Chinese medical vocabulary and jargon


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) only confronted the scientific approach during the last century, when the Chinese government developed its policy of cohabitation of the two medicines (Western and traditional). Thus, TCM has still little adopted the technical language that accompanies the process of research and scientific validation, and which makes it possible to describe with precision the complex systems of reality – from the visible to the infinitely small – and to define the laws of biochemistry.

TCM still maintains an ordinary and concrete language today. It was originally a language perfectly suited to reporting multidisciplinary knowledge where all knowledge had to lead to a possibility of action. This language could not be dissociated from a way of life where the arts of cooking, healing, painting, calligraphy and health exercises came together… It translates a world in which the true man – he who desires balance and health for himself and others – must accept both public and family responsibilities, while seeking to penetrate the deeper meaning of life. This is why medical texts are never purely technical or mechanical. Thus, even if they are essentially composed of recipes and pragmatic therapeutic procedures, they are always impregnated with strong philosophical connotations.

To account for abstract, invisible or partly hidden realities (a fever or a bacterial infection, for example), TCM employs an intuitive and speculative approach, and uses terms that designate, symbolically or by analogy, completely different realities. concrete.

We must always remember that we are dealing with images and analogies, a bit like when we say that we have caught a cold (caught flying?) or that we are sick to the heart (when suffer from digestive disorders). And if the Chinese terms seem too simplistic, we can remember that our medical terms sometimes go to the opposite extreme: if you suffer from idiopathic alopecia, it means that you are losing your hair and the cause is unknown…

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Xiang Qin
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