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TU Berlin

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Illness causation, illness roots (bingben) and illness factors (bingyin) in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Elisabeth Hsu (University of Cambridge)

The government-promoted Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the People's Republic of China refers to two different concepts that can be translated as "illness cause": bingben and bingyin, literally, illness roots and illness factors. Bingben is a well defined concept in classical writings concerned with therapeutics while bingyin is a notion that has only recently gained in importance, in the context of diagnostics. Chinese medical practice developed therapeutic maxims, indicative of highly sophisticated ideas about illness causation, while the currently promoted TCM theory prides a diagnostics aimed at identifying illness causes. The paper highlights that the elaboration of TCM theory led to a shift in emphasis from occasional reasoning on illness causation in the context of therapeutics to pronounced causal reasoning in the context of diagnostics. Although these changes all take place within the realm of Chinese medical terminology, they may well represent an adjustment to Western biomedical reasoning.

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