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Investigating the discursive construction of traditional Chinese medicine on Chinese national media

Xiangdong Liu


Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been practiced for at least 2,000 years in China (Lao et al., 2012). With such a long history, it now partly constitutes China’s medical system, and therefore has been widely investigated from the perspectives relating to its medical nature (e.g. Shao & Zhang, 2013; Tang & Eisenbrand, 2013). The findings of these studies contribute much to the cultivation of TCM both in theoretical research (Jiang, 2005; Wang et ah, 2005; Zhang et ah, 2010) and in clinical practice (Wang et ah, 2006; Xiong et ah, 2013). Consequently, they shed much light on the understanding, popularization as well as development of TCM as a type of medicine different from modern western medicine (MWM).

According to Ling et ah (2014), TCM has evolved its own unique system of theories, diagnostics and therapies, which can be partly attributed to two fundamental theories: the concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five elements Stf (‘wu xing’). Proposed in ancient China, notions like these form a kind of philosophy for explaining the changes and natural phenomena in the universe, of which human beings form an organic part (Lao et ah, 2012). Consequently, TCM is more than a type of medicine, since it is deeply rooted in the Chinese philosophy and culture. Thus, it is crucial to examine how TCM is conceptualized in the context of modern China as this will provide us with a better knowledge both of TCM as a type of medicine and of China as a nation with a rich history. Then, the problems and issues that may arise in the cross-cultural communication between China and the West can be better solved or properly avoided.

Among the various means used in investigating the cultural features of different fields, discourse analysis has been a widely accepted method due to the function of language in constructing reality (Waitt, 2010). Thus, adopting the discourse approach to language and culture, this study examines the discourses of TCM published on six Chinese national media. The aim is to find out the cultural images and values of TCM constructed by the national media of modern China. Then the results will be interpreted in terms of the social and cultural contexts in which TCM has been practiced.

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