A Guided Tour of the "Term Debate"

A Guided Tour of The"Term Debate"

By Robert L. Felt, Publisher Paradigm Publications


What you are about to read contains my personal views along with many dozens of published papers. I've provided links and references so you may check whatever you like but the interpretation of events is my own. Since I have financial interests in the field's publications, it is fair to assume I am biased. Since terminology effects virtually every aspect of transmission -- teaching, training, record-keeping, curriculum, text and test development for example -- it effects virtually everyone's self-interest.

In my view, our participation in the "Term Debate" (perhaps even the term debate itself) began with our (Paradigm Publications') publication of Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, in 1985. The Fundamentals project began much earlier with the late Paul Zmiewski's idea for an "East Asian Medical Studies Center" (E.A.M.S.C.). The idea was to encourage the publication of articles, books, and research papers that would establish what we thought of as a foundation literature, a library developed from the work of respected Chinese scholars and clinicians. We intended this library to serve as a shared body of knowledge for English-speaking clinicians. We reasoned that since professional fields depend on such a body of knowledge, Chinese medicine would also require a literature that was reliably sourced in Chinese writings. Furthermore, given the extreme rarity of western clinicians with even a modicum of the experience available from Chinese-speaking traditional physicians, we assumed it would likely be at least a generation before the contributions of native English-speaking clinicians would begin a rise to the level of Chinese experts. E.A.M.S.C. was to be one instrument for encouraging that rise.

One of the main values of the library proposed by E.A.M.S.C. was that this level of highly-vetted information could become the knowledge base from which other literature such as student textbooks derives. While elements of every field's knowledge base comes from commercial sources that earn profits for their authors and publishers, a reference literature is not proprietary in the sense that someone controls access to the information itself. For example, western knowledge of anatomy, biochemistry, or physiology belongs to those fields but is accessed and used by other disciplines in science and medicine. You do not need permission from anyone to discuss or write about these foundational matters. Writers are, of course, free to disagree with aspects of a foundation literature, (with their own work sometimes becoming a part thereof). Yet, at this level of shared knowledge content is less about the opinions of particular writers and more about work that has (like Chinese medicine itself) stood the test of time through peer review and broad experience.

In the case of Chinese medicine in East Asia, unlike that of biomedicine in the West, the reference literature includes prominent historical texts. This complicates its representation in modern English because Chinese medical ideas are not freshly minted to the requirements of the current era but are instead the outcomes of long-standing cultural experience. Although this is not an absolute, Chinese medical concepts contain more historical and literary substance than does biomedicine. Thus, Chinese medicine (C.M.) is a particular challenge to translators and teachers because it requires linguistic tools that are available only to those with advanced training. This was clear to E.A.M.S.C.'s initiators from their own experience and education.

In this regard, Nigel Wiseman's linguistic research was unique in that it did not begin with the intent to translate a particular text or prepare a particular compilation as a commercial publication aimed at a known market. Wiseman chose a basic, broadly-used Chinese medical primer (Zhōng Yī Xué Jī Chǔ) to put his analysis of Chinese medical language to a practical test. Because this text contained what a select group of Chinese experts considered the basic, essential clinical concepts, any approach to translation that cannot deal with those concepts (or fails to recognize them) is inadequate by definition. While Wiseman's Ph.D. at Exeter University eventually covered a much broader linguistic territory, he began with his own needs and the needs of those students of C.M. studying in Chinese-speaking clinics.

Today's students often do not realize that at this time the People's Republic of China did not yet offer access to resident C.M. study. Where Taiwan's Normal University offered programs from which resident visa applications would be approved and Taiwan's Chinese medical schools and clinics offered organized ways to study C.M., Taiwan was thus a natural destination for studying C.M. in a Chinese-speaking environment. That experience, particularly trying to keep pace with native Chinese-speakers during hands-on clinical training, is what brought the need for a highly Chinese-centric terminology (what is called "source-oriented") into clear focus. You cannot work in a Chinese-speaking clinic with an abbreviated repertoire of concepts.

