Changshan In Contemporary China

By way of background to understanding how Changshan came to be developed as an antimalarial in 20th-century China, it is instructive to consider the rise of modern medical research into traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the relationship between the modern and traditional sectors in terms of influence in the direction of this research.

From the early 20th century, the destiny of TCM has been strongly associated with the history of the Chinese state. In 1928, when the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party, KMT) ended the political chaos of the warlord period (1911-1928) and unified China, it quickly established a Ministry of Health at Nanjing. For the first time in its history, China had a national administrative center to take charge of all health care-related issues.

The next year, the first National Public Health Conference, dominated by Western-trained physicians, unanimously passed a proposal to abolish the practice of Chinese medicine. However, this resolution had the unanticipated effect of mobilising the largely unorganised traditional Chinese doctors into a massive National Medicine Movement. In the following 20 years, Chinese doctors demanded that the KMT state should grant them equal status to that of their Western-trained colleagues — to set up an official state organ run by themselves, to establish their own state-sanctioned system of licensing, and to incorporate TCM into the national school system.

While Western-style doctors demanded the wholesale abolition of Chinese medicine, they exempted Chinese drugs as distinctly different from other elements of traditional medicine and developed a research program, which they called Scientific Research on Nationally Produced Drugs (Guochan Yaowu Kexue Yanjin). The term Nationally Produced Drugs actually meant those drugs produced in China but the use of which was unrelated to traditional Chinese medical theory. Western-trained scientists asserted that Scientific Research on Nationally Produced Drugs could be carried out only by scientists, and essentially claimed a monopoly of scientific competence (Yu, 1936, p. 190). It was made clear that the success of their project did not depend in any way on Chinese medical theories.

Western-style doctors also repudiated the need to cooperate with Chinese doctors and took the view that Chinese drugs were just natural raw material and should be studied as such. They refused to treat such drugs as a part of the traditional Chinese medicine conceptual and professional framework.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

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