Eastern Medicine & Western Medicine

About 15 years ago, I attended an exhibit called ‘Body World’, which displayed human bodies that had been prepared into various forms, positions and stances. Some had been bodies sliced into thin, transparent sections transversely or vertically, and some special parts were cut out from the body like opened drawer, allowing visitors to actually see inside the body. What impressed me the most was not the anatomical features but rather the techniques used to prepare the bodies and their parts for this exhibit.

When I think about it now, the anatomy simply is one way of understanding the human body system, which, of course, does not explain everything there is to know about our bodies. Despite the advancements in modern medicine and its painstaking scrutiny of human anatomy, there are still a lot of unknowns.  One might believe that with further research the gap between the known and unknown may lessen, but by then new diseases and health issues will probably have arisen. The creation of new pathogens is caused by our society and the times.

Eastern medicine is also one interpretation of the human body. It is not focus on individual “mechanical” parts, but instead considers the body to be part of nature, an organic and holistic entity, and so treatment follows these principles. We cannot find qi and meridians, yin yang and five elements in dead bodies, which lead to the belief that anatomy is not of primary importance. There are many aspects of eastern medicine that cannot be proven with physical evidence and may seem somewhat philosophical. But when it comes time to the actual treatment of disease, eastern medicine can cover as many kinds of diseases as Western medicine does.  Of course, each may have their own strong points.

Today, organs can be transplanted or synthetically made. I think that this may be an extension of western medicine’s way of understanding the body through cutting, splitting, opening. I am still standing by patients with needles in my hand, murmuring therapeutic issues; ‘water helps wood, metal restrains wood, so I have to tonify kidney and sedate lung meridian for my patient who has emotional depression.’



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