A Practical Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine
by Nigel Wiseman and Feng Ye

A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine is essential for anyone interested in knowing the current clinical use of virtually any Chinese medical term. It takes the field beyond the informal assumptions and vague approximations that have characterized the use of terminology during the past two decades by introducing a precision in our understanding that is unprecedented in the English literature. The information contained in this encyclopedic dictionary brings a new level of clarity to the practice of Chinese medicine.

—Charles Chace

Wiseman and Feng's English dictionary represents a new milestone in the development of Chinese medicine.

—Hen-Hong Chang

A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine combines the features of a clinical manual with those of a dictionary. It provides a wealth of useful information beyond the definition of terms.

It describes symptoms in detail and explains their clinical significance. It gives acupuncture and medicinal treatments for virtually every disease and pattern. It describes detailed indications for each principle and method of treatment, precise needling instructions, and Western medical equivalents for many diseases and patterns. Thousands of cross-references lead the reader from familiar to less familiar concepts. The names of organs and body parts lead to the diseases and symptoms each is affected by. Hosts of comparisons enable students to discover clinically useful distinctions.

A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine also provides a standard for the use of words that properly links English terminology is to the Chinese. It defines each term clearly and concisely, giving the original Chinese term and its tone-marked Pinyin transcription. It provides synonyms and abbreviations where necessary, and offers etymologies for key terms.

Anyone interested in Chinese medicine will soon discover the vast utility of this dictionary. Clinicians will appreciate the wealth of clinical information. Students will appreciate the diagnostic and therapeutic information that fills gaps in existing textbooks. Translators will appreciate the ability to access all entry terms by Pinyin/Chinese, and the list of key characters and their English equivalents. Anyone who has been confused by variable usage and poor definition will appreciate the clarity that this dictionary achieves.

Extensive, easy to use, academically rigorous, clinically rich, this is a monumental work that no clinician, student, translator or researcher will want to overlook.

Nigel Wiseman was born in England on April 21, 1954. He received a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and German interpreting and translation in 1976 from Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh. He has lived in Taiwan for the last 25 years. He is a proffessor of Chinese and latin at the Chan Gung medical university. For six years previous, hewas a lecturer in Chinese medical English and medical Latin at China Medical College, Taiwan.

He is the author of a number of highly respected Chinese medical works including Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine , Fundamentals of Chinese Acupuncture, and An English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary of Chinese Medicine. In 1998 he received his doctorate in Complementary Health and Applied Linguistics at the University of Exeter, England.

Feng Ye was born in Taiwan on November 26, 1967. He graduated from the Chinese Medical School of China Medical College, Taiwan in 1994, and holds R.O.C. licenses in Chinese and Western medicine. He received his Master degree from the Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences in 1997. He works in the Chinese Internal Medicine Department of China Medical College Hospital. His special fields of interest other than general internal medicine include pulse theory, The Shang Han Lun (On Cold Damage), acupuncture, and external injury.

Features of The Dictionary

  • Nearly 6,000 Chinese medical terms that are commonly used in Chinese-language professional literature
  • All entries are given in English and Chinese (in modern PRC simplified characters) with tone-marked Pinyin transcriptions
  • Clear, concise definitions compiled from cited authoritative Chinese sources
  • A wealth of useful clinical information including diagnostic and therapeutic protocols
  • Both acupuncture and medicinal treatments are included for most diseases and patterns
  • Detailed cross-referencing providing maximum access to related concepts
  • Etymologies provided for over 300 terms
  • A 200-page index comprising:
  • Pinyin with Chinese for all entries
  • All medicinals, formulas, and point names appearing in the text
  • All Western medical correspondences appearing in the text
  • Four useful appendices: Weights and Measures, Classified List of Medicinals, Classified List of Formulas, Classified List of Acupuncture Points Compiled from over one hundred primary sources

Publisher's Comments

Whether using the Practical Dictionary as a source of terminology, as an editorial support, or to learn how the Chinese define their terms, understanding the indexing philosophy is worthwhile. The index is huge, nearly 200 pages. It includes every term, book, medicinal, formula, acupoint and western medical correspondence found in the text. The authors designed it as a translators' glossary to save translators and scholars the need to buy a stand-alone gloss. Because the definitions section is organized like a standard dictionary, there is no need to use the index for English terms. Thus, the index is organized for those who begin their search in Chinese. For example, if you look for ``dispersion'' in the index, you won't find it. But, you will find xiao in the first tone, the three characters and terms associated with it, as well as xiao in the first tone followed by fa in the third tone, all of which are linked to ``disperse,'' or ``dispersion.''

So, for English, search directly in the text. For Chinese, you can begin in the index. However, because the Pinyin entries are listed in alphabetical order by tone (1, 2, etc.) in both the index and definitions sections, you can begin in either depending upon your need for defintion. If you know neither the Chinese nor the English for a term, you can still find it reasonably fast. Just find the definition for a related body-part, pattern or symptom. Once there, check for words in small capitals. These are further entries. Also look for the labels "Compare, Synonym," and "See." These are cross references to related definitions. The abbreviations ACU, MED, TRT and WMC which appear in small boxes point to treatment-related references such as acupoints, medicinals, formulas and western medical correspondences. For example, if you want a defintion or treatment but know neither the Chinese nor the English for a term related to urination, look under "urine." There you will find references to associated symptoms, patterns, and treatments.

