By Marzia De Giuli
BOLOGNA, Italy, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The first "Dialogue on Human Health between Traditional Chinese Medicine Culture and Western Medicine" kicked off in the Italian city of Bologna on Thursday to promote interaction between the Chinese and European medical cultures.
In the two-day conference, for the first time outstanding Chinese and European speakers met in Italy to discuss differences and complementarities between Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western medicine.
Evidence-based approach in TCM, standardized evaluation of drug safety in China, acupuncture treatment for pain relief, regulation of herbal medicines in Europe, reporting standards for clinical trials were among the many topics discussed at the meeting.
Xu Jialu, former vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China, noted it is difficult for people used to Western medicine to understand and accept some aspects of TCM such as the use of certain ingredients or the fact treatments can vary for different patients.
But it was thanks to the combined use of Chinese and Western medicines that 10 years ago SARS death rate in some districts of China was much lower than in the rest of the world, Xu pointed out, adding TCM and Western medicines should learn from each other and can be complemented one another.
In fact, it was due to long-time lack of mutual knowledge that the Chinese and Western medicines have missed until now the precious opportunity to learn from each other, said Romano Prodi, former president of the EU Commission and former Italy's premier, who promoted the meeting.
"If for centuries the Chinese and Western cultures have completely ignored each other from the scientific and technological point of view, the new world is now leading them to confront," he said.
Prodi stressed in globalized society it is not only Marco Polo or other distinguished European and Chinese travelers anymore, but all sectors that contribute to deepen mutual knowledge between the two millenary civilizations.
And being human health a fundamental issue of nowadays' technological times, it is fundamental that the TCM and the Western medicine "begin to dialogue at a profound level," he said.
He clarified the Bologna meeting "had not an economical nor a political purpose, but the only desire for a clear and open dialogue."
And the common ground between the two medical traditions is much wider than expected, said Paul Unschuld, founding director of the Horst-Goertz-Institute for the Theory, History and Ethics of Chinese Life Sciences at Charite-Universitaetsmedizin Berlin in Germany.
Unfortunately in the 1970s, when the interest in Chinese medicine emerged in the Western world, "those people who wrote the first thus most influential books about the TCM did not know the Chinese language nor China's medical history", Unschuld noted.
Therefore, the authors have generated Europeans' fears because they insisted that TCM was the anti-scientific paradise alternative to Western medicine, he said.
But the reality is different. "I recognize that there are some differences, but they are not fundamental at the point that Chinese and Western outstanding doctors would not have sufficient topics to discuss with each other," the German expert told Xinhua.
"The Western world developed an analytical science that tried to understand things by isolating and identifying their constituent elements, while China has adopted a relational science, where you understand the nature of things by looking at how they behave related to other things," noted Unschuld, who speaks fluent Chinese.
"But contrary to what was wrongly taught in the Western world, it is not true that Chinese medicine is holistic while the Western one is not. Actually, Western medicine is extremely holistic," he pointed out.
Sharing knowledge now at a deeper level will finally help explore the many common points between the two medicines, which can pave the way for mutual integration useful for human health, he said.