Nigel Wiseman was trained at Harriot-Watt University, a prestigious language institute that trains elite linguists for high government and academic institutions. Thus, the task of organizing the development of an English C.M. terminology naturally centered on Nigel. At the time of Fundamentals publication in 1985, the E.A.M.S.C. group that included Nigel Wiseman, Andy Ellis, Ken Boss, and Paul Zmiewski, as well as other Chinese-literate students, had been in both formal and informal clinical training longer than most. Thus, one of the most interesting ironies of the term debate is two fold. First, so-called "non-clinicians" like Wiseman had more rigorous C.M. education than did most westerners who work as clinicians. Second, the role of highly trained and experienced native Chinese like Feng Ye, whose experience virtually no westerner can match, are most often ignored. While this is to be expected, those with a personal presence in the West will always have greater recognition, it is important to understand that the emphasis of source-oriented translation is the ideas of the original authors, not the understanding of the translators.

At this time we we're really not expecting a debate; we actually felt that people would appreciate making this research available.   We were printing a list of some 600 terms in Chinese and English and distributing it to everyone we knew who was involved in Chinese medical translation.  In those days we needed to use a "nine pin printer" with Taiwanese software just to print characters, so it was a very clumsey operation.  Not much came of distributing the list from the clinical field but we did get a lot of advice and support from academics, in particular Paul Unschuld.

The "Term Debate" Begins

The Term Debate Begins

In the considerations for E.A.M.S.C. the publication decision we faced was not whether to start a term debate, but whether to produce a literature to rival those books already being adopted by what was then called "the acupuncture schools." This was the obvious commercial choice because it was not only the central market, but also the only substantive market. However, such a choice had both commercial and practical consequences we had to consider.

Because I came to C.M. from the book trade, rather than to the book trade from C.M., I understood the problem of building a new literature as a problem of distribution. Distribution is needed to create new markets and is essential to attracting investment in established markets because it is the means of acquiring a cash flow from the publications . Because I was (and remain) a principal of Redwing Book Company, it was important to avoid becoming known as a "knock off press." (A knock off press is a publishing company that produces essentially similar, but less expensive versions of popular books.) This strategy works by letting the pioneering presses face the costs and risks of creation, then co-opting their market with "consumer pricing." Again, this is obvious commercially but highly problematic from the viewpoint of building a professional literature or developing a viable distribution system.

Distribution networks work because booksellers and book users are never married to a single publisher, rather it is their interest in a topic that drives their collection. In the short term knocking-off the earliest texts might have been profitable; it might also have ruined the chances for a functional distribution network. Unlike knocking-off yet-another self-help book in a genre engaged by many publishers, attacking the first C.M.-oriented markets could have retarded the field itself.

E.A.M.S.C. was a perfect answer. It would allow us to enter publishing with a valuable book line that would help us develop distribution, and create new markets for those presses already engaging the C.M. field -- without stepping on anyone's commercial toes. Wiseman's databases were already larger than any other source and in reasonable application in day-to-day clinical learning as well as projects such as test translations and Zmiewski's doctoral thesis (a translation of a classic ben cao, now lost). The databases also benefited from the contributions of some of the most advanced students of the time. It was the only choice for a foundation literature. The Zhōng Yī Xué Jī Chǔ was chosen as a first project because it was a widely used basic text in China and Wiseman had begun his linguistic research with it. As such it represented a broadly-accepted Chinese view of the basic knowledge in C.M., as well as an excellent test of term choices. As a text whose living authors favored the project, it was legally available. The one problem was the absence of acupuncture data in an era when several schools still openly opposed the teaching of "herbal" medicine. This was remedied by adding acupuncture information from similarly authoritative sources.

This, at least from my perspective, is how the term debate began, unintended and unexpected, with some of the most critical reviews of a book I have seen in more than four decades of intense interest and professional association with complementary medicine. Concentrated on our own view that we were not stepping on anyone's toes, we were actually surprised at the vitriol the book attracted. Once presented with these reviews, however, I realized that the toes we had stepped upon were not commercial but philosophical.


