Government regulations are destroying traditional Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine has been handed down from master to disciple for thousands of years. Then, in 1999, just two years after Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred to China, the government promulgated the “Regulations of Chinese Medicine,” which made the traditional style of teaching Chinese medicine very hard to impart.
Once the ordinance takes full effect, the “from master to disciple” way of handing down knowledge will be gone. Yu Hong Chao, president of the Association of Preserving Chinese Ancient Medicine and heir to the ancient treatment of bone injuries, said that after Hong Kong was returned to China, the Chinese medicine legislation threatened to destroy Chinese traditional medicine.
“This is the main reason why real Chinese medicine is gradually disappearing,” Yu lamented.
For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine has been passed down from master to disciple, like the renowned physicians in history Li Shizhen and Hua Tuo. A master would pass on his experiences, or secret formulas accumulated over decades, to his disciples or his own children.
Yu says that formulas can not be understood without a master’s verbal instruction:
“What is written in the books are only formulas that have little or no effect. But my master’s handwritten formulas are very effective. These prescriptions are written separately. In order to be effective, one has to add one formula to the other. And the master would only impart that information to qualified disciples.”
Yu said that a relationship between a teacher and a student was built over time. “Before my master accepted me as his disciple, he observed my behavior for many years. In the end, he decided that he wanted to teach me.”
Yu said that before his master died, he told him: “You must accept a few good disciples, and don’t let this knowledge get lost.” “However, as his disciple, I cannot fulfill my responsibility,” said Yu, who was quite sad and frustrated by this.
After the “Chinese Medicine Ordinance” became effective in 1999, in order to be registered as a Chinese medicine practitioner and practice legally in Hong Kong, Chinese medicine practitioners must first pass qualifying examinations.
In addition, one also has to complete all the undergraduate courses or equivalent training approved by the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong. Yu wrote a eulogy to his master:
“Master, before you died, you could take anyone as your disciple. But now, this is impossible.
“This person has to be a graduate of the Chinese Medicine College with a certificate. Otherwise, it is useless. I can teach him, but he cannot practice medicine because it is illegal.”
Yu has tried to take on apprentices and recruit academics, or registered Chinese medicine practitioners, but in vain. “They considered themselves students of professors, thinking we are the same as orthodox medical practitioners. Why should they take me as a master?”
Yu foresees the art of ancient treatments for bone injuries are about to disappear. He said that if the ancient system of imparting knowledge “from master to disciple” was still illegal on his death bed, he would burn all of his medical books.
“The British government always respected our cultural heritage and respected our medical system. However, two years after Hong Kong was returned to China, their regulations are forcing the ancient system of imparting knowledge to disappear.”
Ordinance may end traditional Chinese Medicine in Hong Kong
“Nowadays, medicine is integrative — not quite Western and not quite Eastern,” says Yu Hong Chao, who believes that the Chinese regime is forcing the development of Western medicine upon the Chinese medical system.
“Half of the teachings are Chi medicine. Eventually, this will eradicate traditional Chinese medicine. We will have quasi-Chinese medicine,” he said.
“It is only about teaching others how to prepare the herbs or how to study the books, but without real clinical experience. Those who really understand diseases and are capable of treating them are few and far between.”
Ordinance may be death knell to traditional Chinese medicine
The ordinance that became effective in 1999 meant that practitioners like Yu, who possess great knowledge and skills, fail to meet the requirements of the regulations. As a result, some disciples are registered as medical practitioners, while a master is only listed.
According to the Chinese medical regulatory system, a listed Chinese medical practitioner cannot provide a sick leave document nor give out a prescription. His status is like an LPN in the nursing industry.
Yu is very concerned that traditional Chinese medicine will soon disappear for good, and, unfortunately, 95 per cent of Chinese citizens are unaware of this.
“One has genuine skills in Chinese medicine and a sincere desire to treat patients; there is a sincerity to recommend patients to other medical practitioners when one’s ability is limited,” Yu said.
“If a practitioner can cure 6 out of 10 patients, he is a first-class medical practitioner. If he cures none or only one, he does not know how to cure diseases. If a doctor cannot cure illnesses, what good is he?’’
Yu added, as an example, that he sent 10 patients to a practitioner who cured all of them.
“That is a first-class Chinese medical practitioner. A condition like ankylosing spondylitis is not treatable with Western medicine, but true Chinese medicine can help to improve the condition by more than 80 per cent.”
He said there were many good Chinese medicine practitioners, but unfortunately, they were not certificated, so they could not practice. Yu is saddened knowing many people fail in their search for a real Chinese medicine practitioner and so suffer adverse consequences. Genuine medical practitioners think of curing people instead of making money.
On the wall of Yu’s clinic, his master’s teachings are clearly written: “Discount or free for the poor.” He said that he must follow his master’s teachings, but also laments the moral decline of people nowadays. “Some people would not even make a phone call to express their gratitude or give thanks for curing an illness.”
Serving the community
According to statistics, in 2010, Hong Kong ranked second in the world for average life expectancy. Yu thinks that is because Hong Kong has true Chinese medical practitioners.
“Many other countries have better environments, food and air, but they cannot compare with Hong Kong. When Chinese medicine practitioners disappear, the life expectancy of Hong Kong will also decrease,” he said.
In order to continue thousands of years of an ancient legacy of Chinese medicine, Yu set up the “Preserving the Ancient Chinese Medical Association,” a non-profit charitable organisation. He hopes to preserve and pass on the torch of 5,000 years of pure Chinese medicine.
When the association was first set up, Yu had black hair. Now, only a few years later, his hair has turned grey.
“It is hard work for an elderly physician to go to meetings and protest on the streets. An old Chinese medical practitioner cannot stay at home and enjoy life, for he needs to spread the news and serve the community.”
For the last 10 years, Yu has always had to clarify distorted reports of Chinese medicine. He hopes that the residents of Hong Kong will appreciate the true value of Chinese medicine.
“Some diseases cannot be cured by Western medicine and life is definitely better with more options.”
Translated by Natashe Yang