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Chinese Medical Concepts in Urban China

Change and Persistence

Martin Böke

Popular assertions proclaim a tradition of Chinese medicine spanning several thousand years. But is this really important for today’s China? Is Chinese medicine relevant for the modern, cosmopolitan urban Chinese today? And, as the political system has changed dramatically during the last century, do these changes influence people’s estimation of illnesses? Combining both a quintessential analysis of the relationship between emotions and health in different texts on Chinese medicine and empirical data consisting of quantitative and qualitative components, the author demonstrates that different social groups of urban dwellers share different opinions on Chinese medicine and its illness concepts, particularly those concepts commonly referred to as Seven Emotions. Education, age and gender are relevant categories for the evaluation of Chinese medicine, especially considering emotions such as stress or depression.
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1. Introduction


Popular assertions outbid each other with the history, tradition and founding period of Chinese medicine, proclaiming a tradition of 2000 years1, of 4000 years2, or of even more than 5000 years3. Even while acknowledging a long history and tradition, is this really important for today’s China? Has Chinese medicine relevance for modern, cosmopolitan urban Chinese today? Do these people know something about its disease concepts or pathogenic mechanisms of action? Do they regard these theories and categories of illnesses as relevant? And, as China’s political system changed several times dramatically during the last century, do these changes influence the people’s estimation of illnesses? These are some questions which I would like to elucidate in this thesis.

I mainly focus on emotions and their relevance in Chinese medicine. Emotions build one disease category in Chinese medicine, the ‘Seven Emotions’. This feature is commonly praised in popular discourse as ‘ganzheitlich’ or holistic. Because of this popularity, and because of my interest in human emotionality, I specialized on this feature of Chinese medicine for wider parts of this book.

The book is structured as follows: after this preface, I give an introduction encompassing three subchapters. First, I raise the subject and provide information about the field site. Second, I outline the history of Chinese medicine and explain main theories and concepts. Lastly, I present an overview of main assumptions of ethnological research on human emotions. The second chapter clarifies the research questions and the methodology. In the...

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