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Leaving Me Cold – Chinese Quack Medical Beliefs

Zhang documents 500 types of "febrile diseases" (basically fever) cause by "cold". The Chinese revere him for his invaluable contribution to Chinese medicine. Most sensible people would probably be a little less trusting of some old duffer who no one knows anything about other than the fact that he peddled some herbs a couple of thousand years ago.

Zhang documents 500 types of “febrile diseases” (basically fever) cause by “cold”. The Chinese revere him for his invaluable contribution to Chinese medicine. Most sensible people would probably be a little less trusting of some old duffer who no one knows anything about other than the fact that he peddled some herbs a couple of thousand years ago.

I hear that in Taiwan when someone tells a shit joke, people say it was “cold”. That’s pretty appropriate because Chinese beliefs about the effect of cold are a really bad joke.

Check this book out that I found down an old second-hand bookstore yesterday. This shit was written by a guy called Zhang Zhongjing who is hailed as one of the greatest doctors in Chinese medicine. The way they go on about the old fraud, it’s like he’s the Mohammad Ali of this shit or something.

Anyway, just the title alone says everything about Chinese beliefs about how cold things affect the human body: Cold weather, cold drinks etc. Basically, cold stuff causes colds. And not just colds: my ex-missus used to have a couple of students who weren’t allowed to eat or drink cold stuff as they were “short” and “traditional” docs out here told them that consuming anything cold wouldn’t let them grow. At the same time, their parents had them on some random pills that would allegedly “make them taller”. I swear that shit is fucking child abuse.

Speaking of that ex (and, as I think I’ve mentioned before, this is part of the reason that she is my ex), she – like many Chinese girls, so I’ve heard – refused to eat or drink cold things while she had the painters in, as she claimed the cold would cause her to feel “uncomfortable” and have some kind of stomach ache. When I said I had never heard of any girl back home claim such a thing (and I have three sisters), she said that must be because “Western girls are different”. Right.

The main idiocy in these very idiotic beliefs about “cold” is that it can somehow cause “a cold”, which is obviously a virus. If you point out to them that people in many parts of the world were running around butt-nekkid in freezing cold conditions with no hint of the cold virus or flue etc. before Europeans carrying these diseases turned up, the just look at you blankly, shake their heads or, most annoyingly, mutter something about forrin types not understanding. This is thousands of years of culture they add.

But that’s just it – this shit is from ancient times when people were dropping like flies and barely lived out of their teens, as this decidedly more scientific dude points out here. Why the fuck should we believe what these voodoo peddling witchdoctors were coming out with back then? Answer: “Because you foreigner must respect Chinese culture” (translation: I have no real answer, so I’ll just say you don’t get it and hope that shuts you up).

Cold doesn’t cause “diseases” unless we’re including hypothermia, pneumonia or some other breathing illnesses. The liner not below (sorry about the pic – blurry like most of the claims in it) says that this volume of bulshit hocus-pocus is an all-time classic and as important as Euclid’s works on geometry and Newton’s physics are to Western science.

I don’t know much about that Greek guy but didn’t he prove infinity and shit? And Newton: Basically discovered gravity, right? Don’t think either of these fellas would be too happy to be compared to some ancient snake oil salesman who frankly didn’t know his arse from his elbow.

Rollei Digital Camera

If the likes of Zhang Zhongjing are considered founding fathers of Chinese medicine, it’s a wonder there are even any Chinese still around to believe in his nonsensical babbling.

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6 responses to “Leaving Me Cold – Chinese Quack Medical Beliefs

  1. Klaus

    Do you know “Why China Will Never Rule the World” or “You Don’t Know China”? Both these myth-debunking books should be right up your alley.

  2. Mei-Hui Lee ⋅

    Hey there, I’d love to give my two cents. I’m a Taiwanese female who has spent a good amount of time in the States. Traditional Chinese Medicine is not hogwash as you are making it sound. TCM practitioners (at least the licensed ones here in Taiwan) are well versed in western medicine and can explain how ailments and treatments compare in the two types of medical practices. TCM is generally better for treating chronic issues that western medicine doesn’t do a whole lot for (ie: allergies). As far as the issue with “coldness,” I find one has to keep in mind the differences in lifestyle and diet. Generally speaking, the Asian diet is quite light whereas the western diet is heavier (red meat and potatoes). When I’m on a western diet, I would have too much of a problem consuming cold beverages or food items after a hearty meal. However, I would be very prone to stomach cramps if I drink cold beverages while on a stereotypically light Asian diet. Catching colds – the cold can weaken one’s constitution and as a result may be prone to catching colds. There is medical validity behind TCM, but those you have met may not be explaining things in the way you understand and are familiar with.

    • You write succintly and honestly, Mei-hui but I’m afraid most of what you’re saying is just the typically vague, personal anecdote stuff and, yup, hogwash.

      I’m a British male who has spent a good amount of time in Taiwan. What does that qualify me to say about this? Absolutely nothing, so I’m not sure what your point is there. Same goes for TCM practitioners being able to see both sides as they ‘know’ Western medicine. Are they qualified in it? Nope. Taiwanese practitioners of Western medicine here generally know TCM (and I would say better than vice versa) as they grew up around it and often dabbled in it. To their Taiwanese patients’ faces, they will spout this drivel about ‘cold’ stuff but I’ve spoken to many on a personal level who readily admit its bollocks but they HAVE to say it, otherwise superstitious locals will say they are are clueless. Oh, the irony!