Challenging the Status Quo

Challenging the Status Quo

The "Introduction" to Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine expressed the hope that:

Ideally, the work of translation should be a cooperative effort. However, because the differences of opinion about Chinese medicine are even greater in the West than in the East, gaining general agreement on a standardized terminology will be no easy task. Despite those differences (or perhaps because of them), it is of primary importance to establish a unified approach to translation. We hope our effort will provide a first step in this direction. [1]

The book also included an unprecedented glossary of 558 entries (more in the stroke order section) with 78 pages of definition. Comparing this to the other well-known books of the early to middle 1980s gives a solid idea of just how much of a challenge this simple paragraph foretold:







Acupuncture a Comprehensive Text



The Web That Has No Weaver



Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica



Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture



Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine



Foundations of Chinese Medicine



In terms of actual discussion of translation and transmission, the Fundamentals "Translators Foreword" was also unprecedented. For example, The Web That Has No Weaver "Author's Note" mentions only that:

". . . the Spleen of Chinese medicine is different than the spleen recognized in the West. I have capitalized such English words to account for the special meaning rather than overwhelm the reader with Chinese terminology. Only a few terms for which there are no adequate English equivalents are regularly referred to in romanized Chinese." [2]

Another seminal book of the period Acupuncture a Comprehensive Text states:

The guiding principle of our work has been to translate the book into clear, understandable English, not pidgin Chinese, nor Latin or Greek. While this approach is by no means universally followed, we believe that it permits the transmission of knowledge about Chinese medicine into English in a way which best accommodates the need for both clarity and fidelity...we have chosen to capitalize many words in translation which, were we not to do so, might confuse the reader.[3]

To me, the authors are referring to Dr. Manfred Porkert's works, as well as the "Chinglish" texts imported from the People's Republic of China. What is most interesting; however, is the assertion that "clear, understandable English . . . .best accommodates the need for both clarity and fidelity." This is not now, nor was it then, an opinion broadly held by professional linguists.

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, notes:

Translating traditional Chinese terminology is a fascinating but frustrating task, as can be reading translations of traditional Chinese texts. Translators are caught in a number of binds. Literal translations are often misleading, seemingly precise translations are inaccurate, and accurate translations can be so vague as to be almost meaningless or so long as to be minor treatises. Phrases or terms that flow well in Chinese can be extremely awkward and even silly in English. We believe that every audience and every text demands a specific type of translation. As there are different ways to approach a subject and an audience, there are many acceptable translations.[4]

Again, even more dramatically, we see the clear assertion of superiority for audience-oriented translations.

The Chinese-produced books of the era, are silent on translation.

In the simplest possible terms, what began the term debate was that the "Translator's Foreword" of Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine challenged the idea that individual translators, preparing loose, interpretive, audience-oriented books could fully and on their own transmit Chinese medicine. Although the vast majority of words written in the term debate are about words, the force and focus that drives the debate is about how an authentic, clinically viable C.M. can be transmitted to the west.

The competitive views could not be more different. For the entire first generation of textbook authors other than Wiseman and his colleagues translation is a set of individual choices: what text and what parts of that text to translate, what to filter in or out of the translation, and how to express their personal understanding of the text in their own words. As is clear by their own words, translation was not seen as a process requiring fidelity to the original text but to their individual understanding. For Wiseman and his colleagues, translation was a cooperative effort based on the reference literature of East Asia and the experience of professional linguistics. It is source-oriented where the other early writers were audience-oriented. It is based on the Chinese notion of terms, not expectations of audience ability or preference. Where Kaptchuck, Bensky, et. al. are saying: "I'll bring the topic to you;" Wiseman, Unschuld, et. al. are saying "You must come to the topic."

