Friday, May 15, 2020

Tongrentang – Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing, China

For our first stop for the morning, we have an appointment with the doctors at the center for traditional Chinese medicine, or T C M, called Tongrentang.

It is one of four remaining TCM institutions in China and had outlets all over the world.

This particular organization was the one who tended to the emperor way back and scored some land to build a facility in Beijing at some point after starting to tend the Emperor and his family in order to bring that medicine to the people.

But a little history first,

In 1669 during the reign of Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (which ran from 1644 to 1911) Tong Ren Tang was established in Beijing by Yue Xianyang, who was a physician in the Qing Imperial Court.

In 1702, the company relocated within Beijing and has been there ever since, operating as a manufacturer and sales outlet.

In 1723, Tong Ren Tang was appointed the sole supplier of herbal medicines to the imperial court by the Yongsheng Emperor and has remained the sole supplier until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911.

Now they manufacture and sell medicines based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, partly Yin and Yang, partly Zang Fu, which was developed on the basis of Wǔ Xíng philosophy, each zàng is paired with a fǔ, and each zàng-fǔ pair is assigned to one of five elemental qualities, fire, earth, metal, wood and fire, as seen in the chart below:

There was a chart on the wall that accompanied the introduction to Chinese Medicine given by a Professor, or a Doctor, I was not sure which, who told us how everything was linked in groups, as shown above, what ailments were related, and how treatments were formulated.

Then we were assigned our own doctor, ours was a very old Chinese man, who spoke to us through an interpreter.  He held our hands, checked our pulse, looked into our eyes, and looked at our tongue.  It was, to say the least, an interesting examination.

But delving into the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the practitioners were able to diagnose patient's conditions simply by asking questions, observing, listening, smelling, and touching (mostly for pulse taking).  Observation is a large part of this examination.

What was the diagnosis?  Heart, liver, apparently the same as everyone else, but he did mention thyroid which is not a common problem, so it looks like there might be a grain of truth to it to his medical wisdom.  The recommendation was for six to nine months supply of pills for the heart, and pills for the liver.

And if I was going to be cynical, like some of the tourists were, they could easily say all of us were arthritis, heart, kidney, and liver problematic, simply because most of us were over the age of  65.

To purchase those for the both of us came in at around $2,000 Australian dollars, which was quite expensive for the whole regime, but when broken down to a per bottle cost, for 30 days supply in a bottle, it was comparable to that of any of the herbal medicines available in Australia

Will they have any effect.  Well, the first thing the doctor said was that we should not stop taking our western medicine.  That doesn't seem to be a plus because back in the 1700s I doubt the Chinese had any form of western medicine available.  If the medicine was supposed to work, as it did for the Emperors, why doesn't it now?

I should only have to take the TCM, and it should cure the ailments the doctor found.

Perhaps the formulas have been changed so that they are supplements, like the herbal remedies back home.  We shall see.

What worries me is that all the pillboxes look the same, and as the writing is in Chinese there's no way of telling if they are or not.  All I have to tell the difference is a number and an order form that matches the number explains the pills in English.  I will have to try and not lose it.

I was glad, in the end, my problems were only related to the Heart and the liver, mostly because of my type of arthritis.  I can't remember now if our wizened doctor had told me he had diagnosed arthritis.

It was one of the more interesting hours I spent in one of the Government-owned institutions.

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