THE WEB THAT HAS NO WEAVER: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J. Kaptchuk

THE WEB THAT HAS NO WEAVER: Understanding Chinese Medicine

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KIRKUS REVIEW

One reason I had for leaving the States at the end of the Sixties was a desire to reject what I thought was ordinary and to search for the miraculous""; but after studying medicine in China, Kaptchuk decided that the extraordinary ""is just the ordinary not understood."" Thus, this curious volume in response to the current fascination with acupuncture and herbalism: a description of Chinese medicine by the only doctor fully trained in its practice on the staff of an American hospital. (Kaptchuk is director of the Pain and Stress Relief Clinic at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Boston.) Unlike other American writers on the subject, Kaptchuk does not concern himself with the Chinese medical system; rather, he has taken on--with partial success-the more difficult task of describing the Chinese medical world-view; of imparting the mind set and concept of the human body held by the Chinese practitioner. Where Western medicine sees a symptom, its treatment and cure in terms of one body part, Chinese medicine views a symptom--or ""disharmony""--in relation to the whole body and the environment in which it exists. (And, Kaptchuk notes, the value of Western medical techniques for treating certain disorders is well recognized.) So Chinese medicine is never learned piecemeal: studying the theory is like going from simple drawings to fine paintings--the whole is always present, it merely becomes more refined. Kaptchuk's problems arise in explaining the bases of Chinese medical theory. The Fundamental Substances and Organs of the Body, the Origins of Disharmony, the Four Examinations--all these require a new vocabulary, since the Chinese concept that Kaptchuk calls Heart is not the organ we know, Blood is much more than blood, and so on. Kaptchuk has not only had to develop this new vocabulary, but simultaneously to set it in a new landscape. Confusing as this may be along the way (in part due to overmuch detail), a new picture does emerge in the end. Following the outline of an elementary diagnostic text, we see the ""disharmonies"" as they exist alone at a simple level--without futile comparisons to Western terms and practices, The only approximation for authenticity is The Barefoot Doctor's Manual, and this will take readers much further.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's