This is nowhere clearer in the labeling of source-oriented translation, exact source identification, and precise labeling as "academic" and the loose, audience-oriented interpretation as "clinical" (or "Reproductive" and "Scientific" in Miki Shima's recent schema.) Close, source-oriented translation is academic because the entire weight of both eastern and western scholarship supports it as the only method appropriate for translations intended for specialist audiences, like clinical practitioners and those studying to become clinical practitioners. Nonetheless, the "academic" label is used by those who wish to diminish the approach. "Clinical" is meant to label individual interpretations of C.M. as superior for that intent. The marketing logic is clear. However, translations that follow the source, rather than modify or simplifying the source concepts for "transparency" - ease of reading - are the true clinical translations because this is the only way to come close to a full transmission of content.

[1] East Asian Medical Studies Society, Translator's Foreword, Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, Paradigm Publications, Brookline, 1985, page xvi. This quotation has been eliminated from the current revised edition.

[2] T.J. Kaptchuk, Author's Note, The Web That Has No Weaver, Congdon and Weed, New York, 1983, p. xv.

[3] O'Connor, John and Dan Bensky (trans). Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. Seattle: Eastland Press, 1981 p. xv.

[4] Bensky, Dan; Gamble, Andrew, Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica, Eastland Press, Seattle, 1986, p. 693

Critical Conceptual Differences

Critical Conceptual Differences

The essence of the term debate concerns critcal conceptual values in the choices made about translation:

Critical Conceptual Differences

Wiseman & Colleagues

Bensky & Colleagues

Source Oriented: Chinese medical concepts must be understood in their native Chinese context, even if the reader must learn their meaning.

Audience Oriented: Chinese medical concepts should be simplified or modified for ease of reading, transparency.

The data set is large: Terms represented in Chinese language Chinese medical dictionaries constitute the term set (about 30,000 concepts).

The data set is small: Terms are only unusual or unfamiliar words (a few hundred concepts).

Inclusive: All the concepts present in the Chinese text must be preserved in the English text as a matter of information integrity.

Selective: Selected concepts can be simplified or deleted from the English text to improve audience reception.

No Biomedicalization: Where Chinese clinical experts assert exact correspondences between a Chinese and a biomedical state, the Chinese notion is retained by the translation and the biomedical correspondence is referenced. Biomedical correspondences agreed upon by Chinese experts are presented as "Western Medical Correspondences."

Biomedicalization: Chinese medical notions can be freely translated as biomedical states, diseases and symptoms, whether or not the Chinese diagnostic criteria are the same. Rough equivalence is acceptable if it allows the use of familiar words and ideas.

Author Priority: Value is in the original author's understanding. The translator must transmit the author's ideas unmodified.

Translator Priority: The clinical value of English text is based on the translator's clinical understanding.

Frame Preservation: The Chinese frame of reference must be maintained, regardless of western ideas.

Frame Translation: The Chinese frame of reference may be abandoned when it challenges western ideas

Content Preservation: The "map" between the original and the translation must be one-to-one. Either all the material is translated or deletion and additions are clearly described.

Content Simplification: Content may be modified and text simplified for the intended audience.

So, as you continue through the following parts of the Guided Tour, please keep this in mind: the term debate is not about words, it is about where Chinese medicine can be found - in the Chinese conceptual frame work (with all its complexities) or in the interpretations of Chinese medicine provided by individuals for particular audiences. As a bookseller, I see it as a matter of genre. Both approaches are valid in the appropriate circumstances. Loose, paraphrased translations are ideal for non-specialists who do not need to carry a basic understanding forward to deeper expertise. Source-oriented translations, on the other hand, belong in the hands of students and clinicians seeking to apply the medicine to its greatest extent. However, these are not equal choices. Both have different costs. Source-oriented translations are more expensive to prepare and easier to review and criticize because the one-to-one map makes it easier for other scholars to examine the concepts and translation decisions. Audience-oriented translations make fewer demands on readers but are difficult to assess because there is no direct map between the Chinese source and the English text.

