The Formation and Characteristics of TCM Theoretical System

1. The Formation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory System

Chinese medicine theory system formed more than 2,700 years ago, during the Spring and Autumn Period to the Eastern and Western Han Dynasty. The “Esoteric Scripture of the Yellow Emperor”, “Nan Jing”,“Treatise on Cold Injury” , “The Classic of Herbal Medicine” and other medical books came out during that period which marks the initial formation of TCM theoretical system.

During the formation of Chinese medicine, medical practitioners draw theory of the essence, ying and yang theory of the five elements and other philosophical ideas and apply it to medicine, in order to explore and clarify the body's physiological and pathological phenomena, health, disease and a series of medical problems.
Medical scientists in the past gathered fragmented and scattered medical experience, to learn the science behind it. So that it gradually became systematized and complete. From the low-level perceptual knowledge, it rose to a high degree of rational understanding. Making it a relatively complete and unique medical theory system.

2. The Main Characteristics of Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory System

Chinese medicine theory system has many characteristics, generally speaking, there are two main aspects:
(a) The Overall Concept
(b) Syndrome Differentiation

(a) The Overall Concept

The so-called holistic concept, that is, things are a whole, its various parts are interrelated inseparable; things and things are also closely linked.

This is an ancient Chinese philosophy of the objective understanding of things, Chinese medicine accepted the idea of ​​materialism to understand the human body.

This concept that the various organs within the body, as well as the human body and the outside world is closely linked as a whole. By applying this concept to understand the body's physiological activities and pathological changes, as well as diagnosis and treatment of sickness.

The overall concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine include two aspects:

(i) The body as a whole

The human body is composed of various internal organs, external organs and tissues. Although each has a different physiological function, it is closely link to each other. Thus, mutual coordination is established to form an organic entity.

These organic links are mainly established between the internal organs and the external organs. From this overall concept, Chinese medicine not only diagnose and treat diseases by looking at it locally, but also as a whole picture.

(ii) Relation between the human body and natural environment

Chinese medicine recognize that people and the natural environment are closely related. Human being exist on necessary conditions, such as sunlight, air, water, food and so on.

Changes in nature directly or indirectly affect the physiological and pathological aspects of the human body. This is the "Correspondence between Heaven and Man" theory. The overall relationship between man and nature is mainly manifested in the following aspects:

  • Seasonal climate on the human body: Spring, summer, autumn and winter climate changes will have different effects on the human body. During spring and summer the climate is hot, the body will regulate its temperature by opening up pores and releasing sweat. During autumn and winter the climate is cold, the pores are closed and sweating is reduced. However, urination is increased to ensure that water level in the body is normal and to safeguard the body yang energy from dissipating outwards too much.

  • Day and night impact on the human body: According to Chinese medicine, the ying and yang energy rise and fall in accordance to the day and night cycle. This is why some illnesses can get worse during the night.

  • The impact of regional areas on the human body: Due to differences in regional climate, geographical environment and living habits, it will affect the body's physiology and pathology to a certain extent. In the southern tropical areas, people are more prone to damp-heat related illness. While in the northern icy areas, people are more prone to cold related illnesses. Some areas are the epidemic area of ​​malaria, and some areas have high incidence of cancer. Therefore treatment is chosen according to the variability of climate, location and physique of the individual.

In short, the overall concept of viewing the human body as a whole, and that man and nature are closely related has become a major feature of traditional Chinese medicine theory system.

(b) Syndrome Differentiation

As one of the basic characteristic of traditional Chinese medicine, syndrome differentiation is the main means of diagnosis and treatment. It is also a special method used in disease research.

(i)The Concept of Syndrome Differentiation

It is the process of collecting information such as symptoms and signs. By analyzing and identifying the cause, nature and the location of the disease, and the relationship between the human body and the pathogen, and then summed up to determine which kind of syndrome it was.

(ii)The Basic Characteristics of Syndrome Differentiation
  • Same illness with different treatment: Even though it is the same illness, due at different stages of development, different pathological changes, the manifestation of the illness is different, therefore the treatment method is not the same.
    For example: the same cold patient, but there are wind-chill and wind-heat type of common cold thus, treatment methods will be different respectively.

  • Different illness same treatment: Different illnesses may have the same pathogenesis, (the same or similar pathological changes) the same syndrome, therefore you can also use the same treatment.
    Such as dysentery and uterus prolapse is a different illness, but the syndrome is mostly the visceroptosis with hyposplenic qi. Effective treatment will be the use of "Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang" to tonify qi.

Thus, in Chinese medicine the key lies in syndrome differentiation for treatment of illnesses.