For thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture have played important roles in maintaining the health of the Chinese. Modern Western medicine came to China 300-400 years ago, but was not well known until about almost 100 years ago. Because of the effectiveness and good results for many diseases and conditions, TCM and acupuncture continue to grow in awareness in the world.
In the past, apprenticeship was the main way of receiving education of TCM and acupuncture in China. Formal education for TCM and acupuncture was started from about the beginning of last century and ever since, the education process has incrementally improved. In 1956, the Chinese government established four main universities of TCM and acupuncture, and made it as formal as other sciences’ educations. Students who want to become a TCM herbologist or acupuncturist must take a national standardized exam to get in, like the SAT’s in the US. After two years of the experimental four schools training students, in 1958, all of the provinces and major cities in China established their own TCM and acupuncture universities.
Nowadays, the education of TCM and acupuncture is just as comprehensive as medical schools in the US. These kinds of medical school students do not only need to master modern medicine, but also need to master the fundamentals of TCM and acupuncture. After formal training, the students need to go through an internship, residency, and fellowship just like the system here in the US. While expanding the wealth of knowledge in TCM, TCM practitioners also split and focus on certain aspects of health problems just like modern medicine splits in to focus on neurology, orthopedics, etc. Comparing the United States, the research and practice of TCM and acupuncture are the same.
You must wonder what the hospitals are like in China. All hospitals in China basically have three parts: solely modern Western medicine, solely TCM and acupuncture, and a combination of both. They even have solely TCM and acupuncture hospitals or solely modern Western medicine hospitals. Each department consults with the others to figure out the best treatment for a complex problem that a patient has. This is for the maximum benefit of the patient. Education follows the same pattern of the three parts. In the northern part of China, most people generally prefer to receive modern medicine first. If it doesn’t give good results, they will seek help from TCM and acupuncture. However, in the South, the situation is different. Many people would rather go to an acupuncturist or TCM doctor first even for small things, like a cold or fever. The Southern Chinese combine herbs into their health to regulate their health or compensate for the small damages within daily life, environmental factors, bad habits, etc.