This is the academic report on difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine with respect to “Philosophical aspect”. This article has been written on the ground of different research papers, class notes, some internet researches, special lecture by Dr. Meng Xia and informal interview with some of my Chinese friends. Hence, this article is only for academic purpose.

For the sake of brevity Traditional Chinese Medicine will be depicted as “TCM” and Western Medicine as “WM” onward.

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If we look in the early human civilization people have been using whatever they found or understood to heal their body, such as saliva, mud, different herbs, sucking and massage were utilized for different purposes. Some of them worked and some of them taught some bitter lessons. That’s how it started to culminate the current form of medicinal practice. Hence, there are lots and lots of levels of understanding and refinement in the medicinal practice for it to manifest as it is now.

Philosophical Contrasts:
Fundamental Elements:
If we observe closely the underlying philosophical principle of TCM is rested upon the idea of “Qi”, “Yin & Yang” and “Five Elements”. Where, Yin and Yang is a theory illustrating the existence of duality in our daily life. It is to be noted that, it is not about good or bad as a moral judgment. Instead, it just reflects the contrast that is already present in the existence.

Philosophically, the TCM practitioner understands the human body as a harmonious system of integrity. To elaborate, Chinese culture has always perceived human body in terms of five basic elements, viz. wood, water, fire, earth and metal; and these elements are the aspect of life force known as “Qi”. If any of the element fails to maintain the balance of “Yin and Yang” with respect to each other, which means you are not well. Now, all the effort of TCM is to restore the balance, which implies recovery of body along with being in tune with the nature.

On the other hand, Western civilization has its whole foundation on top of basic sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, et cetera. Hence, western medical approach completely relies upon biomedical advancement of anatomy, physiology and pathological aspect of modern science. And those biomedical progresses depend upon various controlled experiments of trial and error until they reach certain evidence based conclusion.

Integrative / disintegrative approach:
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the holistic and very abstract approach for treatment of a human body and has been practiced ceaselessly through more than 2,500 years along with its continuous improvement over those periods. Even though, it is orthodox in nature, its guiding principles are still same without any distortion.

On the other hand, WM practitioner approaches in a disintegrative manner. That is, they are more of a concerned in pathological factor rather than overall well being. Here, they study the symptom, diagnose the cause of ailment and treat the specific cause as if it a broken piece of machinery which needs to be mended or replaced (organ transplant). In other words, WM approaches from whole to the parts.

Overall, Chinese people have devised a method to track back the source of ailment with the help of figurative analogs associated to nature, such as river, mountain, clouds, et cetera. Similarly Western world has devised their own way of treatment by using means and tools of modern science and technology. Hence, rather than comparing them as good and bad, they should be taken as different dimensional approach with parallel and independent way of functioning. By this way we can develop some efficient universal approach by merging macroscopic ; microscopic view, which should be far better than functioning in isolated manner. It’s just the matter of time before they merge, sooner the better.

Li, T. (2011). Philosophic Perspective: A Comparative Study of Traditional Chinese Medicine And Western Medicine. Asian Social Science , 198-201.

Zhanwen Liu, L. L. (2009). Essentials of Chinese Medicine. London: Springer DordrechtHeidelberg London Newyork.