On 31 March 2016, the Confucius Institute at the University of Western Australia held the first public forum “China in Conversation” of the year at the lecture theatre of the university club on the topic of “Seeking Harmony: Diseases in Chinese and Western Medicine”, with an audience of about 150 people, including some local doctors and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners.

The purpose of the forum is to discuss the possibility of the two philosophically  different medical traditions and approaches being reconciled at the practical level. UWA Pro-Vice Chancellor, Mr Iain Watt, chaired the forum and three renowned medical experts, Professor Qian Xiaoyan from Xiamen University, Professor Barry Marshall and Professor Geoff Riley of University of Western Australia, dialogued at the forum. Professor Qian has 30-years’ experience in practice and teaching TCM. Professor Marshall is 2005 Nobel Laureate for his discovery of Helicobacter pylori, and he has been in broad collaboration with Chinese medical scientists. Professor Riley has been active in training Chinese GPs recently.

First of all, Professor Marshall made a prepared opening speech in Chinese, expressing his belief in the value in TCM though much different from the evidence-based modern Western medicine. He was delighted with the convergence of the two medical systems, with the combination of TCM with modern technology and the modern medicine moving towards personalized and precision therapy. He thought the forum a good opportunity for people to reach more consensus in making the best of both medicines for the good of human health. Professor Qian gave a briefly presented the basic TCM principles of holistic view of human body and balance of yin and yang, and took common cold, headache and strained neck diagnosis as examples to explain the TCM ways of diagnosing and curing common diseases, such as acupuncture based on the body’s main and collateral channel system and dietary therapy according to the warm or cold nature of food and herbs. Her easy-to understand presentation furthered the audience’s understanding of TCM.

Subsequently, three experts dialogued on the strengths, and the similarities and differences between Chinese and Western medicine in terms of diagnosis and treatment of common diseases, and the development of TCM. They also face-to face interacted with the audience on such questions as “What diseases is TCM good at diagnosis?”, “How effective is TCM for the early diagnosis of malignant diseases?”, “What diseases is TCM suitable for?”, “How can TCM and Western medicine combined for better effect?”, “What is the efficacy of acupuncture anesthesia?” and so on. As a considerable number of Australians are very interested in TCM and especially acupuncture, the active speaker-audience interaction is one of the highlights of this forum.

China’s thousand years of history is not a history of isolation. Contemporary Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has grown out of a history of integration, especially enriched by Western medicine  over the last two hundred years. The endeavour to build a transcultural theoretical bridge is crucial for TCM to take on new life and reach out to more patients in the 21st Century.  Three internationally renowned scholars have started this, and Confucius Institute  at UWA was able to facilitate building this platform in the process.

“China in Conversation” is a high-level public forum presented by the Confucius Institute at the University of Western Australia with the top experts from China and Australia to dialogue on topics of public interest. Last November, the first successful of “China in Conversation” was on China’s economy, and other topics on China’s agriculture and ChAFTA, the Belt & Road and Australia will be presented later this year.