For every search, the shortest route depends upon what you know and what you need to know.

  • If you know the functional class of a medicinal, and need only the nomenclature, look in Appendix II.
  • If you know the functional class of a formula, and need only the nomenclature, look in Appendix III.
  • If you know the latin, Chinese or English for a medicinal, and need only the nomenclature, use the index.
  • If you know the Chinese or English for a formula, and need only the nomenclature, use the index.
  • If you know the Chinese or English for an acupoint, and need only the nomenclature, use the index.
  • If you know the channel for an acupoint, and need only the nomenclature, look in Appendix IV by aphanumeric designation.
  • If you know the English for term, look in the text itself in aphabetical order, regardless of whether you need the nomenclature or the defintion.
  • If you know only the Chinese for a term, look in the index first.


Wiseman and Ye have created an exemplary reference work characterized by its erudition, completeness, and accessibility. The compilers’ preface details every aspect of the work’s purpose, genesis, and scope. The stated objective was to create a dictionary that would be useful to practitioners, students, and teachers of Chinese medicine in the English-speaking world, whether or not they have knowledge of Chinese and whether or not they are familiar with the terminology presented. The arrangement is alphabetical in order (as opposed to a thematic ordering) of English terms, with each entry followed by the original Chinese term and Pinyin transliteration. The definitions are often followed by extensive clinical information that may include specification of western medical correspondences, medication, acupuncture, and treatment. Entries are extensively cross-referenced, which is a key feature to accessing the content of this work given the unfamiliarity of many of the concepts. The entries conclude with references to sources, the vast majority of which are in Chinese. Also included are four appendices and an index that allows access to the English entries by their Pinyin transcriptions as well as an index to medicinals and acupuncture-point names appearing in the text.

With its approximately 6,000 entries, this encyclopedic dictionary may serve as a clinical manual and would make an invaluable tool for those learning about Chinese medical concepts. It will also be of interest to translators as the compilers have extensive experience with terminological work in this area. This is a dictionary designed for specialists and can be expected to appeal to a specific audience; nevertheless, current interest in acupuncture and other forms of alternative medicine may indicate a wider audience for this title.

—Michael Weinberg, American Reference Books Annual, #30.

A Bejing Announcement of Interest Recently, a notice appeared in the Zhong guo zhong yi yao bao (The Chinese Medical and Pharmaceutical Journal of China) describing a meeting of Bejing notables to celebrate the publication of Nigel Wiseman's Chinese-English English-Chinese Dictionary of Chinese Medicine by the Hunan Science and Technology Publishing Company of the People's Republic of China. The meeting was presided over by the Editor-in-Chief of Hunan Science and Technology, Dr. Wang Yifang, and the director of the Institute for History of Medicine and Medical Literature of the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Zheng Jinsheng, a long-time collaborator of Dr. Paul U. Unschuld. The meeting was notably attended by Li Jingwei, one of the chief editors of possibly largest Chinese medical dictionary, and by other Chinese medical experts including Yu Yingao, Lu Guanghua, and the president of the Zhong Yi Za Zhi (Chinese Medical Journal), Huang Hong-Chang. Senior fellows of Bejing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and its publishing houses also attended.

The Chinese-English English- Chinese Dictionary of Chinese Medicine, which is an expanded, simplified-character version of the Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine published by Paradigm Publications in 1998, is a major achievement in the development of English TCM terminology, a fact acknowledged in two prefaces to the book, written by Chinese medical historian Paul Unschuld and the pioneer of scientific Chinese medicine, Chen Keji. The article entitled ``Chinese Medicine Becomes the Medical Property of All Humanity,'' states:

Those attending the meeting noted their agreement and praise for the English scholar's seven to eight year effort in writing a Dictionary of Chinese Medicine to help make Chinese medicine the common medical property of humanity. They unanimously agreed that this dictionary represented the new reference source for the development of academic studies, international exchange, and training in Chinese medicine, and for world-wide understanding of this subject. Those attending the meeting;also expressed their unanimous belief that the publication of this dictionary pioneers and paves a way for the standardization of Chinese medical terminology and its translation, and for the internationalization of Chinese medicine, and that it will stimulate enthusiasm among;Chinese and foreign scholars to work together building a bridge between Chinese and Western medicine and Chinese and Western culture.

email this page | printer friendly version
Publication Date: December 1994 2nd Edition May 2001
Hardcover; 946; Oversize; $174.95
The index is very large and can be used as a Pinyin-English glossary
ISBN 0-912111-54-2
Order from our distributor
Redwing Book Company
202 Bendix Drive
Taos NM 87571
tel. (575) 758-7758
fax (575) 758-7768
toll free (800) 873-3946