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Traditional Chinese Medicine—Professionalization and Integration in Hong Kong
Kara Chan, Dong Dong


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152 x 229 mm

Chinese medicine has a rich history that has only been made more complex by its integration with “Western” biomedicine. Legitimization of Chinese medicine in biomedicine-dominated health systems, such as that in Hong Kong, has posed significant issues. This anthology of articles explores relevant social issues related to various Chinese medicine treatments, including acupuncture and medicinal oils, as well as insight into practitioner licensing and public perception. Each chapter tackles a topic related to the complicated process of legitimizing knowledge and power within a specific social and historical context.

Written by professors and researchers with extensive knowledge of Chinese medicine, government regulation, and sociology, this collection provides an overview of the challenges and current social context of Chinese medicine that affect students and practitioners of Chinese medicine, health and para-health biomedical professionals, and patients alike.

Traditional Chinese Medicine: Professionalization and Integration in Hong Kong is the first book in the Mediated Health Series, which focuses on the effects of media, lifestyle, doctor-patient communication, and the economy on health and aims to help inform medical decisions and enhance the wellbeing of individuals.

"This well-researched book provides deep insight into the landscape of traditional Chinese Medicine (CM), focusing on ethnic and esoteric interpretations of  “Chinese” and “Western” medicine. The discussion of legitimation and perception, acupuncture, and hybridization and integration of CM provides a unique contribution into the domain. CM academics, enthusiasts, and practitioners will certainly find this book insightful, compelling, and intriguing."

– Prof Ian Phau, School of Marketing, Curtin Business School

Chinese medicine (CM) was not something I was familiar with. None of my family members had consulted a CM practitioner (CMP). Then, a few years ago, I suffered from shoulder pain, which was later diagnosed as being caused by a muscle tear, likely a result of my kayaking activities. My Western biomedicine doctor (WMD) referred me to a physiotherapist. The treatment lasted for a few weeks, but instead of seeing improvement, I suffered from additional pain and eventually made the choice to discontinue treatment.

Almost six months later, still in pain, I spoke with a colleague at the School of Chinese Medicine. He recommended acupuncture. Thus, in the hopes of decreasing the pain and being able to kayak again, I consulted an acupuncturist at the CM clinic on campus. He read the diagnosis and commented that the wounded area was deep inside my shoulder. He designed my treatment plan to include visits to the clinic twice a week. At that time, another colleague had just released her research findings related to acupuncture treatment of juvenile autism, leading many parents to seek out the remedy for their kids. This was apparent during my visits to the clinic, and energetic kids were often rushing around the facilities. One young boy was particularly nervous when receiving acupuncture. He kept screaming, “Help! I am going to die”. All of the children were fascinating to observe and brought an element of fun to the clinic.

The treatment went well for me and I recovered within three months. This is ultimately what triggered my interest in the perception of acupuncture. My colleagues Dr. Timothy Fung at the School of Communication and my former colleague Dr. Siu Yuen Man, Judy at the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies had previously conducted a focus-group study to examine the perception of acupuncture among users and non-users. We followed it up with a survey to gather quantitative data. Later, our colleague Mr. Lennon Tsang joined the team, and we conducted another survey to measure the perception of CM among Hong Kong people.

My experience of seeking out WM first and then looking for alternative health solutions is not unique. The quest for knowledge concerning CM is shared. However, much of this knowledge, particular that involving the social implications and views, is limited or difficult to find. This is largely what initiated the collation of the chapters in this book, which focuses on CM from a social scientist’s point of view. My former colleague Dr. Dong Dong at the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies graciously agreed to help with the book project. As we are not medical experts, it was essential to identify scholars who had published excellent works on this topic and invite them to contribute.

Dr. Vincent Chung and his associates have contributed two chapters about the regulation and education of CMPs in Hong Kong. Mr. Daan Kemps, an exchange student at the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies, contributed a chapter on medicinal oil. A friend of mine who is a WMD suggested that I also investigate the integration of CM and WM in Hong Kong. This spurred us to interview two members of the School of Chinese Medicine at Hong Kong Baptist University for their expert opinions on policy and integration. Meanwhile, our academic backgrounds in communication and media studies inspired us to study the media coverage of CM, focusing on acupuncture. The mass media impacts the public’s awareness and perception of technologies; however, the extent of this impact (strong, limited, or minimal) is still under debate. To address this, we sampled news articles related to acupuncture from two major Hong Kong newspapers between 2001 and 2013 and conducted both content and discourse analyses to reveal the latent frames of news story-mediated legitimation.

Legitimation is a key concept throughout this book, whether the chapter concerns the efforts of legitimizing CM via government policies, educational requirements, CM use (or rejection) in focus-groups and surveys, or the discursive practices of CMPs. Even the mixed history of so-called “Chinese” medical oils tells us that the sources of legitimization may vary depending on context.

