With your group, quickly re-read the first four paragraphs of the longer article you’ve looked at the past weeks.

Contrasts Between Chinese and Western Medicine

Western medicine

Every culture or society, even very ancient ones that pre-date written history, seems to have had some form of medicine that has been used to heal the sick among its members.  There are some remedies that are no longer around, perhaps because they were based on superstition or maybe the details of the technique are now lost to modern doctors.  There are some forms of medicine, however, that have stood the test of time and are still used today.  Two of the most popular and commonly used forms of medicine used by modern doctors are what can be called traditional Chinese medicine and Western medicine.  Although these two systems share the goal of making people better, they can be quite disparate when it comes to how patients have their illness diagnosed and more particularly, how these physicians view the nature and source of illness in general as well as the techniques they use reach the diagnosis itself.

Because Chinese and Western medicine have evolved quite separately from each other thousands of years, they have built into them reflections of those two societies, in particular how the doctors within each system diagnose their patients..  First, a clearer distinction needs to be made about how illness itself is viewed by each system and how they differ.  Taichido (n.d.) states that Chinese medicine sees a healthy body as one in which there is a balance that needs to be maintained.  This relates closely to the concept of yin and yang, which, according to Chinese philosophy, are two opposing, yet complementary forces within nature that must be kept in balance.  As the human body is part of the whole system of nature, when the body has an illness, there is an imbalance or disharmony within it.  This could mean an organ is not functioning properly, but this problem is in some way connected to the rest of the body, including the mind. The mind and body are bi-directional systems that are intimately related to each other.  Chinese medicine approaches this problem from a very holistic and “macro” point of view where the whole body needs to be diagnosed, not only the malfunctioning part (CTCMA, n.d.).  Because of this, diagnosis is unique for each patient and those who have the same illness may in fact receive quite different diagnoses because the whole body is considered in the process and each person is unique from the next.


In contrast to this Chinese concept of a holistic view of the patient and their entire body, Western doctors tend to have a “micro” view of an organism and its illness. When people are sick, these doctors will view the problem by focusing on a single area of the body that they believe has a defect or is not functioning properly in some way.  The illness is not due to any imbalance but from outside forces such as viruses or bacteria that invade and attack the body, so the doctor must find the problem, and much like a mechanic fixing a car, repair the damaged area (Lisa Li Clinic, n.d.).  Being healthy is not about harmony, but rather the absence of pain or any other negative symptoms of illness.  Science and tangible reality will guide a Western doctor’s hand far more than an overall belief in nature’s balance.  Patients with similar ailments will most often receive very similar diagnoses and treatment as a result of this as illnesses need to be identified, named, and attributed to as few causes as possible.

Both systems, Chinese or Western, also have their own techniques they use to actually conduct the diagnosis, and these are as dissimilar as how they view illness.  Chinese medicine uses a system that is much more personal and patient-centered than that of Western.  These doctors use observation with all of their senses to a great degree over the entire body.  According to Cohen ( 2012), if patients complain of stomach pain it would not be uncommon for a Chinese physician to look at their skin tone and colour of their tongue, listen to their voice, smell their body odour, physically examine many areas of the body including taking pulse from 30 or more areas, and generally talk to them by asking about seemingly unrelated aspects of their health such as sleeping patterns.  They will talk to them extensively about their lifestyle and listen to many other complaints they may have.  From all of this observation, doctors will make their diagnosis based on their previous experience with patients who have similar symptoms and lifestyle issues (Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2011).  In this way, Chinese doctors are generalists, or doctors who have no single specialty but are capable of diagnosing and treating a vast array of illnesses.


Compared to the way that Chinese medical practitioners diagnose patients, Western ones do seem quite impersonal and more distanced from their patients.  Rather than using observation of their own senses and relying on personal interaction with the sick, Western doctors use scientific equipment such as x-ray machines and CAT scans which provide very objective measurements that do not require as much subjective interpretation as is done by Chinese doctors (Cohen, 2012).  Western doctors rely on laboratory technicians to analyze fluid and tissue samples taken from patients and then cross-reference the resulting data with external case studies and printed guidelines to diagnose the problem.  Of course, these doctors also rely on general observation through examination in some way, but not to the extent that Chinese physicians do.


Cohen, L. (2012, January 25). Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) compared to Western medicine. Decoded Science. Retrieved from

College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia (CTCMA). (n.d.). Introduction to traditional Chinese medicine. Retrieved from

Lisa Li Clinic. (n.d.). TCM & WM: The difference. Retrieved from

Taichido. (n.d.) Yin-Yang theory and traditional Chinese medicine. Retrieved from

Traditional Chinese Medicine. (2011, May 4). A comparison between Chinese and Western medicine. Retrieved from

With your group, discuss what the conclusion to this article would look like. Focus on the conclusion as a summary that does not include any new information or personal opinion. Note the typical structure of a conclusion:

  • Restatement of the thesis
  • Brief summary of main ideas and supporting details
  • A final thought


Open the exercise and follow the instructions.


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