There are profound differences between Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) though the results of treatment are often same under a professional care.  Many practitioners merge both methods to get a good result.  Based on their respective methods and principles; acupuncture, herbs, color therapy, fengshui etc are used.  Many books and websites have posted these information’s (from wherein these are information’s are gathered), I would like to post it here for our readers who have enquired umpteen times. 

            Some of the difference between CCM and TCM are listed below.

CLASSICAL CHINESE MEDICINE is based on naturalist philosophy (Daoism);

1.  Alchemical (synthetic) approach: scientific endeavor defined as acknowledgement and exploration of the complexity and multi-dimensionality of nature and the body.

2.  Based on traditional parameters of Daoist science (yin/yang, wuxing, bagua, wuyun liuqi, jing-qi-shen, etc.).

3.  Views medicine as a branch of the Daoist mother sciences (HuangLao, zhouyi, fengshui, etc.).

4.  Source oriented: reliance on tradition (experience).

5.  Requires broad base of knowledge due to intimate relationship to other traditional arts and sciences.

6.  Body is treated as a microcosm that follows macrocosmic laws and is continually in-formed by macrocosmic influences (totality of cosmic/calendric/ seasonal patterns created by conjunctions of sun, moon, and stars).

7.  Based on experience of human “subject” in environment of geocentric universe.

8.  Based on dualistic cosmology of becoming (process oriented world view observing the continuous change of physical phenomena, symbolized by the changing pattern of the moon).

9.  Impartial view of reality as continuous interplay between heaven and earth, light and shadow, “demons” (gui: lunar influences) and “spirits” (shen: solar influences), birth and death, male and female, yin and yang.

10.  “Sexual” world view (life is product of ceaseless intercourse between heaven and earth; human beings are principally sexual beings) Communicates through symbols which contain and correlate multiple layers of meaning.

11.  Preserves the lunar element of complexity and “obscuring” mystery that defies exacting definition (wuwei maxim: “do not define categorically“) .

12.  Views body as field (traditional zang/xiang theory: zang/fu are primarily viewed as functional systems).

13.  Body-mind-spirit medicine.

14.  Physician is intermediary to the sacred, cultivating the dual roles of the shaman (master of intuited knowledge) and the sage (master of scholarly knowledge), connecting above and below, inside and outside, energy and matter.

15.  Physician aspires to the Dao of medicine, a process which requires the actualization of his/her individual path by working to become a self-realized being (zhenren).

16.  Major tools: qigong meditation, music, calligraphy, painting, poetry, ritual journeys.

17.  Highly individualized discipleship based training.

18.  Teachers are individual “master” figures who emphasize the creation of a lineage inspired atmosphere/culture.

19.  Transmission of “understanding” (may include Qi transmission from master to disciple).

20.  Multi-directional memorization: Memorization of classical texts that are interpreted situationally according to individual circumstances.

21.  Health defined as the active process of refining body essences and cultivating vital forces: concept of “nourishing life” (maximizing physiological functions).

22. Clinical diagnosis primarily based on “subjective” experience of the senses.

23.  Clinical outcome primarily based on patient’s subjective feeling of well-being and physician’s collation of sensory information (tongue, pulse, etc.).

24.  Highly individualized diagnosis: emphasizes bianzheng (diagnosis by symptom pattern).

25.  Highly individualized treatment: favors flexible therapeutic approach which freely chooses from a wide variety of modalities, and within them, favors a flexible usage of prescription items.

26.  Use of wide range of clinical modalities, including the external application of herbs to acupuncture points, umbilical therapy, qigong exercises, waiqi emission, five-phase emotional therapy, alchemical dietetics, ziwu liuzhu acupuncture, etc.

27.  All inclusive scope of practice (includes emergency medicine, bone fractures, serious diseases such as cancer, etc.).

28.  All encompassing training (may lead to clinical specialization in a traditional field, such as external medicine, if inspired by the clinical expertise of a specific teacher).

29.  Combination of Western and traditional modalities, if employed, is performed according to Chinese medicine criteria (i.e., Zhang Xichun’s method of energetically classifying aspirin and integrating it as an alchemical ingredient into traditional formulas).


TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE is based on pragmatist philosophy (Confucianism, scientific materialism, communism)

1.  Analytical approach: scientific endeavor defined as elimination of complicating factors and unpredictable occurrences.

2.  Primarily based on parameters of modern science (virus, inflammation, blood pressure, etc.).

3.  Views medicine as a branch of modern science.

4.  Branch oriented: reliance on progress (experiments).

5.  Technical and highly specialized trade.

6.  Body is treated as an independent entity.

7.  Based on “objective” heliocentric world view.

8.  Based on cosmology of being (concept of singular, meta-physical truth, symbolized by fixed position of the sun).

9.  Confucian/materialist method of dividing heavenly and earthly spheres and “rectifying the names” (zheng ming: convert the binary symbols of lunar mythology into the immutable and one-sided terminology of the solar perspective, and dignify an absolute position as “right/good/ correct“).

10.  Monistic world view (human sphere is separate from heaven; human beings are principally individuals); astrology, sexuality, and ecstasy taboo.

11.  Communicates through words and terms which refer to narrowly defined contents.

12.  Demystifies and demythologizes the traditional record by “illuminating” aspects of lunar ambivalence and by creating “clear and simple” textbook definitions (youwei maxim: “define as firmly and precisely as possible“).

13.  Views body as materiality (influence of modern anatomy: zang/fu is primarily viewed as structural organs).

14.  Body-(mind) medicine.

15.  Physician is skilled technician who rectifies imbalances between bodily humors and calibrates the structural composition of the body (eliminate viruses, etc.).

16.  Physician is part of a legally defined profession with standardized ethical standards.

17.  Major tools: mandatory courses/tests on legal responsibility and liability issues.

18.  Highly standardized institutionalized training.

19.  Teachers are assigned to standardized curriculum items, and thus in principle exchangeable.

20.  Transmission of cerebral knowledge through “words” and “terms“.

21.  Mono-directional memorization: Use of standardized textbooks that prepare for testing of knowledge in multiple choice format; classics are placed in museum.

22.  Health defined as the absence of pathology.

23.  Clinical diagnosis primarily informed by “objective” instrumental data (as provided by prior Western medicine diagnosis).

24.  Clinical outcome primarily monitored through instrumental data (reduction of viral load in blood, disappearance of lump on x-ray, etc.).

25.  Standardized diagnosis: emphasizes bianbing (diagnosis by disease name).

26.  Standardized treatment: favors fixed modalities (herbs or acupuncture), and within them, promotes fixed herb regimens (patent medicines) and fixed point recipes.

27.  Selective ratification of certain modalities that have a measurable effect on the physical body and that can be explained from the perspective of modern science, such as the internal administration of herbs and ashixie acupuncture.

28.  Selective scope of practice (chosen areas in which modern studies have shown an advantage of TCM over Western medicine, such as chronic pain or allergies).

29.  Progressive clinical specialization according to the model of Western medicine (acupuncture, internal medicine, external medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, tumors, cardiovascular diseases, digestive diseases, etc.).

30.  Combination of Western and traditional modalities is recommended in most cases; combination follows Western medicine criteria (i.e., abdominal surgery plus post-operative administration of herbs with anti-adhesive effect such as magnolia bark). 

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