Traditional Chinese Medicine

In China, you’ll find a confusing mixture of modern and traditional medical practices. You may be confused, amused and even frightened by the traditional practices that you see and by the medical advice that you’ll receive.

Though the main ideas and techniques are thousands of years old, the traditional medical practices are still important, and are even being adopted around the world.

Here is information about moxibustion, fire cupping, acupuncture, qigong and tai chi, massage and acupressure, traditional herbology and medicines, medicinal cuisine, and the history and philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine.

The Yin-Yang Balance

The core belief of Chinese medicine (中医, zhōng yī, /jong ee/) is about the yin-yang (阴阳, yīnyáng) qi balance in the body and its organs.

Most Chinese medicine practitioners think that there are many kinds of qi 气 (qì), and the most basic kinds are yin qi 阴气 and yang qi 阳气.

Everything is a balance of yin and yang. Yin 阴 is female, dark and formless. Yang 阳 is male, light, and form. Females have more yin qi, and males have more yang qi, and as people age, they lose qi.

The qi is life energy, and its flow in the body depends on the environment and what happens to the body. The balance of qi in the parts of the body depends on the flow of various kinds of qi and fluids. Injury, physical suffering, and lack of proper food causes a qi deficiency 气虚 (qìxū).

The core idea of Chinese medicine is that people can increase or decrease the various qis in the body, and its parts, by various medical techniques, to create a healthful yin-yang balance.

Each person and part of the body has an ideal point of balance of yin and yang for optimal health. Some techniques are more appropriate for increasing yang qi, and some are appropriate for decreasing yang qi, and likewise for yin qi.

Various Techniques that Manipulate the Various Qis

Qi deficiencies in a person or a body part can be corrected by eating proper food, taking herbs and medicines, using physical manipulation such as cupping, moxibustion, acupuncture and massage, or doing meditation and physical exercise such as qigong.

For example, if a woman is sick or weak from a lack of yin qi, she can eat foods high in yin qi such as melons or goji berries or various high yin herbs.

Older men may want to take herbal and food remedies, such as drinking ginseng tea or eating seahorse dishes, because they are high in yang content, or get a moxibustion treatment that adds Yang to the body.

If, due to injury or stress, the qi circulation gets blocked or stagnated, all the above medical techniques can be used to unblock the qi channels called meridians, or increase or decrease the qi in various locations. However, a medical practitioner should help you decide which procedure will best help to cure your condition.

Qigong and tai chi practitioners think that special exercises and meditation helps the qi in the body to circulate. They think that by practicing, they can learn to control the motion of qi, and use the qi to heal injured body parts, cure diseases, get healthier, defend themselves, and live longer.

Summary of the Most Common Techniques

Acupuncture: This strange and famous medical technique involves inserting needles at precise meridian points.

Cupping:This ancient practice isn’t just a Chinese tradition, it has been practiced for hundreds and thousands of years across Eurasia and North Africa. The Chinese style uses the acupuncture meridians. It is used to remove yang from the body, and it is appropriate for conditions such as bronchitis, heat stroke, and hot weather-related conditions.

Herbal Medicine:In many ways, Chinese herbal medicine is similar to Western herbal medicine, though the emphasis is on promoting the yin-yang balance.

Massage: It seems like there are massage parlors everywhere, and there are various styles that are all thought to be good for the health, some of which are more appreciated by Chinese than foreigners.

Medicinal Cuisine Therapy:The emphasis in this traditional method of meal preparation, special recipes, and way of eating is to promote the yin-yang balance.

Moxibustion:This is another surprising technique and is used to add Yang to the body. It is appropriate for women with birthing problems, older men, and cold weather-related health issues. The mugwort smoke is thought to have medicinal properties.

Qigong:Meditation and special exercise, such as qigong and tai chi also manipulates the qi balance and the body fluids in the body.

Additional Resources

  • The history of Chinese medicine is tied up with the history of Daoist philosophy.
  • Would you like us at China Highlights to help you find traditional medical resources in various cities? Contact us.
Hi, I'm Ruru Zhou
I updated this article on February 10, 2014
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Questions and Answers About Traditional Chinese Medicine

Noor Patel 2013-03-16
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HelloI am looking to study cupping and Acupressure therapy . I am staying in GuangzhouPls advise nearby training centre for these TCM

Hello Noor, i am sorry to tell you that we don't have such information. You can check with the local hospitals to see if they can offer this kind of trainning to you. Good luck with you.

Simon Huang replied on 2013-03-18
Nancy 2013-03-07
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Coming to China in late April. Is there some kind of transport pass available in Beijing and Shanghai that I could buy rather than purchasing tickets each time I ride the subways? Thank you.

Hi Nancy, you can buy a transportation IC card in each city, then you don't have to buy tickets when ride the subways or public buses.

Whitney Liao replied on 2013-03-08
beverly 2011-11-14
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Is there a way that I can get some herbal treatment for a nerve disorder that I have ?. RSD, it has more than one name, complex regional pain syndrome, I can assure you there is nothing regional about this pain, I'ts also refured to as reflex dystrophy.
Hi Beverly, If you got a chance come to China. I suggest that you find a local hospital of Chinese medicine to see if the doctor can give you any herbal treatment. Michael Hu replied on 2011-11-15
veronica hudson 2011-07-13
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whatis the best bit of chinese history
Dear Veronia Hudson, you can visit our detailed information for Chinese history: Lynn Ye replied on 2011-07-15
lorraine 2011-06-11
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give atleast 5 chinese culture.....
Hi, lorraine china has a splendid culture, such as festival culture (, history culture (, Culture of Proprieties, custom( nationality culture ( so on. Enar1209 replied on 2011-06-14
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