These conceptual differences are particularly critical for database-oriented projects. Where concepts are simplified or lost in translation, the ability to relate concepts is reduced and the possibility of false relationships is increased. Imagine that you are crossing from one country to another and the customs agents demand that you can only bring three of your five suitcases into their country. No matter what you do, your things will be reshuffled and some will be left behind. This is exactly what happens when the 30,000 some ideas that exist in Chinese language Chinese medicine are conflated (multiple concepts combined into one concept) and rearranged.


Specific Critiques of Practical Dictionary Terms

Specific Critiques of Practical Dictionary Terms

Three papers relate to Dr. Xie Zhufan's criticisms of Wiseman's term choices. Dr. Xie Zhufan is a professor and a primary Chinese exponent of eliminating the "folklore" from T.C.M. He is a participant in the W.H.O. term standardization process. His Classified Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine is available in English. Xie Zhufan's paper is here translated with annotations by Herman Oving: Comments on Nigel Wiseman's A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine. Oving's notes are critical for non-Chinese speakers because of certain misunderstandings in Xie's text. Dr. Wiseman's response is found here: Comments on English Translation of Common Terms in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It was translated into slightly "ropy" English by the W.H.O. Dr. Wiseman's original Chinese version is: 對於《中醫藥常用名詞術語英譯》的一些意見 .

In addition to Xie Zhufan, the Journal of Chinese Medicine (UK) has been a consistent critic of source-oriented translation. Following are responses to criticisms of terms and methods that have been published in that journal. The first paper demonstrates the loss of diagnostic and therapeutic information via the simplification of terms: The Tyranny of Familiar Words. Although several years old it responds directly to some of the criticisms offered at the A.A.O.M. Conference of October, 2006. The "Response to Buck and Maciocia" is Nigel Wiseman's reply to those authors' assertions regarding terms and translation as published in the JCM: Response to Buck and Maciocia

In October of 2006 the A.A.O.M. sponsored a conference on Chinese medical nomenclature. This was an excellent idea and I compliment the A.A.O.M., particularly Will Morris and Miki Shima who organized the panel discussion. Two of the papers presented critical assessments of the Practical Dictionary terminology. Yet, both Toward a Working Methodology for Translating Chinese Medicine by Dan Benksy, Jason Blalack, Charles Chace and Craig Mitchell and Asian Medical Term Debate by Jake Fratkin contained significant misrepresentations of the Practical Dictionary terminology and Wiseman's work in general. (You will find these papers, and the piece by Miki Shima mentioned earlier, by scrolling though the "binder" pdf file these references link to.) As you read "Toward a Working Methodology" note the drum-beat of "must understand Chinese medicine" and ask yourself why a paper on methodology ignores the project team approach by which virtually all complex medical and academic undertakings are organized. Failing to recognize the contribution of Feng Ye, (The Practical Dictionary co-author who needs to take a back seat to none in terms of education, experience or understanding), and ignoring the value of team are huge omissions.

Eric Brand's notes on the A.A.O.M. conference contain a precis of the problems with Fratkin's paper, found here: Notes on the AAOM Terminology Conference . The criticisms of Fratkin's paper are detailed and found at the end of the article. Eric is clearly concerned about being overly critical but it is important to recognize that poorly-prepared critique can be unfairly damaging.

Nigel Wiseman's explanation of the errors in Bensky, et. al. is found here: Translation of Chinese Medical Terms: Bensky and Colleagues' Falsification of the Issues.

One of the consistent trends among critics of source-oriented translation is misattribution of terms. You can see this in both Xie and Fratkin's papers where terms Wiseman does not use are attributed to him. You can also see this in Bensky, et. al.'s assertion that their glossary is more flexible and context sensitive, a claim the statistics deny.


Professional Papers on Translation, Linguistics and Lexicography

Professional Papers on Translation, Linguistics and Lexicography

For a little historical perspective, here is Dr. Schaefer's article from the 1950's: Non-Translation and Functional Translation: Two Sinological Maladies. Functional translation, is a type of paraphrase promoted under different names such as "Clinical" or "Reproductive" translation. It is not the first choice for the translation of specialist literature for specialists, rather it produces texts aimed at lay persons. Here, Dr. Schaefer is talking about names and titles, a direct parallel of patterns, formulas, and other terms in Chinese Medicine.

