The Art of Chinese Medicine

Part 1: My Grandfather

Gemma Jiang, PhD

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Image Credit: Dragon Images / Shutterstock

Earlier this year I visited a traditional Chinese medicine/TMC doctor in Atlanta for the first time in my eleven years living in the United States. The whole experience felt like visiting with an old friend. I enjoyed the conversation, the atmosphere, the pulse reading. Towards the end of the visit, tears suddenly welled up in my eyes while I was watching the doctor assembling the herbal medicine. I was flooded with gratitude for the legacy of my grandfather, who was a TCM doctor. His medical practice and way of living influenced me in innumerable ways.

My story with Chinese medicine started at birth. In the late 1980s in rural China, most babies were delivered at home. It was not a fashionable option among many others accessible to mothers in modern industrialized societies. It was the only option because hospitals were too far away from the remote countryside. My birth was not an exception. Perhaps it was the midwife’s poor hygiene practice. Perhaps it was a difficult birth, or some other complications. The legend I was told growing up was that shortly after my delivery, a respiratory infection caused severe breathing difficulties. Alarmed by my purpled face from lack of oxygen, Mother inquired to Grandfather whether I should be sent to the hospital. “She won’t make it.” Grandfather replied. He was not joking: the infant mortality rate was quite high back then.

Instead, he made the decision to treat me with Chinese medicine. I vaguely remember from Grandfather’s later account that some special natural powers saved the day, but the details really did not matter. What mattered was: I survived, thanks to Grandfather’s timely rescue.

Earlier this month I attended an interesting workshop. This birth story surfaced and was identified as a ‘birth trauma’ that may potentially have deep psychological implications. While there is still a lot to untangle in the ‘psychological’ department, I am very grateful for how the ‘physical’ part of the story turned out.

Over the years Grandfather often proudly claimed that thanks to his medical practice, nobody in my family had to visit the hospital for fifty years. That was absolutely true.

Growing up, Grandfather was my pediatrician. In my memory, he could treat anything, from…

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Gemma Jiang, PhD

Senior Team Scientist, Colorado State University; Complexity Leadership Scholar and Practitioner; also at https://www.linkedin.com/in/gemma-jiang/