Is There Chinese Medicine Beyond TCM? Research Insights into Chinese Folk Healing Through Everyday Objects

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Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira, MSc

In this joint meeting we received a special guest, Luis Junqueira, who has an interesting research background in History of Chinese Medicine. Luis research findings revealed a part of Chinese Medicine that has been overlooked in Western Countries. In this context, links between the current applications of acupuncture and insights that go beyond the practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) were discussed.

Speaker: Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira, MSc. Master’s degree in Chinese History at Fudan University, China. PhD candidate in History at the University College London (UCL).

Moderator: Ari Ojeda Ocampo Moré, MD, MSc PhD, SAR Board Member, Coordinator of the Medical Residency Program in Acupuncture at the University Hospital-Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC)


The emergence of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is intertwined with the construction of China as a modern nation-state over the past century. The profusion of healthcare practices that had for centuries co-existed and circulated in China should be selected and standardised into a single system just as the melting pot of cultures and peoples thriving in the Chinese territory had to be brought together as a single family under the overarching umbrella of ‘Chinese nation’. Religious elements that had for millennia constituted the core of Chinese healthcare – including spirits, talismans, astrology, meditation and self-cultivation – did not fit this modernisation project and were therefore rejected by twentieth-century Chinese reformers as ‘superstition’ or ‘relics from the ancient past’. However, while these elements have not integrated the officially-sponsored TCM, they have persistently played an enduring role in the promotion of health amongst Chinese communities. Using images and objects held at the Science Museum and Wellcome Collection in London, alongside recent photos and videos from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, I will uncover the variety of healthcare cultures beyond TCM, what scholars have generally called ‘Chinese folk medicine’. In the end, we will see that TCM constitutes only a small fraction of the spectrum of healing practices the ordinary Chinese have resorted to in times of illness, in both the past and the present.


Presenter Bio

Luis Fernando Bernardi Junqueira (https://luisfbj.com/) has earned a bachelor’s degree in History at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and a master’s degree in Chinese History at Fudan University, China. He is currently a PhD candidate in History at the University College London (UCL). Funded by the Wellcome Trust, his PhD project, titled The Science of the Spirit: Psychical Research, Healthcare and the Revival of the Occult in a Modernising China, c. 1900–1949', adopts a transnational perspective to explore the appropriation of Western and Japanese spiritualist and occultist ideas in early twentieth-century China, their impact on healthcare and religious experience. His research interests include Chinese medical history, folk religion and healing, science and technology studies, history of psychology, and the history of the book in late imperial (1368–1911) and republican China (1912–1949). He has additional interests in public history, medical humanities and material culture, and has published in Portuguese, Chinese, and English.