Nigel Wiseman's Ph.D. Thesis is the core document for translation of Chinese medical Chinese in academic linguistics: Translation of Chinese Medical Chinese: A Source Oriented Approach. Although few people in the C.M. field have read this paper, it has been widely-circulated in linguistic and professional translation circles. Please note that some of the notions in C.M. circulation have not withstood anything like the degree of peer review their refutation in this paper has survived. Put bluntly, there is no question that source-oriented translation is the method of choice for the transmission of specialized information to specialist readers.

Eighty Years of Chinese Medical Lexicography is a paper on the directions of Chinese lexicography (the principles and procedures of writing and editing dictionaries).

The Introduction to the People's Medical Publishing House version of the Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine is provided here: Compilers' Preface to the People's Medical Publishing Edition. The most interesting thing here is the degree to which co-compiler Feng Ye is recognized in the East but not in the West. "Wiseman" is used to typify this work, but in China Feng Ye's clinical perspective is much more often recognized. Although Feng Ye's clinical experience is second to none in the West, his participation is typically ignored by those who promote "clinical translation" or who criticize Wiseman as a "non-clinician."

This paper describes the translation of Chinese medical terminology in relation to modern translation theory: English Translation of Chinese Medical Terminology : The Viewpoint of Translation Theory. This is a shorter and earlier version of the material covered in Wiseman's Ph.D. Thesis.

The Glossary of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Points was the first significant publication of a work listing and defining terms. It is out of print, having been replaced by the Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine. It is the first English language publication to look deeply at the metaphors of Chinese medicine and to present a substantial term list. The Introduction To the Glossary of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Points Much of this material remains unanswered by critics even two decades later.

Marnae Ergil shares her scholarly insights in "Considerations For the Translation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Into English:" Considerations For the Translation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Into English .

This is a Chinese-English paper discussing the integrated principles of translation: 中医名词英译:应用系统化原则的翻译模式

The "Lessons of History" are discussed in the bilingual Chinese Journal article: 中医西传:历史的教訓

In "The Role of Metaphor in Culture, Consciousness, and Medicine" Sonya Pritzker brings scholarship to bear on the topic of metaphor and culture, and its role in the transmission of Chinese medicine: The Role of Metaphor in Culture, Consciousness, and Medicine. The metaphors, the pictures resident in the words, has long been like the songs and poems of C.M. a way to order, organize and remember principles and their relation to one another.

"Translation of Chinese Medical Terms: Not Just a Matter of Words" details how successful transmission of translated information depends upon a literal approach: Translation of Chinese Medical Terms: Not Just a Matter of Words

Although not strictly fitting this category, this Rotenberg Conference lecture on the "Education and Practice of Chinese Medicine in Taiwan" provides a useful context for the term debate. One key point is that while acupuncture terminology has been the emphasis of early English language works, internal medicine with its much larger store of concepts is more to the point in Taiwan. Originally prepared as a web article prior to advances in rendering Chinese characters, it has experienced some problems in the display of Chinese characters and some symbols in the translation to PDF format. It is nonetheless readable. Education and Practice of Chinese Medicine in Taiwan .

In the "Extralinguistic Aspects of the English Translation of Chinese Medical Terminology" Wiseman discusses methods of translation and how they are influenced by factors other than linguistic research or theory: Extralinguistic Aspects of the English Translation of Chinese Medical Terminology


Papers Demonstrating the Translation of Specific Concepts

Papers Demonstrating the Translation of Specific Concepts

One of more interesting exercises in terms of understanding the practical realities of the term debate is to read papers about individual topics. This is an interesting and educational way to compare loose translations and paraphrases to source-oriented works.

This is Eric Brand's P.C.O.M. paper on Pathological Conditions of Common Gynecological Diseases . If you compare Eric's paper with commonly-used textbooks, you will see how pathomechanisms have been de-empathized.

A sample translation concerning cough: Diagnosis and Treatment of Cough . Note that the information comes from a single source text for higher education in the P.R.C.

