My View of Chinese Medicine: Getting to Know Chinese Medicine (Part I)

Liu Xianyi

PureInsight | December 23, 2002

When I was growing up one of my parents worked for the local hospital, and we resided at the hospital employees' living quarters. Starting from a very young age, I would listen to the adults talk about which doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine were ancestral, or good at doing acupuncture for children, or knew the principle of the Book of Changes, and therefore could tell fortunes, and so on. When I would play in the hospital's Chinese medicine shop, I would occasionally meet some older Chinese medicine doctors who were reading medical books. The books had traditional thread bindings and the traditional style of characters. The doctors' expressions were calm and relaxed, which were different from the other doctors in the hospital. During the early 1970s, the government was trying to train large numbers of medical technicians to be placed in the remote countryside. Chinese medicine became popular then, since acupuncture and herbal treatments were inexpensive but effective medical treatments. Over time, long acupuncture needles, various books with pictures of herbs, and a small human body and model of an ear covered with acupuncture points found their ways into my house. I was very fond of them, even though I knew absolutely nothing about how they worked. When I was older, I repeatedly read the book, Compendium of Materia Medica, a pharmaceutical masterpiece by Li Shi-Zhen, a famous ancient Chinese medical physician. I was eager to know how to recognize the herbs that he mentioned in his book. So, I learned to identify the plantain, which is a fruit closely related to the banana. This is a common fruit in the region of the country where I lived. I even experimented with boiling it in water and making it into a liquid medicine that can cure diarrhea. These experiences allowed me to touch upon the premise of Chinese medicine, and to hold my interest.

I first witnessed the healing power of Chinese medicine when I was five or six years old. One night, my younger brother was in pain because of a hernia. His loud cries woke up the neighbors living in the same courtyard, and that included aunt Wang who smoked a lot. A neighbor used aunt Wang's cigarette to cauterize the acupuncture point under my brother's belly button. This procedure actually made him stop crying. He slept through the night and did not wake up until the morning. This scene was forever embedded within my memories. This was the first time that I had witnessed the practical application of Chinese medicine in healing illness, and it did not require an injection or taking medicine as it would have in western medicine.

Later on in my life, I studied western medicine, not Chinese medicine. Despite my enrollment as a student of western medicine, I was nonetheless required to take a Chinese medicine class, which allowed to me to explore my interest in this field of medicine further. Before becoming a doctor, I did truly experience the pain and helplessness of a sick person, and, at the same time, realized the differences between Chinese medicine and western medicine.

When I was in my second or third year of college, I felt an unexplainable pain under my right ribs. Based on the way that I felt and my medical knowledge, I believed that only Chinese medicine could cure my ailment. I visited the Chinese medicine section at my college's hospital. My doctor was pretty good and he felt my pulses with both of his hands at the same time. He prescribed several doses of Minor Bupleurum Decoction. My pain went away right after I took this Chinese herbal medicine. Later, I verified that this decoction has the power to cure stagnation of qi from the liver. My confidence in Chinese medicine was established at this time as I could see the correlation of the case of my pain and relief from stagnated energy in the liver.

Later on, when I started to have diarrhea, I took lots of antibiotics and other western medicine. They did not work and I had severe side effects from the medication as well. I went to see a doctor at my school's medical clinic. Upon learning of my diarrhea, the doctor conveniently prescribed a box of Chinese Patent Medicine, called Agastache, without questioning me any further. This medication had a negative effect. It caused the function of my entire digestive system to become disorderly and I experienced a lot of pain. Later, I found out that this medication is more often used in treating cold-induced diarrhea. I then realized that Chinese medicines could not just be taken arbitrarily. When treating a patient, a good doctor of Chinese medicine should know whether the disease lies on the surface or in the inside of the body after observing, smelling and questioning the patient, and feeling the patient's pulses. Only after this kind of examination can a medicine that fits the ailment be prescribed. The science behind Chinese traditional medicine is truly profound and different from western medicine. Every kind of medicine has its medicinal role – sovereign, minister, assistant and envoy. Certain drugs are designed to enter certain energy channels or vessels and casual application of these drugs cannot be tolerated, as was the case for me when I sought treatment for diarrhea. How could the doctor in my school's clinic ever imagine that due to his poor healing skills, a problem which could be easily adjusted by Chinese medicine became complicated and difficult to cure? Luckily, the disorder was not serious enough to take my life, but it made me uncomfortable for more than ten years. This disorder disappeared after I started practicing Falun Gong.

This incident did not cause me to dislike Chinese medicine, instead it made me aware of the principle that is necessary to apply the treatment in a discriminating manner. Even though the symptoms of diseases may be the same, their causes are different, and the drugs that should be used are naturally different. So, one drug cannot be prescribed for every person with the same symptoms, as you have to understand the underlying cause or root of the disorder or disease.

After my disorder was healed by Falun Gong, I began a clinical study on the effectiveness of Chinese medicine. Only after really learning the theories behind Chinese medicine, did I understand how remote its origin is and how truly profound it is. The theory of Chinese medicine is all-encompassing, and has made me come to the conclusion that diseases must be treated in a discriminating and individual manner. Although I could clearly and logically analyze medical cases using the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements theories of Chinese medicine, I still felt that there was no way to really begin to understand the origin of the condition, my ability could not match the need, and it was hard to grasp its true essence. Back then, I did not intend to study deeply into why it was like this, but these experiences told me that Chinese medicine has its unique method in treating diseases, and not every single person can be a doctor of Chinese medicine. It was not easy to be a good one either, but it must be possible, because there are so many famous doctor of Chinese medicine in history. Then, where does the breaking point actually lie?

To be continued….

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