Xinhua Insight: TCM, Western medicine face off in Weibo challenge

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 14, 2014
Adjust font size:

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for over 2,000 years, but it is facing a modern challenge on social media from a doctor trained in Western medicine.

Ning Fanggang, a doctor with Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, expressed skepticism about TCM on his Weibo microblog last month and proposed a contest to TCM physicians.

He doubted whether examination of the pulse can determine whether a woman is pregnant, which is among the principal diagnostic methods used in TCM.

According to the rules he proposed, TCM physicians would feel the wrists of 32 women of child-bearing age to take their pulse and make a diagnosis. Ning has offered nearly 50,000 yuan (about 8,065 U.S. dollars) of his own money to the TCM doctors if their accuracy rate reaches 80 percent or higher.

The contest has sparked controversy online in the past week, with several traditional medicine physicians coming forward to accept the challenge and TCM devotees defending the practice.

Yang Zhen, a teacher and TCM doctor with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, was the first to accept Ning's challenge.

Yang said blood circulation of expectant mothers is affected by pregnancy, so experienced doctors can tell whether a woman is pregnant after taking her pulse.

Lyu Jilai is among a number of other traditional medicine practitioners who signed up for the competition through Weibo.

Lyu said he will offer another 200,000 yuan of his own money to the winners of a more extensive challenge to determine whether Western medicine or TCM is superior.

"We can compete in many other areas, such as treatment for cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure," he told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

Ning said he has already assembled a professional team to help design the challenge. Both sides have yet to agree on ethical issues and are seeking official approval from necessary departments. No additional details about the proposed challenge have been made public.

Not all TCM physicians are as optimistic as Yang and Lyu about the contest.

TCM diagnostic methods include observation, hearing and smelling, questioning, and touching.

"The competition only allows physicians to feel the participants' pulse. I don't think it is rational and fair," wrote Zhang Yujing, a traditional medicine doctor at a hospital in Ningbo City in east China's Zhejiang Province, on Weibo.

"There is no 100 percent correct diagnosis rate in medical science," said Zhang Yi, deputy head with the Sichuan Academy of Chinese Medicine Sciences.

He said he once met a woman whose pregnancy was not detected through a urine test or ultrasound, but successfully confirmed through TCM methods.

"You can't say TCM or Western medicine is unscientific only based on the result of this contest," said Zhang.

Skepticism over TCM, which includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, exercise and dietary therapy, is not new.

A Beijing resident surnamed Wang told Xinhua she will never again see TCM doctors after an unpleasant experience five years ago.

She suffered from lumbar disc herniation and went to a TCM clinic for massage, but could not get out of bed after treatment.

"The biggest problem is that it is difficult to find good doctors," she said.

Its opponents also question the scientific basis of TCM and the toxicity and side effects of Chinese herbs.

But a group of loyal fans still believe it has magical powers. If Western medicine fails to cure a disease, many say TCM is worth trying. Stories on social media about TCM prolonging the lives of cancer patients have reinforced these beliefs among adherents.


The debate over TCM and Western medicine will not end, because the two share different founding principles and histories, Zhang Yi said, adding that diversity in the medical field should be encouraged and the two can complement each other to benefit patients.

Over the past eight years, he has been dedicated to AIDS treatment via TCM. Ten treatment sites for AIDS patients have already been established in Sichuan Province, accepting more than 2,000 patients each year.

Zhang admits the effects of Chinese herbs on HIV are yet to be confirmed, but clinical cases show the traditional medicine can improve or even prolong the lives of patients.

TCM still faces many challenges in China. "We lack enough experienced physicians and people find it difficult to understand due to its obscurity. Also, advanced technology should be used in TCM methods," he said.

"Chinese or Western medicine? It is not a choice we must make," said 51-year-old Chen Yan, a TCM enthusiast. "For patients, more choices are always better than no choice." Endi

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from