Department or Program



In the United States, medicine, and its understanding of how the human body functions, is predominantly explained by reducing life processes, discomfort and disease into biological and chemical reactions. Alternatively, Chinese medicine, such as the practice of acupuncture and herbal therapy, relates health to the movement of an energy force (qi), and the balance of five elements that correspond to both anatomical and conceptual structures. Many of these structures remain invisible to biomedicine, even with advanced imaging technology. The inability of biomedical tools or language to fully describe Chinese medical concepts challenges Americans who wish to understand and practice it, and limits its acceptance into American medical institutions. The differences and contradictions between Western and Chinese medical knowledge creates and shapes the landscape of a “borderland” between the two. Observing the practitioners who inhabit this borderland reveals three adaptive strategies developed to successfully navigate this borderland: 1) the separation, at least symbolically, between each healing modality to facilitate easier transitions between them, 2) the recognition that two very different diagnostic realities may exist simultaneously, and 3) the utilization of physical experiences, guided by touch, visualizations, and metaphors, in order to encourage a more a personal and instinctive understanding of the abstract and unfamiliar concepts of Chinese medicine. Identifying these personal adaptive strategies can help inform better institutional integration of Chinese medicine in America, and encourage a more open, relativistic approach to healthcare.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Carnegie, Charles

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.