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Soc Sci Med. 1987;24(12):1023-9.

Traditional Chinese medicine: some historical and epistemological reflections.


So-called Chinese medicine is practiced widely in the U.S.A. and Europe, and traditional Chinese medical concepts are presented, and advocated, through a vast body of secondary literature in European languages, as alternatives to current western interpretations of illness and disease. The present paper analyses some of the values determining the reception of traditional Chinese medicine in the west, and it demonstrates how the cognitive aesthetics of European culture and western science have influenced the selection of specific concepts from a heterogeneous pool of traditional Chinese conceptual systems of health care by western authors in recent years. A comparison of different approaches to health care in traditional Chinese as well as traditional European and modern western medicine suggests that the differences between Chinese and western medicine may not be as clear-cut as they have been portrayed in western secondary literature of the past years. One of the more fundamental dividing lines appears to be the handling of cognitive disagreements, and, possibly related to this, the ubiquitous phenomenon of patterned knowledge in Chinese medicine and culture.

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