4 books on Diagnosis

Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine Giovanni Maciocia
Churchill Livingstone 

Practical Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine Tietao Deng-Churchill Livingstone

Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine 
Ping Chen-Paradigm Publications

Since I wrote this review another book from Eastland Press appeared from Yi Qiao and Al Stone. Below is a short review of that book.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis Study Guide – Eastland Press
Qiao Yi with Al Stone

437 pages, 8-1/2″ x 11″
ISBN: 0-939616-64-5

“Qiao Yi and Al Stone, both veteran educators, have risen to the task of explaining TCM diagnosis in both overview and its intricate details. This Study Guide goes beyond simply translating and reiterating what has already been written in other texts by showing diagnosis as an interactive process with zang-fu and TCM theory. The authors’ years of experience in teaching this material which has been peer reviewed by leading scholars of Chinese medicine is reflected in both the content and its presentation. More than just a dry compilation of facts, this book clarifies many of the ambiguities left by other TCM texts. Highly recommended for both beginners and experienced practitioners.”


Diagnosis is the key. Those four words are the most important in all of clinical medicine. Everything else falls by the way side. If you don’t have the correct diagnosis then the strongest herbs or drugs or surgeries or acupuncture needles will help you. Despite this Chinese Medicine is notorious for having an ambiguous approach to diagnosis. Equally talented practitioners can create effective treatment by jumping into the circle at an infinite number of points. The roads to a diagnosis are just as endless. Some practitioners favor the pulse, some the tongue, some put great emphasis on questioning and some on facial reading. While there are many effective diagnoses, a definitive one is an oxymoron.

Here we have three books that approach the subject of diagnosis as differently as those who favor the pulse and those who might favor the tongue. The first two books (and from the same publisher) on the same subject begs a comparison and they stand as the Yin and Yang of previously unavailable texts in English. I was frankly prepared to favor Deng’s book over Giovanni. Deng would seem to be more ���authentic�� coming from a Chinese author and translated by the superb scholar and acupuncturist Marnae Ergil. Giovanni should be well known to all who know anything about English language books on Chinese Medicine. The Giovanni weighs in at over 1100 pages while the Deng book is half the amount.

Students (and practitioners) of Chinese Medicine often are confused about the dichotomy between the classroom and clinic. ���Statements of Fact�� are the building blocks that clinical medicine manipulates. Know these invariable rules backwards and forwards and then bend them in the clinic. So what if the patient does not conform to the textbook? The Western student often wants to jump ahead to the exceptions and the Giovanni text stands as the answers to the eager ‘problem student’ in the back of the room. This student asks, “But what if…”.

This is the difference between the two books. The English version of Deng is a translation of his book that is a nationwide standard in China and is best seen as a classroom text for students and practitioners. The Deng gives us the rules and the authority of consensus of the TCM establishment while the Giovanni book is a generous helping of one practitioner and his experience. From the lavender cover and highlights to the rich details of diagnosis, Giovanni aims straight at the practicing Western acupuncturist, as if acutely aware of what they might face day to day in the clinic. Giovanni has never been so open about the non-mainstream influences of the now late John Shen nor the help of his translators. Unfortunately, one is never sure about the sources of his statements and so issues of consensus, classic integrity and contextualization become problematic. Although there is a bibliography, the book is rather thin in it�۪s footnoting. So although I am skeptical of aspects of the Giovanni book I can appreciate his experience of diagnostic possibilities.

The third book on diagnosis, Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine by Ping Chen shows the range of how a practitioner can approach the subject. Diagnosis Of Chinese Medicine is basically a study guide of tables of various symptoms and complaints. I had seen it in a bookstore but had bought it on line not realizing what book I was to receive. At first I was a bit disappointed but looking at it again I can see it’s value in both the clinic and classroom. Dr. Chen says that she made the book because students were confused by narrative diagnostic descriptions. For me, the narrative is exactly what I miss about most of TCM literature. Oh well… for a student (and/or their teachers) this book may be a god-send. The information is sound and more comprehensive than most guides on the same subject. So, after all, the Deng Guide may be the first diagnosis book one should buy. Every student and practitioner should have this material down cold before proceeding to the others.