What Is Canonical Chinese Medicine?

Canonical Chinese Medicine is the style of Chinese medicine practiced along the tenets outlined in the Western and Eastern Han dynasty classic manuscripts, also known as canons. It is the foundation of both clinical and theoretical Chinese medicine as we know it, and is comprised of two main schools, the Yellow Emperor huangdi 黃帝 school of Medical Canons yijing pai 醫經派 and the Divine Farmer shennong 神農 school of Canonical Formulas jingfang pai 經方派.

For thousands of years the only way to acquire this knowledge has been in a discipleship (apprenticeship) format, with the lineage being passed down from master to disciple. As the main disciple of the late Zeng Rongxiu, MD 曾榮修 (1931- 2012), who was himself a disciple of the late Dr. Tian Heming 田鶴鳴 (1883-1980), Dr. Arnaud Versluys is the successor of the Tian Lineage and the most senior lineage holder of the Tiang-Zeng Lineage. Part of the mission of ICEAM is to secure and transmit this knowledge for the benefit of future generations.

Iceam Programs Integrate Ancient Knowledge & Modern Clinical Practice

ICEAM programs were developed by Dr. Arnaud Versluys to provide clinicians with an unprecedented opportunity to access the classics, or canons, that form the foundation of East Asian medicine. The training presents the theory and practice of the Han-dynasty (circa 200 CE) style of Chinese medicine according the principles of the Shanghan Lun and the Jingui Yaolue and the profound herbal knowledge of the Tian-Zeng lineage, one of the most pragmatic and advanced styles of herbalism. Rooted in the Han-dynasty classics of the Yellow Emperor Internal Canon huangdi neijing, Classic of Difficulties nan jing, Divine Farmer Classic of Materia Medicine shennong bencao jing, and the lost Decoction Classic tangye jing, its practice fuses the clinical practicality typical to folk medicine with advanced medical insight originally developed by the Confucian intelligentsia.

The training is presented on a diagnostic level via advanced pulse diagnosis and abdominal palpation and from a therapeutic perspective by applying both herbs and acupuncture as one streamlined process. No clinical specialty is left unaddressed, and the successful participant will be able to master the true classical practice of Chinese medicine for greater applicability and efficacy in modern clinical settings.

Why Study Canonical Chinese Medicine Through The Lens Of The Shanghan Zabing Lun?

As an exemplary work of canonical Chinese medicine, the Shanghan Zabing Lun reveals its original identity and displays all aspects of Han and pre-Han medical science in high density. It also shows the origins of all styles of Chinese medicine later to develop throughout its consequent history. Investigation of some of the more obvious characteristics of Zhang Zhongjing’s work hence allows the modern academic and clinician alike to understand both the past and future of Chinese medicine and to illuminate both its theoretical foundations and clinical application.

Chinese Medicine – Historical Background

Chinese medicine formed in decentralized fashion during the four non-industrial millennia BCE. For centuries, due to the lack of a unified and coherent system of thought, Chinese medicine existed in the form of folk medicine, which displayed characteristics of both traditional folklore and practical medical procedures. With the ripening of the human worldview and the decline of fallacy came the advent of more structured pre-Daoist and proto-Daoist naturalist thought. Consequently, medical investigation gained direction and focus from increasingly widespread philosophies of natural observation. This allowed for the systematization and the establishment of medicine as a consistent and discriminating science.

The establishment of standardized Chinese script during Qin dynasty was the start of the codification process. During the five centuries before 200 BC, the Hundred Schools of Thought were engaged in authoring the canons of all scientific disciplines; numerous scholars engaged in the compilation of the first medical classics, including the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon huangdi neijing黃帝內經 and the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Eighty-one Difficulties huangdi bashiyi nan jing黃帝八十一難經.

By late Western Han dynasty, these books formed the corpus of standardized medicine and consolidated all valid theories and practices into one ultimately coherent system. The filtering process at the basis of this standardization allowed for the discarding of most irrelevant aspects inherited from folk beliefs. This finally formed the threshold of what is now referred to as Canonical Chinese Medicine – i.e., the medicine of China practiced along the tenets of the theoretical Medical Canons and practiced along the clinical Canonical Formula books of the Han period.

The Treatise On Cold Damage And Complex Disorders Shanghan Zabing Lun 傷寒雜病論 And Its Place In Canonical Chinese Medicine

Proponents of both aforementioned lineages engaged in academic exchange in an attempt to mutually supplement insufficiencies and clarify obscurities. But it was not until Eastern Han dynasty that a written work was successful in approximating the integration of both theoretical and clinical schools. Though belonging primarily to the clinical tradition of the Canonical Formulas of the Divine Farmer, the Treatise on Cold Damage and Complex Diseases by Zhang Zhongjing became the first manual to establish the full practice of clinical herbal medicine. As Zhang Zhongjing mentions in his own preface, he studied and used the theories of the aforementioned Neijing and Nanjing as well as widely collected herbal formulas and knowledge that circulated at the time. He also adopted a Han dynasty pulse diagnosis system based on the Western Han dynasty booklets of Methods for Pulse Assessment pingmai fa 平脈法and Methods for Pulse Differentiation bianmai fa 辨脈法. And he incorporated early Han dynasty climatologic theories on yin yang, five phases and six qi into a clinically relevant system of six conformation differentiation. All materials he extracted from the Great Treatise on Yin and Yang yinyang dalun, which ultimately was incorporated into the Neijing Suwen as chapters 67 through 74.


How the ICEAM Training Program Works

Entry into ICEAM training begins with the DCCM program, which is open to everyone from seasoned practitioners wishing to deepen their knowledge of the classics to students in Chinese medicine college with no herbal knowledge, and continues through clinical, advanced and instructor training.

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