Jing Lanting loves studying traditional Chinese medicine at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. But when she needs something for a headache, she goes first to a Western doctor.
Jing is not alone. Although the Chinese still believe in their traditional medicine, which has been practiced for 5,000 years, it is typically their second choice when seeking medical help. In today’s China, it complements modern Western treatments. “I will take Chinese medicine only if Western medicine doesn’t work well,” said student Liu Geifei.
Dai Chengyang, who is a senior high school student from Nanjing, agreed. “I usually go to Western hospitals,” said Dai, “Western medicine is more convenient. And it’s not so bitter as Chinese medicine.”
Such views are common in China, says Han Xiaowen, who works at the department of medical history at BUCM. “When people have emergent or serious illness, Western medicine is definitely their first choice,” said Han.
For a long time, Chinese people praised traditional medicine for curing them. They saw Western medicine as only treating a disease’s symptoms. Today, however, people believe that Chinese medicine has failed to fit into their fast-paced lifestyle. Most treatments require at least a week to become effective.
“Taking Chinese medicine is too much trouble,” said Song Yu, “It takes so long to heal people completely.”
That said, few Chinese people doubt the effectiveness of traditional medicine.“I take a lot of Chinese medicine,” said Ma Yongchao, a college student who loves traditional Chinese culture. “But when I have some urgent diseases, I have to take Western medicine.”
Students who study Chinese medicine see the decline of traditional medicine from a different perspective. “Compared with Chinese medicine, Western medicine is more scientific,” said Jing. “Traditional Chinese medicine is more abstract. It is something that you have to sense.”
At Beijing University, in fact, students are taught the basics of Western medicine, too. That practice displeases some Chinese students.
Di Xiaoxue, a medical English major, is one of them. “Chinese medicine and Western medicine have totally different systems,” said Di. “You can’t use Western medicine’s standard to assess Chinese medicine.” All the same, Di goes first to a Western doctor when ill.