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Tracing the Dragon

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Flexibility and Adaptation in Zhang Xichun’s ‘Essays on Medicine’

image of Asian Medicine

What does it mean to subscribe to a specific medical tradition or a conceptual framework? Does one do so to the exclusion of other traditions and thus potentially effective therapeutic options? The following case from Zhang Xichun’s 張錫純 (1860–1933) Essays on Medicine Esteeming the Chinese and Respecting the Western (Yixue zhongzhong canxi lu 醫學衷中参西錄, 1909) illuminates this problem of medical bias by illustrating why it is important for the physician to read widely in the medical literature and consider the widest range of possible formulas. As its title suggests, Zhang’s book presents a relatively early model for the integration of the Chinese and western modes of practice in which western pharmaceuticals are prescribed in much the same way as were Chinese medicinals. Zhang’s essays are supplemented by a wealth of his case records, which he used to support his arguments. His appreciation of the considerations surrounding synthesis and innovation extended both to Western medicine as well as to the various forms of Chinese medicine. The following case demonstrates the pitfalls of an excessively narrow application of the Cold Damage current of medical learning, one of Chinese medicine’s oldest and most venerable treatment approaches, and thus supports Zhang’s larger message of medical eclecticism and synthesis. It originally appeared in Zhang’s above-mentioned Essays, chapter four, ‘White Tiger and Ginseng Decoction substituting Dioscorea Radix for the Nonglutinous rice’ (Baihu jia renshen yi shanyao dai jingmi tang 白虎加人参以山药代粳米汤), in section 25, ‘On the use of prescriptions to treat combined cold damage and warm disease [patterns]’ (zhi shanghan wenbing tong yong fang 治伤寒温病同用方).1

Affiliations: 1: Seattle Institute of Oriental Medicinechipyip@gmail.com; 2: Coloradojblalack@chinesemedicinedoc.com

10.1163/15734218-12341321
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/content/journals/10.1163/15734218-12341321
2013-08-18
2017-11-18

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