Is Chinese Medicine holistic?In the world of Chinese medicine, the concept of 'Oneness' is very much debated and many suggest that the 'holistic' view is something imported from elsewhere and inserted into the corpus of Chinese Medicine's from a cultural environment alien to it. The above statement can, however, be easily confuted from within the literature of Chinese Medicine. To see that 'Oneness' is a concept radically embedded in the Chinese literature of the past, one only needs to read Laozi, Confucius, Mencius and many other ancient, classical and modern philosophers, doctors and scholars. The concept of 'Oneness' is repeatedly emphasised in the 'bible' of Chinese medicine, the "Huangdi Neijing - Suwen, 黃帝內經 - '素聞'"( ch1) where, right from the start, we read that the more human beings are one with Dao, the less sickness they are likely to experience. The same text (in Ch2 & Ch66, for instance) also explains how the human being lives and pulsates at the rhythm of nature. The following statement:
"Heaven and earth are one, 天人合一"firstly proposed by the Zhuangzi , echoes throughout the whole Laozi or "Dao De Jing 道的經" (1) especially in the statement:
“Human beings conform to earth, Earth to Heaven, Heaven to Dao and Dao to what is natural" - 人法地, 地法天, 天法道, 道法自然 "These quotes leave no doubt as to the fact that 'Oneness' refers to the necessary condition of 'resonance', a terms which besides 'oneness', also elicits meanings like 'coherence', interplay' and 'mutual reliance'.
Arguments in favour of Chinese Medicine being 'holistic' - the functions of the Zang Fu（臟腑）Some people support their view that the word 'holistic' is a foreign bias, imposed on Chinese Medicine. Let's take a look at the 'bible' of Chinese Medicine, the "Huangdi Neijing - 皇帝內經". Talking about each organs, it explains that each one of them, besides being in charge of specific material substances and functions, is also part of a wider wave system: a climate (i.e. Liver: wind), a direction (i.e. Liver: east), a season (i.e. Liver : spring), a psychical nature (i.e. Liver: ‘Hun’ 魂' , the vision of the path), an emotion (i.e Liver: 'Nu 怒' , normally translated as anger) (2), a material function (i.e Liver: stores blood at night and moves it in the daytime). The Liver - and like it, all the other organs - is nothing else but a metonymy standing for a much wider and complex discourse that refers to the one, coherent continuum between the non-material / material continuum called Liver (Jue Yin). The same can be said about the Spleen, the Kidneys, the Large Intestines and so on and so forth.
Arguments in favour of Chinese Medicine being 'holistic' - the Zang Fu 臟腑 networkChapter 2 of the 'Huangdi Neijing- Suwen 皇帝內景 - 素問" explains how people can maintain good health in each season of the year. It gives them practical suggestions on how to live the day, feel and think. Talking about how to conduct oneself in Spring it says:
"The three months of Spring indicate expanding and spreading (春三月，此謂發陳). It is the time when Heaven and the Earth give birth (天地俱生). Everything is prosperous (萬物以榮)! Rest at night and rise early (夜臥早起)! Walk in the courtyard with a long stride, your hair loosen, in self-harmony (廣步於庭，被髮緩形)! so that your aspiration is born (以使志生). Give life but do not kill, give but do not take, reward but do not punish (生而勿殺，予而勿奪，賞而勿罰). To resonate with the Qi of Spring is the Dao of good health (此春氣之應養生之道也). If you go against it, you will hurt your Liver (逆之則傷肝).To invite people to 'resonate with the Qi of Spring' through actions that respect the nature of the season, is it not a 'holistic' view of human physiology? Does it now contain also an 'holistic' perspective of pathological mechanisms and, eventually, of how to read a clinical situation? In Chinese Medicine "holism" is stressed over and over and over again, no matter which vantage point the observer takes. Is "oneness" - and consequently 'holism' - an imposed foreign bias?
Notes: (1) Laozi, Daodejing ch 25. See https://ctext.org/dao-de-jing (2) In Western culture as in modern Chinese culture 'anger' has negative connotations. However, in Chinese Medicine this emotion is connected to the impetus of wind and spring that allows the seeds to sprout no matter what and the wind to pollinate. It is what we often need to call for in order to get unstuck and move towards the future with determination and courage.