Briefly, classical Chinese medicine (CCM) can be described as the ancient practice as it is recorded and passed down in such texts as the Huángdì Nèijīng (黄帝内经), while traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is the result of early Maoist Chinese communism regulating and mainstreaming CCM so that it can be learned en masse. Explicitly, TCM has been seen to reflect the communist Chinese desire to integrate a Western construct and mindset to Chinese medical education. However, the distinctions are far more complex this short premise suggests.
One of the most significant characteristics of CCM is its Daoist foundation regarding the binding relationship between humanity and the environment, in that one cannot fully understand the workings of human physiology without also observing the external world. Homeostasis of the body, therefore, relies on harmony among Five Elements, in which various organ systems, ailments, and treatments are classified according to correspondence with earth, wood, water, fire, or metal, and an imbalance among them can lead to illness. Healing, therefore, is dictated by proper restoration of the disrupted balance. Similarly, personality types and physiological compositions are linked to these elements, a connection that permits CCM physicians to treat the whole body through medicinal improvement beyond merely curing the manifestation of disease.
Another vital Daoist concept is the balance between yīn (阴) and yáng (阳). As suggested by the characters, yīn is often represented by the moon and darkness, and its counterpart by the sun and light. Other contradictions include wetness and dryness, cold and heat, all of which are commonly used as CCM diagnostic terminology. As with all contradictory forces, yīn and yáng can only exist in the presence of each other, as the presence of heat is only noticeable as an absence of cold. Thus, these two forces must be maintained and stabilized to induce healing. While CCM are certainly effective, it lacks a bridge to the Western world, and so its expansion is somewhat slower than it could be.
While TCM does observe and pay homage to its philosophical roots, the concepts are modified in order to aid uniform group education. These changes were initially inspired by Western medicine, and as such TCM blends Western terminology with Chinese diagnostic philosophy. Maoist regime led to the development of Chinese medical colleges, whereas previous medical education had more commonly been preserved through family tradition. Skills that require more practice than memorization, such as pulse points and tongue observation, are minimized in favor of herbal therapy. The resulting diagnostic style is more analytical, meaning that modern scientific and empirical methods are used to eliminate statistically irrelevant anomalies, and thus TCM may be seen as more allopathic than holistic. Nonetheless, TCM has developed such that its workings can be understood and practiced in all corners of the world, and therefore grants Chinese medicine a more rapid credibility improvement compared to its predecessor.
Both schools of medicine have something to offer: CCM provides a strong foundation in the ancient texts, and teaches what could arguably be described as the most holistic approach to medical treatment; TCM connects the Eastern and Western worlds, while simultaneously preserving its integrity as a product of Chinese thought. While the two are not direct opposites, they still complement each other, such that knowledge and study of one will inevitably enhance the other.
Balance, Joy, and Wisdom,