A Brief History of Classical Chinese Medicine


Classical Chinese medicine is based wholly on the original classical medicine texts written in China as early as 3000 years ago. Much of this information has been lost or discarded over the millennia, as China has undergone many cultural and political upheavals. Some examples of this are the rise of Confucianism in the 11th century BCE, where the old daoist ideas and medical texts were banned, and even destroyed, and again in the 19th century with the introduction of Western medicine in China, when the Chinese were actually embarrassed by the “primitive” medical techniques they were using and attempted to “Westernize” Chinese medicine. What is taught in mainland China today, and therefore in many US schools, is Chinese medicine as it has evolved in China throughout these periods of immense change. Much of the original information on the art of acupuncture has been lost to modern China, which is one reason why herbal training has become so prevalent there.

However, the original texts escaped to other Asian nations, especially in the time of Confucianism when the practice of Daoist medicine was banned and the books were being destroyed. One country to receive these treasures, still intact, was Vietnam, where they were translated into ancient Vietnamese and have survived until today. Our late mentor, French-Vietnamese acupuncturist Dr. Nguyen Van Nghi, began translating these classical texts from Vietnamese into French about 40 years ago. These translations contain the information upon which Jung Tao School’s curriculum is based. The last of these texts are now being translated into French, and we at JTS are beginning the long process of bringing them into English. However, we have been fortunate enough that Dr. Marshall, who teaches all of the Chinese medical theory at the school, studied personally with Dr. Van Nghi for 17 years before his death in 1999.

You may find some English translations of one or two of these texts (there are a total of 16 volumes) used in TCM schools around the country, but they are based on what is left of the Chinese versions of the information, not on the original, unaltered versions found in Vietnam. This dilemma is stated by Dr. Van Nghi in the introduction to the Ling Shu (The Celestial Hinge): “ Regrettably, the Confucian literature of our era reports: ‘Since the publication of the translation of the Lingshu into popular and Western language, the practice of acupuncture and moxibustion is lost...’. It is not about a literal loss, but a loss in quality due to translators ignorant of all medical material, distorting the thinking and extremely subtle facts of oriental energetic medicine without which acupuncture no longer makes sense.”

Our mission at Jung Tao School is to present classical Chinese medicine as authentically and completely as possible, remaining true to the Daoist principles underlying all of the science.