This somewhat older paper discusses the translation of pulse terms: Pulse-taking Terminology.

Some insights to the eternal debate about vacuity and repletion: Xu1-Shi2.pdf

Readability in English Language Chinese Medical Texts responds to a commonly made critique that source-oriented writings are more difficult to read. Using professional readability software, this paper shows that this is not the case. It shows that simplification, not choosing familiar words, creates the perceived ease of reading. This articles will likely be strongly challenged, not only because it compares a popular text book, but also because it challenges a broadly-held idea. The raw files used in the readability comparison as well as the mythology are included so that you may do your own investigation.

In Wheezing Nigel Wiseman shows how clinical errors can remain unscrutinized when translators fail to provide comprehensive term lists and choose their English terms without appropriate research in the Chinese clinical literature.


The CHA Papers

The CHA Papers

The Chinese Herb Academy site (CHA) on yahoogroups has been the venue for a much of what has been said about terminology. The following files were prepared in response to those discussions. The following papers stand-alone and those who wish to review the email debate can access the CHA site archive.

The first paper, which is entitled Westerners' Alternative Health-Care Values Eclipsing a Wealth of Knowledge, questions certain widely held views about Chinese medicine, namely that Chinese medicine is natural, holistic, caring, non-mechanistic, and even spiritual in nature.

The second paper, entitled Why the Fuss About Terminology? , desribes why we need to have a full set of equivalents for English terms that are related to the Chinese, and how failure to attend to terminological needs has led to a loss of information in the translation process.

The third paper, entitled English Translation of Chinese Medical Terms: A Scheme Based on Integrated Principles , is the English version of a paper submitted to a PRC journal. This paper is a synopsis of translation arguments that I have presented before, but it places emphasis on the need for integrated principles, a notion that has been neglected by PRC term translators.

The fourth paper, Against Anti-Terminology , is a critique of approaches to translation in the West and of the assumptions underlying them.


Council of Oriental Medical Publishers

Council of Oriental Medical Publishers

The Council of Oriental Medical Publishers produced a description of the code and its descriptive concepts after the first meeting of then-active writers and publishers in the field. It is found here: Description of Concepts.

At the 2000 C.O.M.P. meeting Nigel Wiseman critiqued and suggested improvements in the C.O.M.P. materials: COMP Discussion 2000.

The minutes of that meeting are here: COMP Meeting Minutes.

"Readers Rights" was a presentation at the 2000 C.O.M.P. meeting in San Diego. It presents professional opinion on the qualities of peer reviewable writing and their application to claims made about Chinese Medicine: Readers Rights


The PCOM Papers

The PCOM Papers

The 2000 Pacific Conference featured papers on translation and term issues:

The first paper deals with the advantages of Chinese medical dictionaries: Chinese Medical Dictionaries: A Guarantee for Better Quality Literature

In "Chop Suey or the Real Thing " Nigel Wiseman discusses matters of authenticity in the transmission of Chinese medicine.

In "Language the Neglected Key " Nigel Wiseman demonstrates how neglecting the role of language in the transmission of Chinese medicine to Chinese speakers retards and reduces its westward transmission.

This file contains all the individual papers: Full set.

Learning Chinese

Papers On Learning Chinese

There is a somewhat schizoid view of the value of language learning to the practice and transmission of Chinese medicine. On the one hand, it is thought that learning Chinese medical Chinese resolves problems of transmission because Chinese-reading students are aware of nuance and polysemy in Chinese medical language and have access to Chinese clinical literature. On the other hand, Chinese medical Chinese is considered insufficiently important or too difficult to teach in most schools. Having access to Chinese clinical literature is thought important but not so important as learning the western medical topics that are in fact taught in schools. Nuance is supposedly revealed by learning Chinese but the nuance of metaphoric content is not thought important enough to preserve in translation if it means choosing less familiar words.

In "Learning Chinese: Feasibility, Desirability, and Resistance" Wiseman provides an integrated view of this topic.