medicine, used to feel completely
lost in class. But improvements in teaching methods by professors
of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) aiming to make concrete
abstract theories and empirical practices have helped Galliard
understand things better.
"Without concrete and solid standards, it is very hard for
foreigners to learn Chinese medical theory and practice." He
Ganxiang, a doctor with Hubei Provincial Hospital of TCM.
This definitive and concretized teaching method is part of
China's effort to modernize centuries-old TCM so it can be better
understood and practiced around the world.
"Doctors and educators have all agreed that standardization is
the key to modernizing and promoting TCM globally," He added.
While TCM fascinates many outside China, understanding its
abstract concepts and complicated theories proves a challenge.
Unlike western medicine that is evidence-based and guided by
anatomical and pathological notions, TCM theory explains the human
body as an integrated whole and sees illness as a manifestation of
"Chinese medical theories are very abstract and intertwined with
traditional Chinese culture," said Fu Ping, Dean of School of
International Education, Hubei University of Chinese Medicine.
Fu added that without good Chinese language and knowledge of
traditional Chinese culture, foreign students of TCM will find it
quite challenging to understand doctrines rooted in classics such
as the Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon and The Treatise on Cold
The solution, according to Fu, is to use stories to drive home
some abstract ideas and cosmological notions.
"It's difficult to explain yin and yang to French people," said
Gaillard. "Instead, I tell them like the change of season, changes
of the human body also has its own pattern."
To make TCM better understood among foreign students, the
International Medical School of Tianjin Medical University offers
TCM courses in English.
Over the years, TCM has emerged as an alternative to western
medicine in various parts of the world, with many clinics using
acupuncture and herbal preparations to alleviate and cure symptoms
There are more than 50,000 TCM clinics outside China, with
20,000 registered TCM doctors and 100,000 acupuncturist.
Zhang Boli, president of China Academy of Chinese Medical
Sciences, said 70 percent of TCM practitioners based outside the
country are non-Chinese. Also, 70 percent of patients seeking TCM
therapies abroad are also non-Chinese.
However, TCM is not fully realized abroad because some countries
regulate herbs with medicinal properties -- widely used in TCM
preparations -- as dietary supplements instead of medicines. As a
result, some overseas TCM clinics can not prescribe medicines to
Richard Angus, who runs a TCM clinic near a
university-affiliated sport center in Cardiff, Wales is affected by
Unable to prescribe medicines, Angus uses acupuncture and
massage to treat sport-related injuries.
"Some herbs with a bitter and astringent taste can help clear
excessive heat in our body," Angus said. "But I can't prescribe
them to patients."
To address this problem, China has been working with
international organizations to standardize TCM in terms of
informatics, the quality and processes in medicine production and
devices used in TCM treatment.
China's five-year plan for the period of 2011 to 2015 also seeks
to enhance the global profile of TCM and its use outside the
In 2009, the International Organization of Standardization
established a technical committee to standardize Chinese medicines
in terms of terminology, quality and production of herbal
ingredients and medical devices such as acupuncture needles.
Also that year, the 62nd World Health Assembly adopted a
resolution on traditional medicine, urging member states to promote
appropriate, safe and effective use of traditional medicine and
integrate it into countries' primary health care systems.
"All these efforts are signs of progress," He said. "The
standardization and concretization of TCM will make it better
understood and practiced around the world." Enditem.
(Li Jingya, Shao Xiangyun, Li Keyao and Li Jinfeng contributed
to the story.)