Traditional Chinese Medicine | What Is it About?

Published | Updated February 21, 2020

Traditional Chinese Medicine | What Is it About?Guest Post by Caroline Grootscholte | Praktijk CG

In this article I’d like to explain and give a clear picture about Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine differs a lot from Western medicine as practiced in the Netherlands.


Chinese medicine is also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM. This Eastern healing method originated more than 2000 years ago. The Chinese healing methods consist of five parts: movement theory Tai Chi Qigong, Nutrition Theory, Herbalism, Tuina Therapy (massage, and additional techniques, such as Moxa, Cupping, Guasha) and Acupuncture.

One of the main characteristics of TCM is that it’s primarily focused on prevention. The aim is to maintain and promote good health through a moderate and balanced lifestyle, so that one can achieve “Tao” (the way or the life goal) during life.

Emperor Huang Di is seen as the father of Chinese medicine. He is the author of one of the most important medical texts, the “Huang Di Nei Jing” (475-221 BC). This is the classic handbook on internal medicine of the Yellow Emperor. It contains, among other things, philosophical ideas, ideas of Tao, Yin and Yang, the 5-phases, the origin of diseases, and treatment methods.

Philosophical Background

There are three philosophical movements on which Chinese medicine is based: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.


Taoism is a lifestyle in which people live in harmony with nature, in order to ultimately arrive at the highest state of “Being,” “Tao.” The lifestyle practiced is called “Wu Wei”, or “Acting by Not Acting”. By this is meant: if nothing can be changed, fully accept this. But… if there’s a possibility to be able to change something about the situation (to the benefit of yourself and others) then do so.

Wu Tao is often associated with water and the way water behaves in Taoism. The point is not to resist a current, but to choose from the many directions in which the current flows and to accept the consequences. The goal is to strive for a balanced situation and thus, softly and imperceptibly, to come into harmony with yourself, others, and the environment.


Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system conceived by the founder Confucius (551-479 BC). The Confucianists saw it as their task to guard and preserve social order. They therefore forced everyone to act according to correct behaviors and role patterns according to the old traditions. That is how the world would be in harmony.


Buddhism is a religion that entered China from India in the 3rd century AD. Buddhists believe that one can be freed from the circle of rebirths by following the “Middle Way” as taught by the Buddha. The most important aspects of this middle ground are the elimination of all material desires, ethical conduct, and the development of the mind.



According to the TCM theory, the human body has meridians with acupuncture points. Life force, or Qi, flows through these meridians. You can see Meridians as a kind of network of energy and conduction routes that feed the entire body.

Every meridian is connected to an organ and organ system from which it has derived its name: spleen meridian, gastric meridian, lung meridian, large intestine meridian, kidney meridian, bladder meridian, liver meridian, gallbladder meridian, heart meridian, and the small intestinal meridian.

The energy flow of the meridians forms a closed system where the meridians transmit energy to each other. It thus forms a large energy cycle. The acupuncture points are on these meridians and have different functions. These acupuncture points and meridians can be manipulated and influenced by massage, acupressure, moxa, cupping (Tuina) or puncturing with needles (acupuncture).

Yin & Yang

Then there is the Yin-Yang concept, which stands for balance with the well-known Yin Yang sign.
In the TCM, Yin and Yang are seen as opposed to each other, but they also contain additional qualities. Every thing or phenomenon can be itself and its opposition. It is also said: the Yin contains the seed of the Yang; the Yin can transform into the Yang and vice versa. The Yin and Yang are opposite, interdependent, influence each other, and merge into one another.

A few examples of Yin properties are: dark, cold / cool, and quiet. And a few examples of Yang properties are: light, heat, and activity. For example, tap water is Yang (hot) compared to frozen ice (cold), but tap water is again Yin (cold) compared to boiled water (hot). And so almost everything in the TCM is viewed from the Yin and Yang principle, relative to each other.

5-element model

According to Chinese philosophy, Qi manifests itself in the universe in five elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. Man, as part of the universe, is also subject to the forces of these elements.
TCM has assigned different specific properties to each element. Every element has an emotion, sense, taste, season, direction, fabric, climate, soul, color, development and two meridians and organs are connected. An imbalance in one of these five elements is expressed in physical or mental complaints. On the basis of the five element theory one can assess which element is out of balance.

Holistic view

TCM is based on a holistic view of mankind. Man is seen as a whole: body, soul / mind and emotion. Everything is connected, has relationship with each other and influences each other. In Chinese medicine, everything is seen in relation to each other, in harmony with the environment, and the rhythm of nature (day / night, seasons, etc.). A physical ailment is therefore seen as the reflection of an imbalance. In order to cure disease and restore overall health, the cause of this imbalance must be addressed.

A TCM therapist or doctor observes, looks, asks, listens and feels in order to be able to find out the origin of illness or complaints and how they can best be treated. In the case of illness or health problems, the nature and expression of the symptoms (which are palpable and visible) are always considered.

According to Chinese medicine, illness does not occur overnight. Before we get sick, several symptoms first occur. The beginning can be expressed on the physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual level. These first symptoms (which are visible and palpable) are seen as an indication of an unbalanced Qi current. The pattern that subsequently developed gives an indication of the type of imbalance and the treatment that is needed. With treatment, the starting point is to strengthen the body and mind, to restore the Qi flow, so that complaints disappear and the body comes back into balance.

Caroline Grootscholte founded Praktijk CG in 2015. She’s a Complementary Natural and Oriental Medicine Therapist and a certified Orthomolecular Therapist, Foot Reflexology Plus Therapist and Chinli-Tuina masseur based in The Netherlands (Hoek van Holland).
Caroline Grootscholte – van der Drift, is in 2015 gestart met Praktijk CG, Praktijk voor complementaire natuur- en oosterse geneeswijzen. Caroline is een gediplomeerd Orthomoleculair therapeut, VoetreflexPlus therapeut en Chinli Tuina masseur actief in de regio Hoek van Holland.

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Article Categories: Other Bodywork Training, Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
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