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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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6. Empirical Results


In the preceding chapters, I demonstrated that Chinese philosophical thought has constructed a close interdependence between human emotions and illnesses by embedding it in a broader concept of macrocosmic and microcosmic harmony. When human emotions are in excess, this harmony is endangered and illnesses may arise. Based on this philosophical concept, Chinese classical medical texts draw close connections between emotions and the human body, postulating direct interconnectedness of emotional instability and human organs. Recent medical texts on Chinese medicine corroborate these ideas and specify a set of emotions with high pathological potential. In this chapter, I shall present empirical data revealing the attitudes and the knowledge of Chinese urban dwellers concerning Chinese medicine in general and concerning the relationship between emotions and health in detail; the data will be followed by interpretation and discussion, followed up by analysis in chapter seven.

I collected empirical data with two different methodological approaches. First I conducted a questionnaire survey and gathered merely quantitative data, although many conversations with the informants developed into informal interviews providing me with rich additional material. The survey questionnaire (see appendix 1) contains 27 questions and 16 statements which the participants were asked either to reject or to approve.

Moreover, beside this quantitative approach I also conducted semi-structured interviews with medical experts to acquire qualitative data. I conducted 20 comprehensive interviews with experts in Chinese medicine, among them 12 doctors, three members of hospital staff, four students of Chinese medicine and one clinic...

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