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New York museum unveils groundbreaking show on traditional Chinese medicine

Published on 04/26 2018  Source: Xinhua


NEW YORK - New York City's Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Wednesday unveiled two groundbreaking exhibitions on Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and practices in America through historical medical artifacts and contemporary art.

Chinese Medicine in America: Converging Ideas, People and Practices and On the Shelves of Kam Wah Chung & Co. will both be on view for the public at the museum in Manhattan's Chinatown from April 26 to Sept 9.

"These exhibitions break new ground by promoting a multi-faceted discussion of how ancient Chinese medicine principles and practices evolve when circumstances and space demand its change," said Nancy Yao Maasbach, MOCA's president at Wednesday's press preview.

"By seeing how we treat illness and maintain our health, we hope visitors can learn about the ancient philosophical concepts that are the backbone of Chinese culture," said Herb Tam, MOCA's Curator and Director of Exhibitions.

"For a period of time in America, Chinese medicine seemed relegated to the past -- particularly in contrast to the high-tech advances made in biomedicine during the 20th century," said Donna Mah, a faculty member of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York.

"But it is fortunate that much has been preserved and brought forward, as Chinese medicine is relevant today in our evolving understanding of the human body, medical sensibilities, and the nature of health and healing."

The exhibition Chinese Medicine in America: Converging Ideas, People and Practices tells a cross-cultural story of Chinese medicine and practices in America through historical medical artifacts, contemporary art, and profiles on notable figures in Chinese medicine history to create an engaging space for exploring how medicine, philosophy and history are linked.

On the Shelves of Kam Wah Chung & Co.: General Store and Apothecary in John Day, Oregon, is an immersive historical exhibition that celebrates the medical practice of Ing "Doc" Hay who became a prominent figure in eastern Oregon after the California Gold Rush.

Ing Hay, who immigrated to the United States in 1887, brought his knowledge of herbology and pulsology to a remote part of Oregon during a time when Western medicine was still in its infancy.

Through the presentation of the historical Kam Wah-chung general store, the exhibition includes Chinese patent medicines developed by the doctor, archival materials such as historical photos, patient records and correspondences with non-Chinese settlers.

It also provides an illustration of day-to-day life in the region, and a lesser-known history of Chinese immigration in the Pacific Northwest.

The exhibitions, the first of their kind to be shown in New York City, feature work by local artists including Zhang Hongtu and by infographics pioneer Fritz Kahn.

MOCA also has commissioned emerging artists Vincent Chong and Robert Cipriano to create original woodblock prints, a technique deeply rooted in Chinese culture, to highlight the historical figures featured in the exhibition.

For decades, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been recognized as an alternative therapy in the United States. The treatment is included neither in the country's medical system, nor in the curricula of most of its medical schools. Yet demands for TCM, and acupuncture in particular, has been on the rise.

Only four states in America to date do not have legislation on professional practices of TCM. It has grown into an industry with 40,000 licensed therapists, and treats over 380 million patients every year.