Experienced Efficacy and Experimented Efficacy: The Westernization of Chinese Medicine through the Eyes of a Practitioner

Wai Chi Chee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The last two decades have seen the legislation and institutionalization of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong. This study examines the transformation wrought by these changes through the life story of a practitioner of Chinese medicine, in his sixties, who claims to be a zǔchuán zhōngyī (祖傳中醫, literally “inherited Chinese medicine practitioner”), meaning that the practice has been handed down from generation to generation in the family. Drawing on oral history and archival research, the article shows how this practitioner has been marginalized by globally dominant Western medicine, and by the institutionalization of his profession, and how he employs different strategies to continue to practice Chinese medicine in a wet market. His experiences provide a lens to explore how Chinese medicine has been institutionalized under the Western biomedicine framework, and how marginalized practitioners negotiate for space to continue traditional practices outside the mainstream of modernized, scientized “traditional Chinese medicine” (tcm). The dynamics between Western medicine and Chinese medicine lead to a consideration of some broader issues of globalization and health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136–156
Number of pages21
JournalAsian Review of World Histories
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese medicine
  • Experienced efficacy
  • Experimented efficacy
  • Globalization and health
  • Institutionalization of medical practices


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