From the time when acupuncture was registered as a U.N. Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010 to the time Tu Youyou received her Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, or even the time when 66 Chinese herbal medicines prepared for decoction were selected into The European Pharmacopoeia, Chinese herbal medicine has gained recognition and has been practiced in more and more foreign countries.
As early as the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty, Chinese medicine had already spread to its neighboring countries; the technique of smallpox vaccination spread to the whole world during the Ming and the Qing Dynasties; starting from the 17th century, The Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu), the “ancient Chinese encyclopedia” as the British biologist Charles Darwin put it, was translated into Japanese, German, English, French, and Russian; in May 2011, the Jinling version of The Compendium of Materia Medica was selected into the Memory of the World Register.
Compared to western medicine, Chinese medicine attaches more importance to the integrity of the human body. Most of its medicines are collected from the nature and have little side effects, making it more effective than western medicine in treating chronic diseases, providing healthcare and protection, and coping with drug resistance. Lately, ISO has passed the coding standard of prepared herbal medicines for decoction, herbal medicine materials, and herbal formula granules provided by China. So far, 66 Chinese herbal medicines prepared for decoction have been selected into The European Pharmacopoeia (the only guidance document for the quality control of European medicines). Besides, Chinese medicine has gradually been accepted by the international medical system, and has registered in the form of medicines in Russia, Cuba, Vietnam, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
Chinese medicine is popular with people around the world. Nowadays, there are many entertainment and social celebrities among the foreign fans of Chinese medicine. Jean Marc Kesbis, former president of France Acupuncture Association in 1980, has published several books on acupuncture. Euler Endeleise, current president of the association, has spent over 30 years in translating and finally published Zhenjiu Jiayi Jing (A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) and Huangdi Neijing Lingshu Jing (Lingshu Canon of the Inner Canon of Huangdi). Lula, former president of Brazil, had a personal Chinese medicine doctor. Underneath the glamorous gowns of Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston were obvious cupping marks on her back. At Rio Olympics, world-famous American swimmer Phelps and gymnast Alex Naddour also showed their cupping marks, making the world amazed again and again by this oriental magic of “ancient Chinese medicine.” Chinese medicine fans in the world are making efforts jointly to internationalize Chinese medicine. According to the latest China National Image Global Survey, Chinese medicine has surpassed Chinese martial arts (Wushu) and Chinese cuisine to become the most representative “Chinese element.”
In 1990, Lin Guoming graduated from the Chinese Medicine Department, Zhejiang University of Medicine and opened his Chinese medicine clinic in Brussels, Belgium. At that time Belgians did not accept traditional Chinese medicine, so visitors to his clinic were few. Two years later, a liver cancer patient fell into a deep coma and was sent to Lin’s clinic by his family. Lin diagnosed the patient and prescribed Chinese medicines. After taking three doses of them, the patient miraculously regained consciousness. This story became a sensation in Brussels and made Lin famous overnight. Hearing the story, former King of Belgium Albert II, who had long been suffering from lumbago, especially wrote a letter to express his wish for having a try of Chinese medicine. Now, Lin’s clinic has received the recognition of the Belgian Medical Association and registered on the Belgian medical insurance system.
There are still many doctors of traditional Chinese medicine who promote it overseas like Lin. They prove to the world the function of Chinese medicine with actual and concrete medical effects. In recent years, more and more countries have approved and recognized traditional Chinese medicine. In Holland, traditional Chinese medicine is recognized by almost all medical insurance companies; in France, the mainstream medical community recognizes acupuncture and herbal treatment as “soft medicine;” in Australia, traditional Chinese medicine was officially included as a part of the country’s medical system in 2012, with about 4,000 Chinese medicine clinics and about 5,000 legally registered traditional Chinese medicine doctors; in the U.S., 46 states and Washington D.C. passed the bills for legislation of acupuncture; in Switzerland, the national assessment for Chinese medicine has been carried out, starting in 2017.
While traditional Chinese medicine is being promoted overseas, bringing health and happiness to people around the world, it is also integrating with western medicine. The promotion and popularization of Chinese and western medicine therapy in recent years has provides patients with all the therapies, treatments, and medicines needed, and has achieved the aim of radical cure and strengthened health. Chinese medicine, with little side effects and natural herbs as its main ingredients, brings huge opportunities for other industries as well. Countries along the Silk Road and the other countries that attach importance to the healthcare function of traditional medicine have mixed Chinese medicine with industries like tourism and food.
Since ancient times, traditional Chinese medicine has been a major channel for communication and cooperation among the ancient Silk Road countries. With early businesses and trade rooted and flourishing in these countries, in its various forms, traditional Chinese medicine became such a health resource that people living along the Road shared and developed together. Now, cooperation and trade between “the Belt and the Road” countries and local Chinese medicine continues to grow, providing a rare opportunity for Chinese medicine to “step abroad.”
Gansu Province has a profound reserve of traditional Chinese medicine culture, history, and resource advantage. With the help of “the Belt and the Road” initiative, Gansu has established Qihuang Chinese Medicine College in eight countries, including Russia, France, New Zealand, and Ukraine, and Qihuang Chinese Medicine Center in four countries, including Kirghizstan and Pakistan.
Sichuan Province has long been known as “the hometown of Chinese medicine” and “the stockroom of traditional Chinese medicinal herbs,” and has over 5,000 kinds of herb resources. Sichuan has set up overseas centers of Chinese medicine in “the Belt and the Road” countries, such as Russia, Montenegro, Czech, and Macedonia. The province also sends traditional Chinese medicine doctors to promote the diagnosis and treatment of the traditional Chinese medical clinics jointly built with those countries.
Guangxi utilizes its geographical advantage to strongly develop the ASEAN market. It has held a China-ASEAN Summit Forum on Traditional Medicine in a succession of three years. China-ASEAN Communication & Cooperation Center for Traditional Medicine has also successfully settled in Guangxi.
According to the white book Traditional Chinese Medicine of China, so far traditional Chinese medicine has spread to 183 countries and regions. 10 overseas centers of traditional Chinese medicine have been established and 86 cooperative agreements of traditional Chinese medicine have been signed with the related countries and international organizations.
“The Belt and the Road” Development Plan for Traditional Chinese Medicine (2016-2020), issued by China in 2016, expresses hope for traditional Chinese medicine to reach the world through “the Belt and the Road.” By 2020, a new pattern of all-round cooperation for “the Belt and the Road” traditional Chinese medicine will take shape. China’s domestic policy-support system and the international coordinating mechanism will gradually improve. With its neighboring countries and “the Belt and the Road” countries as the base, China will build 30 overseas Chinese medicine centers jointly with these countries, promulgate 20 international standards for traditional Chinese medicine, register 100 types of traditional Chinese medicinal products, and establish 50 foreign exchange and cooperation demonstration bases of traditional Chinese medicine. The value of the medical treatment and healthcare of traditional Chinese medicine has received recognition widely among people of “the Belt and the Road” countries. More and more countries along “the Belt and the Road” now accept the legal status of traditional Chinese medicine.
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