TCM ther­apy of­fers much food for thought

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Is­tarted ap­ply­ing small amounts of medic­i­nal paste on sev­eral acupunc­ture points on my chest and back from day one of the first 10 hottest days of the lu­nar cal­en­dar. The paste is sup­posed to help cure some chronic dis­eases if you ap­ply it on the ex­act acupunc­ture points dur­ing the first, sec­ond and third hottest pe­ri­ods, each of which usu­ally lasts for 10 days, from July to early Au­gust.

I have no idea whether it works or not. Yet I re­spect the phi­los­o­phy of tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine, which sees the hu­man body as a whole sys­tem, and con­sid­ers the un­re­stricted flow of both blood and qi (the in­vis­i­ble but vi­tal force in­her­ent in all things) through­out the body vi­tal to a per­son’s health.

Based on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the flow of blood and qi in a per­son’s body and his or her health, TCM in­sists that an ill­ness should never be con­sid­ered a disor­der of a spe­cific part or or­gan but a disor­der of the whole sys­tem. Be­ing holis­tic in na­ture, TCM works to fix the dys­func­tional op­er­a­tion of a per­son’s sys­tem even as it treats a spe­cific prob­lem.

The medic­i­nal paste, a mix­ture of sev­eral ground herbs, I am us­ing is sup­posed to help rid pa­tients of res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases that “hi­ber­nate” in the sum­mer and af­flict them in the win­ter. Ac­cord­ing to TCM phi­los­o­phy, some dis­eases that flare up in the win­ter can be cured with herbal medicines in the sum­mer and vice-versa, and there­fore it is eas­ier to treat peo­ple’s “in­ner cold” and cul­ti­vate their vi­tal en­ergy in the sum­mer so that they can bet­ter re­sist win­ter-re­lated ail­ments.

I don’t buy some quacks’ claims of TCM ther­a­pies hav­ing mirac­u­lous ef­fects. Yet the holis­tic phi­los­o­phy of TCM can be ex­tended to other dis­eases af­flict­ing hu­mankind. Pop­ping a pill to cure a headache, as a Chi­nese say­ing goes, is to treat a symp­tom with­out try­ing to find the real dis­ease. For ex­am­ple, every case of cor­rup­tion is a symp­tom of a graver ill­ness and should be ag­gres­sively treated. But while us­ing one set of medicines to treat the symp­tom, the doc­tors should de­tect the cause of the symp­tom (that is, the real dis­ease) and use more pow­er­ful medicines to cure it.

The num­ber of cor­rupt of­fi­cials serv­ing sen­tences and the amount of money re­cov­ered from them are un­prece­dented. But suc­cess­fully plug­ging the loop­holes in the ad­min­is­tra­tive and eco­nomic sys­tems, which are ex­ploited by some to make il­le­gal prof­its, would be a far greater achieve­ment. And for that, we first have to find those loop­holes, us­ing meth­ods sim­i­lar to those em­ployed by TCM prac­ti­tion­ers to clin­i­cally di­ag­nose a pa­tient’s ill­ness.

Gov­er­nance, rather good gov­er­nance, is a term of­fi­cials at all lev­els fre­quently use when talk­ing about real­iz­ing the Chi­nese Dream of na­tional re­ju­ve­na­tion. For good gov­er­nance, too, TCM phi­los­o­phy can be of great im­por­tance. An of­fi­cial’s gov­er­nance ca­pa­bil­ity will greatly im­prove if he or she ap­proaches the prob­lems in the same way a TCM prac­ti­tioner di­ag­noses a phys­i­cal ail­ment.

Or­ga­niz­ing in­ter­views or sur­veys to find out what peo­ple feel about the poli­cies that have been im­ple­mented is sim­i­lar to a TCM doc­tor feel­ing a pa­tient’s pulse and check­ing the tongue to di­ag­nose an ail­ment. Only by find­ing out whether or not some poli­cies have com­pro­mised the qual­ity of peo­ple’s lives can the pol­i­cy­mak­ers iden­tify the root of a prob­lem and take mea­sures to solve it.

Mak­ing and im­ple­ment­ing poli­cies to only deal with a spe­cific ail­ment, phys­i­cal or oth­er­wise, with­out both­er­ing to iden­tify its root cause and treat­ing it prop­erly is like pop­ping a pill to cure a headache with­out know­ing what ac­tu­ally has caused it. The headache will keep re­turn­ing to nag the per­son un­til he or she re­sorts to holis­tic treat­ment to cure the real ill­ness.

The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. zhuyuan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ZHAI HAIJUN / FOR CHINA DAILY

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