In these translated excerpts from a comprehensive interview, one of China’s leading theorists explores the philosophical differences between Eastern and Western modes of thinking, and how they shaped two distinct systems of medicine: Chinese medicine, described as a medicine of time, and Western medicine, described as a medicine of space.
From the essay collection Liu Changlin: Chinese Medicine: Philosophical Views on the Profession.
The Chinese system of science is based on time. The nature of time is empty, and its characteristics are change and continuous flow…The time oriented system, therefore, embraces the dynamic flow pattern of the holistic body of nature, and from this general attitude derives the assumption that the whole determines and governs the parts. The subcategories of Chinese medicine, such as yin yang theory, five phase element theory, zangxiang theory, channel and collateral theory, differential diagnosis and treatment theory, herbal energetics theory—all of these systems stem from the symbolist way of thinking, and all of them are used, in essence, to describe phenomenological patterns.