Taking tradition abroad

By Liao Fangzhou Source:Global Times Published: 2014-1-12 16:58:01

The International Education College at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (founded in 1956) started enrolling international students some 30 years ago and has to date trained 10,000 TCM practitioners, acupuncturists and physical therapists from nearly 100 countries and regions. Last year, 185 students joined the college for undergraduate or master's degrees and 104 students graduated.

At present there are more than 1,100 registered students (working in degree and non-degree courses) from 40 or so countries at the college. Students from Thailand, Korea and Malaysia make up the majority of the intake but the number of enrolments from North America and Europe is on the rise.

The courses include anatomy, Chinese herbal medicine, the theories and practice of acupuncture, moxibustion and tuina massage therapy. Chinese is the teaching language and an HSK level 5 certificate (the Chinese proficiency test) is required for admission. Many of the foreign students spend two years studying Chinese before they start their TCM courses.

Elvira Azinbekova, a 21-year-old girl from Kazakhstan, is a freshman at the college. "I chose to learn TCM because I think it is better than Western medicine. For example, herbs and acupuncture tend to be more natural and healthier," she told the Global Times.

Azinbekova said although there were many Chinese practicing TCM in Kazakhstan, more often than not, they could not communicate well with local patients - TCM can be difficult to explain in the first place and is even more complicated with a limited proficiency in Kazakh or Russian. Azinbekova believes that by studying here she will become a rare talent back home - a master of the techniques and a native language speaker who can make TCM more accessible.

Hegi Patrick is a sophomore from Switzerland. Initially he took a short course at the college but then, becoming more involved, enrolled for an undergraduate degree. He said the courses had been challenging but he was not alone. "Students in the program help each other a lot. We also have a very good relationship with the teachers who are there to support us."

Patrick's favorite subject is Chinese herbal medicine, and he plans to complete a master's degree before returning to Switzerland. "TCM is becoming more and more acceptable in Switzerland and nowadays there are acupuncture clinics in public hospitals. However, Chinese herbalism is still quite rare as many of the herbs are not known in Europe. I really hope Chinese herbal medicine will enter the scene and help spread TCM."

He is well aware of the controversial aspects of TCM. "Most people in the West only believe in science and when they use scientific research on things like Chinese herbal medicine it turns out to be contradictory, because you can't use a square to explain a circle. I hope more Western doctors will come to China and get a better understanding of this, instead of just closing the door on TCM."

Jiang Zhehao is the chief administrative officer of the International Education College and he told the Global Times that a considerable number of the international students stayed in China after graduation to treat the expat community. With a certificate from the college, those who head to the US and Canada can open clinics after they pass the local medical licensing examinations, and those who head to East Asian countries like Thailand can practice TCM immediately.

But in some countries, like Korea, the certificate is not recognized officially and Jiang said most Korean students went to work in medical education agencies.
A Chinese instructor shows students the correct posture for tuina massage therapy. Photos: Yang Hui/GT
A Chinese instructor shows students the correct posture for tuina massage therapy. Photos: Yang Hui/GT
Elvira Azinbekova, from Kazakhstan, practices guasha scraping therapy in a class.
Elvira Azinbekova, from Kazakhstan, practices guasha scraping therapy in a class.
Students discuss tuina techniques.
Students discuss tuina techniques.
In an anatomy class everyone watches closely.
In an anatomy class everyone watches closely.
Getting used to Chinese food is an additional lesson foreign students have to learn here.
Getting used to Chinese food is an additional lesson foreign students have to learn here.
Students practice tuina massage techniques on each other.
Students practice tuina massage techniques on each other.
A student practices moxibustion on a patient.
A student practices moxibustion on a patient.



Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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