A free lecture delivered by Professor Volker Scheid on Wednesday 20 July 2016 at the Regent Street Campus.
What is it that makes complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) different from conventional medicine? The most common answer, surely, is that they are holistic. And Chinese medicine even more so, for does not all of Chinese culture embrace holism at its very core?
In this talk, Prof. Volker Scheid presented us with a very different story. Holism, as he revealed, emerged in Germany and not in China and it became conjoined to Chinese medicine only in the course of the late 20th century. The story of this convergence is a fascinating narrative that takes in German philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels; C.G. Jung, the Swiss psychotherapist; Joseph Needham, the Cambridge historian of Chinese science; Alan Watts and a host of German emigres to the US; the beats and hippies; quantum physicists and their popularisers; Mao Zedong and the famous Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen; systems theorists; the Nazis; and, of course, Chinese medicine practitioners from the East and the West.
Thus, the story of how Chinese medicine became German is also a story of the 20th century and of a world that had already produced truly global practices long before globalisation became a fashionable term. But if holistic Chinese medicine is not Chinese but German - what, if anything, should we do about it?