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In the West

The first contact between the West and traditional Chinese medicine go back to the 16th century, when the first Jesuits were admitted to China’s imperial court. While they were attempting to pass the Christian faith onto the Chinese, the Jesuits were also keen observers of traditional Chinese culture. Their letters led to the blossoming of a first “Orientalist” movement among European intellectuals of the period.

A second phase of contact took place in the 19th century and was characterized by an intellectual effort to understand the theories related to Chinese culture and medicine. Led by intellectuals familiar with traditional Chinese language and culture, and often connected to the embassies of Western powers having trading posts in Chinese territories, this trend developed Western understanding of Chinese medicine.

Despite this fad, it’s not until the second half of the 20th century that a third phase of contact took place between traditional Chinese medicine and the West. Westerners then integrated different practices such as acupunctureQi Gong, Tai Chi and meditation, due to a countercultural movement that rejected its society’s Judeo-Christian heritage and dove deeply into so-called “alternative” spiritualities.

Since then, practices have multiplied and Western interest for Chinese medicine has spread widely. It is now considered a serious alternative in the treatment of several conditions and continues to prove itself in scientific communities. Its clinical effectiveness has moreover been recognized by numerous studies, as well as by international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

Today, acupuncture is practiced not only in Asia, but also in several Western countries (Quebec, Canada, the United States, France, Great Britain, Germany, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Norway, the Netherlands, etc.).

For more information:

  • Dominic Larochelle,Quand la santé devient une forme de salut. Les traditions thérapeutiques asiatiques dans la construction des spiritualités occidentales contemporaines, (“When health becomes a form of salvation. Asian therapeutic traditions in the construction of contemporary Western spiritualities”), paper presented to the Ordre des Acupuncteurs du Québec.
  • George Soulié de Morant, Précis de la vraie acupuncture chinoise: doctrine, diagnostic, thérapeutique, (“Summary of the true Chinese acupuncture: doctrine, diagnostic, therapeutic”), 1934 (original edition).