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Differences Between Chinese and Western Medicine

The differences between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern medicine are not simply different medications, equipment, and technology. Rather, the most important differences are found in the attitudes toward disease, theories of treatment, and the basic concept of human life.

Modern medicine is based on anatomy and physiology, and it is studied from the structure of the physical body as an object. Only the "material" level can be studied. So far Modern medicine doesn’t really know about the non-material dimension of our lives. What is this non-material aspect? For example: human emotions, meridians, and Qi –the energy of life.


Here is an easy example: Modern medicine can dissect a hand in detail, telling you the nerves, muscles and blood vessels inside, even down to the microscopic level of cells and cellular secretions. However, Modern medicine can't tell you how many kilograms can be lifted by this hand. When viewed through Modern medicine’s research methods, a hand that can only lift half kilogram appears no different from a hand that can lift ten kilograms because the nerves, muscles, and blood vessels inside these two hands are the same. However, in the eyes of traditional Chinese medicine, these two hands are definitely different, as they possess different Qi (energy) levels, so the weight of objects that can be lifted is different.

“Qi ”-the energy of life, and viewing each person as a whole– this is what Modern medicine lacks in research.

The difference between traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine is also reflected in the attitude towards diseases. Here is a simple example: suppose there is a pile of rubbish in front of our door, so it attracts a lot of flies, rats, and cockroaches, which are harmful to the human body. So, what should you do?

What Modern medicine will do is to invent a drug that can kill all flies, rats, and cockroaches so that they cannot harm us. But even if you can kill all these harmful pests, as long as the rubbish is still there, after some time, those disgusting things will come back again and the same problem will recur.

What if, instead of flies, rats, cockroaches, we want to kill bacteria and viruses? Bacteria and viruses mutate very quickly. We can't even invent drugs to kill all the bacteria and viruses we want to kill. We can only kill some of them. This is also true for cancer cells. Cancer cells are abnormal cells in our body. Even if we use chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill all cancer cells, as long as the environment inside our body is not changed, the factors which produced the cancer are still active, and over time the body will tend to produce more cancer cells. 
As this example shows, simply killing one aspect of the problem is obviously not ideal! As a wise person, what should you do?

Correct! Remove rubbish.

Removing rubbish means changing one’s environment. This is a fundamental solution to the problem. When the environment becomes clean, these annoying creatures will not come again because there is no food they want. It is not suitable for them to survive.

The thinking of traditional Chinese medicine is the same. To heal the body means to change the environment inside our bodies, so that disease-causing bacteria, viruses or cancer cells have difficulty surviving. After a period of time, the number of bacteria, virus or cancer cells will naturally reduce to the point where they no longer harm our lives.

Note: We do not need to kill all bacteria, viruses or cancer cells as long as they don’t endanger our lives. 

Just like in such a safe and harmonious society as Switzerland, it doesn’t mean there are no criminals here. It only means the number of criminals is very small, so they can’t seriously impact the whole society. It's impossible to have no criminals at all. If, for example, a society insisted on forcefully annihilating all organized crime, it would provoke fierce resistance by these gangsters, and in such a violent confrontation, both sides would suffer casualties and even hurt innocent citizens.

Treating cancer is the same: if you try to kill all the cancer cells, you will also lose a lot of good cells. The result is probably that the cancer cells are still not completely killed but the patient loses their vital energy, and often becomes deathly ill as a result of the treatment itself. 

These examples show the main differences of outlook and the approach to healing in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern medicine. Modern medicine is focused on treating diseases. The only thing in their eyes is the disease itself. For Chinese medicine, the first priority is to think of ways to maintain people's lives as a whole, and then treat their diseases. Compared to the Modern medicine, Chinese medicine cares more about “the whole person”–who happens to be suffering from disease– rather than caring only about the disease he or she has.