Paul Unschuld TCM Definition

History and philosophy, meridian theory, clinical application and general discussions

Paul Unschuld TCM Definition

Postby Wendy Williams » Mon Nov 03, 2008 4:19 pm

In the August 2004 issue of Acupuncture Today (available on-line www.AcupunctureToday.com) there was an interview with Dr. Paul Unschuld in which he defined TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, as "an artificial system of health care ideas and practices generated between 1950 and 1973 by committees in the People's Republic of China, with the aim of restructuring the vast and heterogenous heritage of Chinese traditional medicine in such a way that it fitted the principles--Marxist Maoist type democracy and modern science and technology on which the future of the PRC was to be built."

In addition: "It is therefore that I distinguish between TCM and 'CTM', the latter referring to the entirety of healthcare knowledge, beliefs and practices prior to the twentieth century.".

Moreover, ". . . much claimed . . . a Daoist underpinning for TCM. This is incorrect for two reasons. First . . . TCM is a product of Communist China. Second, even if we were to apply the term TCM to pre-revolutionary Chinese medicine, the Daoist impact should be considered minimal."

There is more to article which I found to be very interesting.
And to Heather--many thanks for mentioning me but no unpublished book as yet! Just some articles and two new articles that are not out yet.
Best wishes,
Wendy Williams
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Postby Michael Broer » Tue Nov 04, 2008 6:39 am

Wendy,
Just wanted to thank you for that. Have read both parts of the interview (Part 1 was in the July 2004 issue) and have to say it was just amazing. What a guy! When I realised it was 4 years old, I was annoyed about not having read it sooner.
\
Thank you again
"Ideas, or, lack of them, can cause disease." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr
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Re: Paul Unschuld TCM Definition

Postby Mark Phillips » Sat Nov 08, 2008 9:53 am

Hi Wendy,

The Acupuncture Today article by Prof. Unschuld was written after his visit to Beijing in 2003, and after receiving an invitation by the Chinese government to attend the highest advisory board/consultative conference re: "Basic Theory in TCM: future possibilities of restructuring and research".

The aim of this conference was to discuss the spread of TCM in the West and to analyse its future chances of integration into Western health care delivery systems. Prof Unschuld - a foreigner - had been invited into the innermost sanctuary of deliberations. He got all the internal documents and opinion pieces and listened to the statements of many interested parties: "from old Chinese medicine doctors who voiced their complaints full of emotions, to the cadres of the State Administration of TCM who have but one aim - to give TCM a scientific basis".

Some highly regarded Western thinkers on the subject of classical Chinese medicine have the view that science-based research can only build on the underpinning of the original language and metaphor of the old ways. "Modernisation" and the "Cultural Revolution" may not have given Chinese intellectuals and academics enough time to recapture the meaning of the extant traces of Chinese classical text available today. What chance do our Western TCM thinkers have in building a better TCM, given that most Westerners don't understand classical Mandarin or have exposure to the culture of Chinese intellectualism?

It's out of kindness and luck that we still have translated keys from the classics to consider!

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"The sage is still not because he takes stillness to be good and therefore he is still. The 10,000 things are insufficient to distract his mind - that is the reason he is still." (Zhuang zi, Ch 13)
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Postby Carole Rogers » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:11 pm

Hi Mark,

You have not mentioned that Paul walked out/was asked to leave the meeting in Beijing because his views on the current approach to Chinese Medicine were uacceptable to the committee.

Paul Unschuld came out to Australia in the late 1990s for UTS and a nicer more interesting and more scholarly person you could not wish to meet. He gave a series of outstanding talks that were unfortuantely poorly attended and there was very little interest in what he had to say. I believe this reflects badly on our local academics and practitioners.
Carole
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Postby Mark Phillips » Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:45 am

Perhaps saved from a comedy of errors? By the way, Prof Unschuld has moved to Berlin. His current institute webpage: http://www.charite.de/hgi
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Postby Carole Rogers » Fri Nov 14, 2008 2:08 am

Yes, I think you told me he had moved.

One of the things to remember about Unschuld is that his main interest is in Chinese herbalism and its traditions. Which, according to his research, comes from a grass roots - travelling herbalist tradition - when only a relatively few herbs could be carried and therefore different ailments were treated with different additives to the herbs - such as lees of wine and spring water. The herbalists of that time were what we would think of as 'snake oil' healers - not to suggest that Chinese herbs do not work, but rather that this was the origin of their development in China. Street corner herbalists with big claims for wonder cures can still be found in places like Taiwan.

Acupuncture on the other had he believed to be a product of the philosophical traditions of the educated upper classes and was a form of healing kept by them for use on family and friends rather than being utilised for the good of a the wider community.

This difference between the two approaches may be the reason for his stating that there is no Daoist tradition behind Chinese Medicine - especially herbalism. I know he puts the concept of Emperor and Ministers down to the political climate of one of the Chinese unification periods.
Carole
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