After 2,500 years of evolution, TCM has become a very rich and sophisticated system of rational medicine with a great diversity of theories and applications. But, in its essence, it seeks to understand and facilitate harmony in human life.
It is based on a very simple principle: any system that is in harmony tends towards health, wellbeing, and sustainability. A system that is in disharmony tends towards illness, disease, suffering, and collapse.
What is a system in TCM?
A system is comprised of everything that creates and sustains it. Everything is interconnected and interdependent. If all of the parts of a system are in harmony with one another, then the whole system is in harmony. Disturb one thing and you create a disturbance that ripples through the whole system.
This principle applies to any and all systems. For example, it applies as equally to a human being as it does to a family, community, or the environment. So we must take care to consider our actions and to take things as a whole.
What are the fundamental concepts?
Two concepts that are unique and fundamental to Chinese medicine are Qi (usually translated as "vital energy") and yin and yang (the harmony of all the opposite elements and forces that make up existence). These two concepts form what we might call the "roots" of Chinese medicine.
Springing from these roots are the basic principles and theories about the dynamics of Qi and yin and yang, which form the "stems" of Chinese medicine.
And resting on these principles is the rest of TCM theory and application, such as the causes of patterns of disharmony, which form the "branches."