The terms used in this book also show a kind of legitimation. For example, throughout the book, the terms “traditional Chinese medicine” and “Chinese medicine” are used interchangeably (designated CM). However, the term “evidence-based Chinese medicine” is only used to refer to scientifically supported research. According to a colleague at the School of Chinese Medicine, this term is used mainly by researchers in research grant applications for projects scientifically investigating the effectiveness of CM and is rare in everyday language. Although it may not be used often in the public, even this shift in language highlights a form of legitimation in the research community.

This book is intended to be a reference for health and para-health professionals to learn about social issues related to CM in Hong Kong. It is an anthology of articles that present the complicated process of legitimizing knowledge and power within a specific social and historical context. It is organized into three parts that help to orient the reader: Legitimation and perception, Focusing on acupuncture, and Hybridization and integration.

In Part I: Legitimation and perception, we begin with a historical assessment of the legitimacy and perception of CM in Hong Kong. Chapter 1 offers insight into the history and future of CM in Hong Kong, while Chapter 2 examines CM’s historical position, current position, and the changes in higher education, regulatory policies, and cultural legitimacy of CM in Australia and Hong Kong. Australia is selected for comparison because the development of CM there shares a similar trajectory to that in Hong Kong — initially being marginalized and then gaining legitimacy via recognition by formal institutions. The chapter compares CM education in the two regions, assesses the constraints and opportunities for CM education, and considers implications for other regions. Chapter 3 investigates three factors that influence an individual’s choice to consult CM or WM — namely, the perceived superiority of WM over CM, efficacy, and cost.

In Part II: Focusing on acupuncture, we present three chapters that focus on a specific branch of CM — acupuncture. Chapter 4 presents a qualitative analysis of how users and non-users perceive acupuncture, what make users try acupuncture in the first place, what prevents non-users from trying it, and what factors influence users’ choice of an acupuncturist. Chapter 5 discusses a quantitative study of how consumers perceive acupuncture as a medical treatment in relation to WM. Finally, using an approach that combines discourse analysis and content analysis, Chapter 6 presents our analysis of 666 news articles related to acupuncture published in Hong Kong over a 10-year period. This study reveals a complex process of generating legitimacy for health knowledge through news narratives via three major discursive constructs — authorization, rationalization, and moral evaluation.

In Part III: Hybridization and integration, we highlight nuances in the integration of CM into the larger healthcare sphere. Chapter 7 describes the fascinating history of medicated oils, which in Hong Kong are generally regarded as traditional CMs but which are, in fact, a result of medical hybridization. Thus, the author highlights a critical point underlying our understanding of “Chinese” and “Western” medicine — that treatments rarely develop in isolation and integrating two seemingly different techniques may not be as difficult as we think. Chapter 8, which contains interviews with two experts in the field of CM, sheds additional light onto the opportunities and challenges facing the integration of CM into the healthcare system in Hong Kong.

Some of the research presented within the pages of this book has been previously published. The original publications have been cited in the acknowledgements sections where appropriate and we encourage readers to refer to them for additional insight into the methods used. We thank the respective journals for providing permission to reprint the articles in their edited and updated forms. We thank Dr. Laying Tam who did a marvelous editing job on the initial manuscripts. We are in debt to the editorial and design staff at City University of Hong Kong Press, including Carrie Yu (cover design) and Lam Yan Kiu (editorial intern), with special thanks to Dr. Abby Leigh Manthey (editor) for her reckless effort in bringing the manuscript to perfection. We also thank the David C. Lam Institute for East-West Studies for provided funding to support this book project and the exchange program partaken by Mr. Daan Kemps.

Finally, I want to clarify and emphasize that there is currently no universally accepted definition of traditional CM. I concur with the World Health Organization’s remark that the “comprehensiveness of the term ‘traditional medicine’ and the wide range of practices it encompasses make it difficult to define or describe, especially in a global context”.[1]This is particularly important for CM and other traditional, complementary, and integrative medicines (TCIMs). Therefore, I would rather leave the definition blank and let readers supply their own.

Kara Chan
13 March 2019

[1] This quote from the World Health Organization can be found on their website (http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2943e/3.html).


Part I Legitimation and Perception
1 Development and Regulation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners in Hong Kong
   Sian Griffiths and Vincent C. H. Chung
2 Australia and Hong Kong: Comparing Regional Influences on Chinese Medicine Education
   Caragh Brosnan, Vincent C. H. Chung, Anthony L. Zhang, and Jon Adams
3 Public Perception of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong
   Kara Chan and Lennon Tsang

Part II Acupuncture as a Focus
4 How People Perceive Acupuncture: A Qualitative Study
   Kara Chan, Judy Y. M. Siu, and Timothy Fung
5 How People Perceive Acupuncture: A Quantitative Study
   Kara Chan, Lennon Tsang, and Timothy Fung
6 Authorization, Rationalization, and Moral Evaluation of Acupuncture by Hong Kong’s Newspapers
   Dong Dong and Kara Chan

Part III Hybridization and Integration
7 Medical Hybridization of Chinese Wind/Rheumatism Oils
   Daan Kamps
8 Expert Opinions Concerning Integrated Chinese-Western Medicine
   Kara Chan and Dong Dong
9 Conclusion and Future Perspectives
   Kara Chan and Dong Dong