Phase 1: Posing Real Questions
In this Phase, I will begin to figure out the what parts of my topic, which can be found here in Phase 0, I really want to explore. This will be accomplished by coming up with questions that I will want to focus on when I go to Xizhou.
Within rural areas, many of the herbalism practices originated from trial and error. When the beliefs were spread from one family to another, these beliefs would often take root within the society and be known for its healing powers. One of the most recent examples was when I visited one of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, the mountain villages believed in drinking a special kind of tea to keep themselves healthy because apparently one of their citizens had loved the tea and throughout his life and he had never gotten sick once since he drank it on a daily basis. Eventually, other families had adopted this practice of drinking the tea and it became heavily encouraged to continue this practice. The citizens were so enthusiastic about this form of treatment that many citizens were often selling it to tourists. I know TCM is not as widely used compared to Western medicine, it has slowly become disputed because Western medicine is more factual. From my trips to the rural parts of China, the citizens still very firmly believe in TCM for perhaps smaller medical conditions while the hospitals will recommend Western medicine.
Most of the information I have gained was through observations I have made mainly through my family and a bit through other villages in rural parts of China. The behaviors and discussions of my family informed me about their views on TCM. My parents often explain to me how the TCM works and why it works, often times they would also claim it is a much better way than Western medicine as it actually "heals" you because it is all natural and plant-based. My parents claimed Western medicine was only an effective temporary solution because it depended on concoctions of chemicals and was not natural so the effect of the healing would not last as long.
My overall goal is to come up with a conclusion about the origin of TCM, how effective the villagers think TCM is, and how much of an impact TCM still has left. I would mainly focus on the beliefs the villagers have about TCM compared to Western medicine and what caused them to adopt these beliefs and what other factors are still influencing them today. I would also want to know how they believe these TCM practices were formed are accurate and helpful compared to Western medicine. Therefore, I could compare the opinions of a doctor compared to average citizens and find out how different the beliefs are and why the differences are there. There is a possibility finding doctors will be challenging, therefore, in that case, pharmacy owners would also be a strong alternative since those owners are often more seen on a daily basis of a villager. Finally, I would be interested in how Western medicine, if it is at all, is being incorporated into the medicine found in Xizhou.
To help me come up with my big questions, I have done some background research on my topic which can be found in Phase 3.
After hours of hard research to gain my basic knowledge of TCM and WM, I have come up with 10 big questions to guide my thinking even further. These questions will be with me into Xizhou and facilitate my research for my project. I grouped my questions into topics starting off with the influences because influences impact the beliefs because their belief dictates how they use medicine. Finally, to make this topic more relevant, I asked three questions about TCM in the future and modern day society. Note: the answers (sentences in italics) I give are only inferences and may be incorrect.(Questions with an asterisk mean that they have been changed throughout my Xizhou experience).
1. Which type of medicine is more advertised and promoted?
Traditional Chinese medicine would probably be the most common since it has been around longer, therefore, having a longer time to root itself in the rural village.
2. What does the public education teach about healthcare and medicine?
I am quite unsure about this answer, however, I would believe that the public education has bits of Western medical science in it but will still promote Traditional Chinese medicine in general.
*3. Is there any "active" opposition against either type of medicine anywhere in Xizhou?
Western Medicine may be ridiculed and discouraged within families, but public discouragement (such as announcements, posters, etc.) are probably minimal or none at all.
Beliefs and Perspectives
4. What are the views about medicine (Western and Chinese) of the professionals (Pharmacy owners, doctors, etc.)?
Professionals at hospitals probably work with Western medicine since it is more globalized, however, TCM could be dominant within family-owned medical shops and pharmacies.
5. What type of awareness between Western medicine and Chinese medicine is found within different generations of citizens?
Although younger generations may not be as aware of the differences between Western medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine (because TCM is becoming packaged more similarly to WM), they are probably more willing to embrace the ways of WM. On the other hand, older generations probably understand the basic differences and are more likely to advocate for TCM.
6. When are either type of medicines used?
TCM is probably used to treat smaller diseases because it has a "longer lasting effect" while Western medicine is probably used in a dire situation since it is a lot safer and effective than TCM.
7. What type of diseases does Xizhou have to deal with the most?
Other than issues that are not region related such as cancer would probably be mainly hygiene and food safety issues.
8. How do the citizens obtain the medicine? Do they need a prescription or is it "off the shelf"?
Western medicine normally requires a prescription, however, if TCM has influenced Western medicine, the medicine may be just "off the shelf" and the citizens may get to choose for themselves.
Growth and Future
9. Are more TCM methods still being introduced today?
New methods may still be introduced however a lot of them probably are not accepted due to the amount of TCM techniques already and the fact that Western medicine is slowly being introduced as well.
10. Is Western medicine influencing and changing some of the TCM methods?
Western medicine should have a lot of influence because it brings whole new science aspect behind the effectiveness, safety, and efficiency of medicine. Also, Western medicine probably covers a lot of diseases untreatable using TCM.
Before leaving for my trip on Xizhou, I would like to learn more about the influences that affect the beliefs of the locals. Especially how education influences the newer generations because it is the new generation that decides the future of medicine. Also, more information about the current health habits would also provide more insight into what the view on medicine and health is.
Next, I will be finding helpful resources for more information to help answer my questions and find out more about my topic which can be found in Phase 2.