Nurturing life through the body, heart, and spirit with the wisdom of Chinese medicine

old-Chinese Medicine

At this point, this page is aimed at beginners, at students of Chinese medicine who are interested in a classics-based approach or even at patients or academics who are looking for introductory information on Chinese medicine. There are innumerable beautiful websites out there on Chinese medicine that are manifestations of the particular visions that inspire particular practitioners. I encourage you to explore this rapidly changing landscape on your own.

This page on Chinese medicine will continue to grow and evolve. Below, I list just a few of my personal favorites, for introductory reading, as well as some suggestions from colleagues and students to give a more balanced view than just my own opinion. At this point, this page is definitely aimed at beginners in the field. I am planning on creating separate pages for resources on the History of Chinese Medicine and medical anthropology, as well as various bibliographies. I am also hoping to have some blog posts by guests to share their recommendations in the near future. For now, this page is organized in these categories:

A quotation from the Baopuzi: The human body is just like a country. The chest and abdomen are like the imperial palace, the arrangement of the four limbs like the outskirts, the divisions of the bones and joints like the hundred offices. The shen/spirit is like the gentlemen, the blood like the servants, and the qi like the general population. Knowing how to treat the body, you then know how to rule the country. By loving your people, you keep the country at peace. By cherishing your qi, you keep the body complete. When the population scatters, the country perishes. When the qi is used up, the body dies.

— Sun Simiao, Bei Ji Qian Jin Yao Fang (volume on yang xing 養性, nurturing the inner nature)

1. Non-fiction Books

Nigel Wiseman and Zhang Yuhuan, Chinese Medical Characters: Volume One: Basic Vocabulary

Paradigm, 2003: I require this book in the very beginning of any classes I teach on classical medical Chinese. The book is self-explanatory and directed towards self-learning. The students really like it because it doesn't overwhelm you with hundreds of characters right away and gives the etymology, stroke order, and some important compounds. A great starting point.


Ted Kaptchuk, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine

McGraw-Hill, 2000. This book has become a classic by now and is probably read by any student of Chinese medicine at some point in their career.


Harriet Beinfield, Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine

Ballantine 1992. I have not read this book myself but several of my clinical colleagues recommended it in the course of a discussion on appropriate introductory texts on Chinese medicine. Getting a bunch of practitioners to agree on what constitutes a proper description of our medicine is impossible, so I am including it for completeness' sake, as I respect the opinion of my colleagues.


Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallet, The Rhythm At The Heart Of The World: Neijing suwen chapter 5

Published by Monkey Press. Any of Elisabeth Rochat's small books of translations and explanations produced by Monkey Press are highly recommended. Visit the website of Monkey Press here to check them out.


Leon Hammer, The Patient-Practitioner Relationship in Acupunture

Thieme International, 2008. I absolutely love this little book. Also, his other big book, Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies: Psychology and Chinese Medicine, Eastland Press, 2005. Not a casual book to read but a real gem that has inspired many of my students.


Stephen Harrod Buhner, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature

Bear and Company, 2004.  Not so obviously and directly related to Chinese medicine per se, but I love Stephen Buhner's writings. This book, and his many others ...


TJ Hinrichs and Linda Barnes, eds., Chinese Medicine and Healing: An Illustrated History

Belknap, 2013. This fairly recent book is a fantastic collection of essays, interspersed with short excerpts, on the history of Chinese medicine and healing. The long list of contributors, which includes so many of my favorite people in the world, is a powerful manifestation of how far this field of research has come in the past few decades. A labor of love and an absolute must for anybody interested in the roots of Chinese medicine.



2. Fiction Books and More

Note: The following list is the outcome of a casual discussion with colleagues and just a meager start. I am sure it will grow substantially over time. Please send me your personal favorites.

Marjorie Pivar and Quang Van Nguyen, Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam

St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006. I haven't read this myself but it came highly recommended.


Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth

Washington Square Press, 2004. An old classic, this book was written in 1929 (and first published in 1931) by the daughter of American missionaries in China. It recounts the fictional rise and fall of a rural family in early twentieth-century, pre-revolutionary China and has been credited with inspiring pro-Chinese, and therefore anti-Japanese sentiment in the US before World War II. It is still a captivating read.


Robert van Gulik, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

Or any other of van Gulik's Judge Dee detective stories, published by the University of Chicago Press. I used to assign these in my Chinese Civilization courses, to get reticent undergraduate students more interested in China.


George Crane, Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia

Bantam, 2001. I haven't read this book yet but it was also highly recommended.


Jiang Rong, Wolf Totem

Translated by Howard Goldblatt and published in English in 2008, the original was first published in Chinese in 2004. According to Wikipedia, it is a semi-autobiographical account of a young student sent to the Mongolian countryside at the height of the Cultural Revolution. After creating quite a stir in China, it is now being turned into a movie.



  • Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (藏龍臥虎). Just a beautiful movie about Chinese culture, not specifically related to medicine but one of my favorites.
  • Kurosawa, Red Beard. An old but beautiful movie about a Japanese physician.
  • Dae Jang Geum, a gorgeous Korean TV series about a historical figure who became the first female physician of the Korean king during the Joseon dynasty in the sixteenth century.

and obviously many many more.


3. Online Resources

Classical Chinese Medicine

A website that describes itself as follows: "Classical Chinese Medicine reflects the voices of an international movement seeking to honour and restore the classical origins of Chinese medicine. This site features articles, lectures, and practical demonstrations by Heiner Fruehauf, Ph.D., L.Ac., Founding Professor of the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon, and a group of like-minded scholars in China and the West who are committed to transmit the time-honoured science of Eastern medicine as a highly sophisticated and deeply spiritual art form." The site contains some free material, but the gems in the "Associates Forum" are available by subscription and to NCNM students and faculty.


True Nature Radio

A website that offers podcasts with the following intention: "With classical Chinese medicine as our core, this program explores ancient and natural systems of healing, seeking to uncover practical solutions for staying healthy and living well in a world in which we are increasingly removed from nature." Drs. Laurie Regan and Heiner Fruehauf present captivating interviews with leading thinkers from a wide range of backgrounds, beyond just Chinese medicine practitioners, but always with relevance to Chinese medicine as a living tradition. Enjoy!

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful and informative websites out there on Chinese medicine. But just like at a child's birthday party, the more I include, the more others, which are certainly equally wonderful, will go unmentioned. So many of my practitioner friends have created websites that are true works of art that I simply don't know where to even start. I invite you to explore this world on your own, and hope that we can have some blogs on this topic in the future.


 Asia Major Articles

This is a link to free downloads of past issues of Asia Major, all the way up to the first half of 2009. There are some wonderful gems to be found here, such as Hilary Smith's article on "Understanding the jiaoqi Experience: The Medical Approach to Illness in Seventh-century China."