Journals from NUR 398 Health Care in China
2008-02-10 China Reflected--an essay
My memories of China are splashed with the color red; they are decorated with festive lanterns, surrounded by honking horns, and jam-packed with limitless construction. They are interspersed with flashing neon lights, blanketed with hazy pollution, and punctuated by a sea of faces wrapped in scarves and puffy down jackets. How can I reflect on but one singly important recollection, when I am awash with a multitude of different cultural and societal observations? From learning the theories and healing modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to tasting an assortment of Chinese cuisine with the aid (and sometimes hindrance) of chopsticks, I was completely saturated by the unique experience of being abroad. Nothing allows you to feel more alive than immersing yourself into an unfamiliar place and setting your rhythm to the pace of a culture far from home.
China is a country marked by contradictions; at once hungry with capitalism and conversely regulated with communism. With one eye on her long, often arduous history and the other on her aspiring financial future, China looks somewhat lost in the transitory present. Torn between cultural preservation and Western modernization, China seems to struggle along the path to self-realization. Chinas glaring affinity for all things Americanized reminds one of a turbulent teenager trying to figure herself out by emulating everyone around her. At once a proud country celebrating its unique heritage and alternatively a nation longing to identify with the fiscal powers of the world, China creates an atmosphere challenged by merging ideas. Chinas avid economic tiger is apparent in the gleaming multitude of Shanghais skyscrapers while its mighty roar falls distant in the impoverished side streets of Xian and cant be heard among the destitute children begging outside of Suzhous train station. Just as in so many developing countries there is insidious growth in the disparity between the poor and the rich.
All of these contradictions have enabled China to become a master at the art of cultural and societal fusion. From embracing such modernized novelties as KFC, white wedding gowns, and luxury sedans, to entitling themselves with English names along with their given Chinese names, the people of China seem, at first glance, practically camouflaged in contemporary ways of life. However, if your gaze is held long enough, the essence of Chinese customs and traditions still breaks through. Experiencing China and gaining awareness of their distinctive festivals and celebrations, their many superstitions, their tumultuous dynastic history, their past and current struggles with poverty, starvation, and a huge population, their collectivist ideals under a communist regime, and their profuse, unwavering intentions for long, healthy, and prosperous lives, begins to shed light on the pieces of the ever-changing picture of China and her people.
The most harmonious union of Chinese and Western thought is found throughout their healthcare system. Blending TCM modalities such as acupuncture and herbal treatments with the latest technologies of modern medicine brings a whole new approach and wisdom to disease prevention and healing. With so many of Chinas eyes on our American society, perhaps it is time we looked eastward to understand and initiate the holism that TCM integration could bring to our health care.
In regard to her ancient past, China is old with wisdom. Yet, according to her sudden capital growth she is impressionably young. How will these contradictions play out in Chinas future evolution? As modernization wages war with sustainability, where will this leave China and her multitudes of people? I can only hope that in the midst of relentless growth and foreign investment, China can retain her dignity and national worth and not be exploited or diminished in the name of financial gain. Only time can reveal Chinas fervent transformation to the world.