Times are good,” says Huang Xin. Evidently they are. Huang, a Chinese medicine doctor, says he is looking to purchase his third Porsche in less than a year. He told China Daily: “People saved hard before the downturn, and they now have less work to do and more time to come to my clinic and take care of their health.”
Indeed, the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) industry is experiencing something of a boom.
According to experts, TCM was worth $26 billion in 2008. Tongrentang, the largest producer of traditional Chinese medicine enjoyed sales revenues of Rmb2.94 billion ($429 million), up 9% from the year prior.
Although largely deemed as “alternative medicine” in the West, traditional Chinese medicine boasts a long history, said to date back more than 5,000 years.
While the fundamental theory of TCM is rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy, many practitioners assert fiercely that it is firmly grounded in scientific technique too.
In a standard diagnosis, the TCM doctor begins by examining the patient’s pulse and tongue. Treatments vary from herbal medicine to acupuncture and massage – but some even claim that TCM techniques can cure cancer without the use of chemotherapy. TCM doctors explain that restoring the yin and yang in the body will kill cancer cells.
Throughout China’s long history, TCM doctors have sometimes been hailed as “miracle workers”. Bian Que, a doctor during the Warring States Period, was among the first to gain the title.
Legend has it that while visiting the state of Guo, Bian witnessed a number of local people mourning on the streets. He discovered that the heir apparent of the local lord had died.
Despite the ongoing funeral arrangements, Bian asked to examine the prince, who he then discovered – rather than dead – to have fallen into a coma.
Using acupuncture and the prescription of a boiled herbal compound, Bian was said to have brought the prince back to consciousness.
If he were alive today, Bian would probably be disappointed to see how few young people are interested in following in his footsteps. There are estimated to be about 5.5 million doctors trained in Western medicine in China today but only 400,000 in TCM. Most practicing TCM doctors are also over 50, and the number of students studying TCM is dropping.
If only medical students knew how well Porsche-purchasing Huang Xin was doing – perhaps they’d switch courses.
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