Feng Shui and Traditional Chinese Medicine

  • Michael R. Matthews
Part of the Science: Philosophy, History and Education book series (SPHE)


The defining basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is identification and mastery of chi and hence the enabling of the balance of the vital yin and yang ‘forces’ inside the body. TCM considers sickness or pain to be a result of chi blockage and/or unbalanced chi in the body. All TCM therapies – herbal concoctions, acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, diet, and qigong - are based on this fundamental philosophy and perspective. The evidence for efficacy of acupuncture, much less for any inference to the yin-yang balance, or chi movement, as the cause of any such efficacy, is problematic. Where there are beneficial outcomes – pain relief, relaxation, stress reduction, and so on – many are shown to be placebo effects, psychosomatic effects, the result of standard biochemical processes, and so on. For each class of outcomes, the naturalist response is to look for scientifically established causal explanations.


  1. Agazzi, E. (Ed.). (2017). Varieties of scientific realism: Objectivity and truth in science. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Beinfield, H., & Korngold, E. (1991). Between heaven and earth: A guide to Chinese medicine. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  3. Bergson, H. (1911). Creative evolution (A. Mitchell, Trans.). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, J. R. (1994). Smoke and mirrors: How science reflects reality. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bunge, M. (2006). Chasing reality: Strife over realism. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Capra, F. (1982). The turning point. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  7. Capra, F. (1984). The Tao of physics (2nd revised edition of 1975 original). New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  8. Chang, S. T. (1976). The complete book of acupuncture. Berkeley: Celestial Arts Press.Google Scholar
  9. Clark, A. (1985). Psychological causation and the concept of psychosomatic disease. In D. Stalker & C. Glymour (Eds.), Examining holistic medicine (pp. 67–106). Buffalo: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  10. Colquhoun, D. (2011). Acupuncturists show that acupuncture doesn’t work, but conclude the opposite: Journal fails. Available at:
  11. Colquhoun, D., & Novella, S. (2013). Acupuncture is theatrical placebo. Anesthesia & Analgesia, 116(6), 1360–1363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cyranoski, D. (2017, November 29). China to roll back regulations for traditional medicine despite safety concerns. Nature.Google Scholar
  13. Eitel, E. J. (1873/1987). Feng shui: The rudiments of natural science in China. Hong Kong: Lane Crawford (Graham Brash, Singapore).Google Scholar
  14. Ernst, E., Lee, M. S., & Choi, T.-Y. (2011). Acupuncture: Does it alleviate pain and are there serious risks? A review of reviews. Pain, 152(4), 755–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gillies, M. A. (1996). Henri Bergson and British modernism. Montreal: McGill Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Harper, D. (2017). Science in ancient China. In I. R. Morus (Ed.), The Oxford illustrated history of science (pp. 45–71). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Hersey, F. (2017, September 14). Traditional medicine courses rolled out in Chinese schools as 12-year-olds learn acupuncture. The Telegraph.Google Scholar
  18. Huston, P. (1995). China, chi and chicanary: Examining traditional Chinese medicine and chi theory. Skeptical Inquirer, 19(5), 38–42.Google Scholar
  19. Laudan, L. (1981). A confutation of convergent realism. Philosophy of Science, 48, 19–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lee, M. S., Pittler, M. H., & Ernst, E. (2008). Effects of Reiki in clinical practice: A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 62(6), 947–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Li, Z. (1996). The private life of chairman Mao: The memoirs of Mao’s personal physician. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  22. Liu, J. L. (2010). ‘Wang Fuzhi’s philosophy of principle (Li) inherent in Qi. In J. Makeham (Ed.), Dao companion to neo-Confucian philosophy (pp. 355–380). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Matthews, M. R. (2015a). Science teaching: The contribution of history and philosophy of science: 20th anniversary revised and enlarged edition. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Matthews, M. R. (2015b). Reflections on 25-years of journal editorship. Science & Education, 24(5–6), 749–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Needham, J., & Ling, W. (1956). Science and civilisation in China, Vol. 2, History of scientific thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Norris, C. M. (2001). Acupuncture: Treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  27. Offit, P. (2013). Do you believe in magic? The sense and nonsense of alternative medicine. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  28. Orleans, L. A. (Ed.). (1980). Science in contemporary China. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Porkert, M. (1974). The theoretical foundations of Chinese medicine. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  30. Porkert, M. (1982). The difficult task of blending Chinese and Western science: The case of the modern interpretations of traditional Chinese medicine. In G. Li, M. Zhang, & T. Cao (Eds.), Explorations in the history of science and technology in China (pp. 553–572). Shanghai: Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House.Google Scholar
  31. Psillos, S. (1999). Scientific realism: How science tracks truth. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Radner, D., & Radner, M. (1989). Holistic methodology and pseudoscience. In D. Stalker & C. Glymour (Eds.), Examining holistic medicine (pp. 149–159). Buffalo: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  33. Sacks, B. (2014, May 16). Reiki goes mainstream: Spiritual touch practice now commonplace in hospitals. The Washington Post.Google Scholar
  34. Sampson, W. (1996). Antiscience trends in the rise of the “alternative medicine” movement. In P. R. Gross, N. Levitt, & M. W. Lewis (Eds.), The flight from science and reason (pp. 188–197). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Semple, D., & Smyth, R. (2013). Oxford handbook of psychiatry (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Skrabanek, P. (1985). Acupuncture: Past, present and future. In D. Stalker & C. Glymour (Eds.), Examining holistic medicine (pp. 181–196). Buffalo: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  37. State Council Information Office (SCIO). (2016). Traditional Chinese medicine in China. Beijing: SCIO.Google Scholar
  38. Tobin, K. (Ed.). (1993). The practice of constructivism in science and mathematics education. Washington, DC: AAAS Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tobin, K. (2000). Constructivism in science education: Moving on. In D. C. Phillips (Ed.), Constructivism in education (pp. 227–253). Chicago: National Society for the Study of Education.Google Scholar
  40. Tobin, K. (2015). Connecting science education to a world in crisis. Asia-Pacific Science Education, 1, 2. Scholar
  41. Vickers, A. J., Cronin, A. M., Maschino, A. C., Lewith, G., MacPherson, H., Victro, N., Foster, N. E., Sherman, K. J., Witt, C. M., & Linde, K. (2012). Acupuncture for chronic pain: Individual patient data meta-analysis. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(19), 1444–1453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wegman, M. E. (1980). Biomedical research: Clinical and public health aspects. In L. A. Orleans (Ed.), Science in contemporary China (pp. 269–294). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Wensel, L. O. (1980). Acupuncture for Americans. Reston: Reston Publishing.Google Scholar
  44. Wozniak, J. A., Wu, S., & Wang, H. (2001). Yan Xin Qigong and contemporary sciences. Champaign: International Yan Xin Qigong Association.Google Scholar
  45. Yan, X. (2015). Secrets and benefits of internal Qigong cultivation. Malvern: Amber Leaf Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Matthews
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations