Friday, December 24, 2010

Observations on Health and Wellness In China

By Earon Davis, JD, MPH, NCTMB
Adjunct Professor, Health and Wellness Program
School of Health Sciences, Kaplan Univertity

Photo of Martha Foster and Earon Davis at a new Buddhist Temple in China
Photo by Li Rujian in Dalian, China

As the China Southern Airlines plane was preparing to land in Guangzhou, the "short film" was not what one might expect in the West.  It was an instructional in self-care, specifically self massage and stretching to help prepare the body and mind after the flight.  The tone was mellow and slightly spiritual, reflecting the culture of China, the deeply engrained connections to Chinese Medicine which may be more apparent to a westerner than to the average Chinese person.

Indeed, during my earlier 13 hour flight from Chicago to Beijing, I had noticed two people who appeared to be Chinese unobtrusively performing some typical Chinese stretches and tapping their kidney areas.  During my stays in China, I have been quite impressed by the Taoist modesty of the Chinese people as well as the Confucian sense of organization, values for working towards the common good, and tolerance for bureaucracy.  I have been constantly aware of the connections between food and health, from the absence of cold water for drinking and the presence of the freshest of food ingredients and of specific foods prepared for their health and wellness propeties for a given location and weather.  In a previous trip, we had enjoyed Goji Berries prepared in local dishes, fresh, of course.

It almost seems axiomatic in the US that Communism has destroyed Chinese culture and replaced it with a robot-like race of government-directed automatons exhibiting politically correct beliefs and robot-like conformity.  Well, to this traveler, nothing could be further from the truth.  Chinese culture has maintained Chinese Medicine, herbs, tui-na and even Chi Gong.  It has preserved the focus on fresh foods and their medicinal properties.  And, what I found most surprising, perhaps, is that Buddhism continues to be a vital and vibrant practice in China.  In my opinion, individualism very strong in China.  Each person has their own tastes and style, just like the US.  The stereotypic images of the Cultural Revolution long ago lost relevance for today's China, although they seem to linger in the poorly-informed US.  Now, the Chinese government and people must find balance as the very forces of greed and gridlocked oligarchy (sound familiar?) that inspired the toppling of the ancient dynasties and the 1949 revolution have been unleashed by the gradual economic and political reforms that have catapulted China to a leadership position in the global economy.

It is difficult to know where all of these changes will lead, and where the government of the People's Republic of China will draw "lines in the sand" and where it will continue with its philosophy of "bend but do not break."  Is it anti-American to think that the Communist Party in China seems to operate in a classically Chinese manner that honors the flow of yin and yang energies?  China is a vast laboratory of change at this time.  The "one child" policy has been fine-tuned to allow couples who were both "only children" to have two children.  It has for many years allowed rural and minority couples to have two children.  Yet, what we hear in the West tends to be the worst about China.  We hear about government repression and lack of democracy, while ignoring the changes that have brought China growth and prosperity.

As China develops and prospers, it is at risk for leaving behind the old ways.  This may be good regarding economic and political freedom, but the West has not fared well in the realms of spirituality, mental health/happiness and health and wellness.  China has a stronger tradition of balance and wisdom.  Hopefully, it will not embrace the high-stress, poor nutrition lifestyles of the West.  Hopefully, capitalism will not destroy what communism could not.


Gram said...

China seems to have a good grip on Health and Wellness. I like the idea of having the "short film" after the flight.

Also, I have known for years the one child per couple rule and find it interesting the reasons and/or conditions as to how a couple can have two children now.

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