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A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine

by Nigel Wiseman, published by Paradigm Publications (MA) (1998-06)

Buy now from Amazon.com for $138.95
Amazon rating of 5.0 out of 5, Amazon sales rank: 117236

Editor's Review:

From the simple and common to the complex and rare, this book contains subtleties, distinctions and nuances of Chinese medicine never found in beginners texts. Whether for translational or clinical application, it presents the concepts of Chinese medicine exactly as they would come to the mind of a Chinese physician speaking or writing in their native language.

Arranged as a classical dictionary, definitions are provided in English alphabetic order, and include the english term, the source Chinese term, its Pinyin transliteration (including spoken tone), pronunciation, etymology, and one or more definitions as applied in Chinese medicine. Terms used within definitions are cross-referenced and disease and symptom descriptions include the standard therapies applied in the People's Republic of China. Each definition is referenced to one or more Chinese source. In all, it lists the characters, Pinyin, translations, and definitions for more than 10,000 medical concepts, including treatments for the patterns catalogued, 2,000 formulas, 1,700 natural drugs, and 1,500 acupoints.

The definitions and treatments are drawn from clinically authoritative Chinese medical sources, all of which are cited. The many useful features include a full set of English common and commercial names for medicinal substances, as well as standard Latin scientific names. Western medical correspondences are noted, as is nomenclature put forward by the World Health Organization. The index is comprehensive and fully cross referenced; it also includes lesser-used terms and nomenclature so it may be used as a translators' glossary. There is one foreword by Chen Keji, the pioneer of integrated Chinese medicine, and another by Paul Unschuld, the renowned sinologist.

This is a valuable work that will provide rapid access to an enormous amount of information for the student, researcher, or clinician, and is sure to become the new reference source for academic studies, international exchange, and training in Chinese medicine.

Reader Reviews:

I received the book, 'The Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine' direct from Amazon. I have to say, there's nothing like it in English that I have encountered so far in my studies of Chinese medicine dating back to 1984. Of course, back then, Dan Bensky's book, 'Acupuncture, A Comprehensive Text' was still relatively hot off the press and his herbal series weren't out yet. The 'Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture' was the standard text at most acupuncture schools in the U.S. We've come a long way: clearly, Wiseman's terminological linguistics have made Chinese medical concepts and terms really accessible to the non-Chinese fluent student and practitioner. It's apparent that Wiseman is setting the standard for Chinese medical translations in English for our time. No one even comes close, though I do think that Blue Poppy Press puts out some outstanding books and there are other clinical publications that I have found very useful. All that said: an authoritative and linguistically consistent dictionary is absolutely necessary and I believe that Wiseman's is the one to get! I give this book 5+ stars. Of course, no book can ever have everything but that goes without saying.

- Richard Caiander, Licensed Acupuncturist, MassachusettsThe issue with all texts on Chinese medicine in English is translation. Given his penchant for ridiculously arcane terminology, Wiseman is no different. The outstanding feature of this dictionary and other Wiseman works, however, is the marriage of translation to Chinese, meaning one can examine his interpretation against the actual text. Pinyin is an obviously helpful bridge to understanding Chinese, but seeing the actual characters adds much to the understanding of TCM theory and application.

Such careful scholarship is worthy of acclaim.It'll take you forever to get through it- it's big, and it's a dictionary. Wiseman is the only scholar out there who has advanced a standard for Chinese medical translation. Until someone comes up with something better, it's the language we'll use. This dictionary is also packed with loads of useful clinical info you won't find anywhere else. It's pricey, but if you want the real Chinese Medicine, I'd suggest you keep it on your list.The dictionary is a labor of love on the part of Nigel Wiseman and Feng Ye. As others have often observed, writing a dictionary is a thankless job and indeed, the authors have received little credit and much blame for their efforts. The price of admission is steep, the subject is still exotic in the English-speaking world, and many of the term choices are gratingly neological; such a work goes underappreciated for these and other reasons.

There is no question that many of the language decisions made in this work fly in the face of conventional approaches to translation. A translator by training before taking up the study of Chinese medicine, I can say without hesitation that this was not how translation was presented to us as students. The idea of a mechanically consistent, bidirectional set of terminological equivalents would have been frowned upon by my mentors. The goal of the method, however, is both laudable and clearly stated: to create English language Chinese medical terms than can be directly traced back to their Chinese origins by means of a dictionary. This approach is rife with difficulties, but in this early stage of importing Chinese medicine, it seems to be the road we must inevitably travel. I've been known to openly express frustration with some of the work at hand (which is, notably, very much a work in progress), but I must admit that it is an enormous contribution to the field and that it is infinitely preferable to no such work at all.

The Dictionary is organized alphabetically by English language terms, with Chinese characters and Pinyin romanization with tone marks, as well as an English-language definition, for each entry. The quality and length of each entry varies considerably, and one must often read several entries scattered throughout the dictionary in order to understand the meaning of a single term, but then, that is the nature of Chinese medicine. The Dictionary definitions, despite their inconsistency, comprise a wealth of information previously not available in English about a wide range of Chinese medical topics.

The index includes both English and Pinyin terms. There is no way to look up terms by their Chinese characters, so one must use additional works, such as Wiseman's English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary of Chinese Medicine, when trying to read a Chinese text. This is disappointing, but such an index would have added another 150-200 pages or so to the already massive size of the book, which would simultaneously have further increased the cost.

Those who wish to read English-language publications using Wiseman and Ye's terminology will find they cannot do without this dictionary. Students and practitioners who wish to experience more of the world view of Chinese medicine will find many rewards between its covers. Would-be translators (myself included) will discover a valuable resource in the Dictionary, despite the persistent need for several others. It is only by use that the true value of this book may be revealed, and only by use that its shortcomings may be addressed.Every so often a book comes into existence that exerts a powerful influence on the zone of life for which it was intended. This new dictionary falls into this category. Since its arrival it has already become a lightning rod for discussion and debate concerning the whole conduct of the translation and therefore the transmission of traditional Chinese medicine into English and English-speaking areas. The authoring of dictionaries is a thankless task. Samuel Johnson, no stranger to this work, noted that mankind tends to consider the writers of dictionaries as the slaves of science. The work of Nigel Wiseman and Feng Ye reflects a deep sense of service to their chosen discipline, but far from being slaves they stand in the vanguard of a liberating force that is developing in Chinese medical studies. We all owe them our thanks for having put so much information between the covers of a single volume that can be used to forward the development of deeper understanding of this complex subject. To illustrate the utility of the book, I just came from a visit to the office of a friend, an MD who practices acupuncture to whom I recommended the dictionary when it was first publised. "Thanks for turning me on to this book," he said, pointing to the Practical Dictionary beside his desk. "I use it every day."
Learn more...

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See also:
Dao of Chinese Medicine : Understanding an Ancient Healing Art

Dao of Chinese Medicine : Understanding an Ancient Healing Art

Dao of Chinese Medicine : Understanding an Ancient Healing Art

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