Chinese medicine: its past, present and future
Author: Ai Ning (
Chapter 1: My mother
My mother is a doctor in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
From the time I can remember, my mother was around by a lot of patients. They came and sat down in front of her, speaking nothing, stretching out their arm to her – they wanted her to feel their pulses and tell what was wrong with them. So, she felt their pulse. She felt the left hand, the right one, and looked at their tongues……
It looks as a test. Yes. It is. I guess in the whole world, only the patients in
can dominate the whole medical diagnosis course, though it is them who came to seek help but it is them who tested the ability and skill of the doctor first. China
These patients might know nothing about the medicine, but they are the General, or the Master examiner in the whole course, because they knew what is wrong with their body, and they knew the answer to the test.
After assessment, it was the time for my mother to answer the tests. She told out, one by one, the symptom, the patients’ feeling, the reason, the pathological mechanism… The patients listened carefully, smiled along with my mothers talking, and finally said, “Very good, that’s right, you are so good at the pulse feeling! So good! You are my doctor from now. Let's continue with the treatment, please.”
It is no wonder that the Chinese medicine is regarded as a kind of witchcraft by some people in the western world. For western medicine, the doctor asks symptom pretty briefly. He needs more lab tests, X-ray tests, and so on for a diagnosis. Some times, they need to cut some tissue from the body to have a biopsy test. Or, they need to cut and open the abdomen to have a look what’s wrong there. They need to clearly “see” the “disease” before they start any treatment. They regard this a scientific way, a scientific course in medicine, a “right” way to treat a disease.
For doctor in the Chinese medicine, they will be asked, from the western medicine point of view, did you see the “disease”? This “disease” refers to exact diseased location, the lesion, the virus, the bacteria, e.g. a concrete mass. To them, the “disease” can be seen, can be taken out, and can be tested. If the Chinese medicine cannot ‘see” the disease, the doctor is regarded to “guess” the disease. However, my mother can guess it precisely. She can not only guess the disease by feeling the pulse, but also guess when and what disease will happen in nearly future. On spring, my mother wrote a prescription based on her perception to the weather, the Qi in the nature at that time. She then asked me to prepare the herbs, to prepare the herbal products (the pills, the tablets, the powder, etc.), to make everything ready before the real coming of the disease. She said: it would be too late if we prepare it when the disease real comes.
On one spring, my mother pushed me to do the same thing. However, in my deep memory is what she told me, that there would be lots of kids ill in that spring. The kids would have fever and asthma. They would have high fever so that their face would be very red in color on one side of face, but pale on another side. I cannot believe: how could the kids have one side of their face red and another pale? I never noticed such phenomenon. My mother pointed one herb ingredient in her formula, and told me that one was the spirit and key herb in the formula.
Before the patients arrived, she wrote out another herbal formula and asked me to prepare. She said, once the disease started to spread, some would come to see the Chinese medicine, some would go to the hospital. The kids who eventually left the hospital would be pale and blue with purple tints in their small face, weak, dislike food, no willing to eat, scaring at night… Some of them would eventually came to the Chinese medicine. This formula was prepared for them.
When I prepared the second formula, the first group of sick kids came. To my great surprise, every kid had high fever with asthma, and one side of their face was red and another side was pale! The numbers of the sick kids were so much that I became a pharmacological technician, busy to distribute the herbs. Pretty soon, the herbs were used up. I had to hurry up to prepare more herbs. At this time, the kids who had visited hospital now came to our clinic. They cried and cried, with pale faces. I started to distribute the second herb formula. After finished all the herbs, that spring went away.
For the current Chinese medicine, they no longer work in the same way as my mother to treat series of patients. The current diseases, the infectious diseases, the Wenyi disease, all are the diseases that my mother must know and be able to perception before they come. In clinic work, my mother was almost a general in a war, knowing where is the main battle field, where is secondary field… She not only treated patient individually, but also in groups, so to be able to control the overall trends of the disease. However, from so called scientific point of view, what is the logic and what is the reason for my mother to do so? Is this not a way to “guess” disease? The current doctor works to consult each patient, one by one. They believe this is the way of science. My mother not only knew the trends of a disease, but also was able to predict a coming disease based on the person’s life style. She knew who will get what kind of disease, so to make the herbs ready to wait for them.
In autumn, my mother was ready for the herbs, the movement the patient came. When some patients asked why he or she got that disease, my mother said: “You is rich with good living condition and you prepared for the winter too early. You closed window, when it was only at October 1 and started the fire warming to the rooms so early…” The patient surprised: “how do you know this? It is true. We closed the windows very early last year.”