Published by Elsevier
For the student or practitioner of Chinese medicine (the intended audience for this book) this is a definitive text book. However, for the western clinician who has an open-minded interest in the subject the book poses an intellectual challenge, the outcome of which I suspect will be unavoidably entwined with the cognitive template that each reader will bring to the subject.
When the Foundations of Chinese Medicine awaited my review, what was I expecting? A noodle knot of acupuncture points and energy flow lines underpinned by a storybook folklore feeding a mountebank purveyor of bottled potions labelled “your very own inscrutable enigma wrapped in a mystery”?
Indeed, on reading the contents one has the feeling of floating over a swaying meadow – the exotic names of the flora evoking a multicoloured awe along with the promise of a dynamic interaction. For it is strange to see medicine categorised in the humanistic concepts of an ancient oriental civilisation as opposed to a nomenclature based on occidental medical practice.
The preface alludes to the multiple translated meanings of Chinese terms all of which are correct when derived from concomitant conceptions in Chinese thought as applied in various settings. One immediately feels a creeping dread of how a precise transfer of information with regard to what we consider succinct medical terminology can ever be achieved.
Just glancing through the pages one is drawn to the thought that it may all be a”The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” portal to another world!
The challenge is: does one “translate” the traditional Chinese explanations of pathology, diagnostics and treatment into western theory in a condescending derision of the folklore that overlies the “real” western explanations of medicine; or does one accept the folklore as a more efficacious entry to understanding Chinese medicine. Or is the opposite true? That western medicine might correctly describe pathology, etc., but the empirical basis is more accurately described by Chinese medical theory?
One is forced to return again and again to the stated impossibility of translating Chinese words or concepts into a singular definitive English terminology, and this does not encourage one’s first exploration of the book. The rich and alternating meaning of Chinese medical terms (such as Yin and Yang) appear to be palindromes.
The richness of a culture that has been compounded for eons will demand an open minded immersion in order to absorb the totality. The fact that each chapter ends with learning outcomes and self-assessment questions will test such comprehension.
The book is liberally sprinkled with case histories and is intended for the dedicated student of Chinese medicine. It is not an interesting aside for a clinician wanting a brief insight – it demands slow and considered contemplation. To help with this there is an accompanying website with an extensive bank of review and test material and the book has a comprehensive glossary.
Either side of the substantive and dissonant dichotomy engendered by a polarised readership the nuances are simple – for the quintessential western clinician the theory may appear mumbo jumbo, whereas for the student or practitioner of Chinese medicine (the intended audience for this book) this is a definitive text book. However, for the western clinician who has an open-minded interest in the subject the book poses an intellectual challenge, the outcome of which I suspect will be unavoidably entwined with the cognitive template that each reader will bring to the subject.
But this rich tapestry of Chinese medical practice and philosophy does offer a unique illumination of a divine subject.