      But let’s leave aside the anecdotal stuff. I also happened to have worked in in the NHS for years in the UK and I can tell you, the overwhelming majority of TCM refuses to submit to peer review or always fails it! Find me peer review that even supports acupuncture. Find me one independently, non-TCM reviewed journal that comes close to supporting
      this categorically disproven rubbish about hot and cold.

      I don’t dismiss all TCM – the chronic illnesses, allergies etc. I’ve tried it with mixed results (there’s a saying that say 30% (?) of all cures will work anyway, regardless).

      But I do dimiss the hot and cold stuff. It was, is and will always be complete bullshit. It’s proven. BY SCIENCE. TCM’s response is to question souble-blind peer review like it’s a dosgy Western sacm. Really … That’s desperate straw clutching.

      I rant on this blog as personal vent and sometimes I’m just talking shit. Unfortunately for you, you picked a subject that you probably didn’t think I really knew about. I do.

      What you’ve said was politely, patiently and clearly expressed. It’s still anecdotal, unscientific speculation.

      Oh, and just to make it clear – more than anything, the reason why it’s obvious you have no idea what you’re talking about is you’re still making the same mistake: there is some evidence to suggest being cold can weaken the immune system and make you more prone to colds BUT …. BUT …
      DRINKING COLD WATER DOES NOT LOWER THE BODY TEMPERATURE : PROVEN FACT.

      As for ‘stomach cramps’ … seriously … I’ve heard it all before. Rubbish. And inevitably the person (usually firl talking about periods) says ‘You can’t tell me how I feel. I get stomach cramps when I drink cold water’ … blah blah. If that’s how science worked, I dread to think how the worl would be now.

      Ask yourself this, don’t you think it’s a trifle strange that it’s just East Asians who get these mysterious cramps? I’ve travelled the world and never met anyone who gets these effects except people who grew up in Chinese/East Asian cultures. What does that tell you? Even my supposition here (based on the evidence of the number of cases I’ve seen in an outside Taiwan and around the world) is more scientific than anything you’ve said about meat and bloody potatoes!

      Your last line sums up the way people try to deflect criticism: Yo don’t get it or you haven’t met someone who can explain in terms you understand (either you’re dumb or er … your dumb!) When has any self-respecting scientific theory deflected attacks by saying ‘look, you just don’t get it’?!

      No, it’s balderdash, Mei-hui!

  3. Mei ⋅

    Hey there, again. Thanks for your comments. I’m a guest here and I try to be respectful of what you write. Unfortunately, you are not a doctor, western or TCM, yet you discredit my personal experience with TCM. Some may take this as a personal insult as if you are saying this is delusional and that you know better. Unless one is a doctor trained in both medical systems, explanations will invariably be anecdotal. You claim certain things to be proven by science yet you have no citations to reputable sources. Most people are also not going to be bent in trying to convince you otherwise. I did find the comments about quack medical beliefs unjustified hence leaving a comment. People who are intrigued and open to exploring new possibilities in thought will do so. Cheers!

    • Hello, Mei.

      How do you know I’m not a doctor? Why is that ‘unfortunate’? What do you actually know about me?

      Why do I need to be a doctor to ‘discredit’ you? Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp – none of them were good football players – all three exceptional managers.

      Personal insult? The same thing. Seriously, this word is bandied about like it’s going out of fashion these days. Yes it’s literally delusional (in the Freudian sense) and yes I ‘know’ better. No, it’s not an ‘insult’. Grow up.

      But that’s actually all by the by:you say I discredit YOUR personal experience. No. I discredit personal experience (minus the personal pronoun). This is what people who propound the position you are propounding do. Take things as a ‘persona’ affront. Most ironically, you invoke personal experience in science and then say ‘you’re discrediting my personal experience’. YES! A hundred times yes. That’s what science is: abandoning the reliance on anecdotal evidence and folk belief!

      The funny thing about many TCM types or just East Asians who (arrogantly) think arrogant foreigners ‘don’t get it’ is that they are sooooo ignorant of world history.

      We had these beliefs in hot and cold etc. hundreds of years ago in Europe. We don’t anymore. Why? Cos they’re bollocks. In all the time I’ve had these convos, I’ve never met anyone who actually knows or acknowledges that there were very similar medicinal beliefs in many parts of the world that prevailed for a long time.

      The point about science is that it should be open to falsification. What such tests does TCM set itself? Wherein are the challenges to the accepted beliefs and axioms? Seriously. Answer that question.

      It’s YOU who are not open to new possibilities by sticking to antiquated insistences, predicated on a fallacious respect for forbears and that are not – by their very nature – open to disproof!

      Finally, how on earth are you asking ME to cite evidence? I’ve got plenty if you’d like.The whole issue that already raised about TCM is that it refuses to submit to peer review!

      It’s YOU and TCM advocates that need to supply some independent, peer-reviewed empirical evidence, not ‘us’. That’s what ‘we’ do. That’s why it’s science!

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