Book Review: The Dao of Healing

Authored by Lai Pak-Wah

Readers may be daunted by this book as it attempts to cover a topic that is not widely discussed in Christian circles. However, the author is careful in his introduction of the topic through laying the necessary foundations of examining and defining Chinese medicine, and readers are eased into unpacking this seldom-charted subject with familiar techniques used in approaching and examining Scripture.

Unexpectedly, a most familiar commandment underlies the message of this book, and that is to “love your neighbour as yourself”. To communicate this message, the author delves deep into both the histories of Hippocratic medicine practiced by the Greeks, as well as yinyang philosophy that has influenced Chinese traditional medicine. Readers are invited to understand the origins of both Chinese and Western medicine with objectivity and an openness to learn, as the author emphasises through the detailed contents of the book that such willingness to understand the unfamiliar is very much an expression of love for our neighbours.

Since many readers may be unfamiliar with these “neighbours”, a difficulty arises because of the depth of coverage of multiple topics, ranging from history to health sciences, and to philosophies. One challenge that readers might encounter in unpacking this book is the lack of handles to find connections between the chapters, and each chapter appears to be in a silo. It is especially easy to be distracted when the author breaks down the actual practices of Chinese medicine, yet this is also necessary to understand the premise of Chinese medical theory, as it is only through such close examination that readers can understand the ways in which believers and practitioners of Chinese medicine perceive the human body and its ailments. Readers might be surprised to realise that a large part of the book covers detailed comparisons in terms of the diagnostic frameworks adopted by Chinese medicine and biomedicine as the title seems to hold the promise of sharing theological debates on the use of Chinese medicine. However, the author has made it clear that such debates should only be attempted after careful research of the other party in the most objective way possible.

The last chapter provides a closure, albeit a rather brief one, to the observations made in prior chapters. Perhaps a more detailed elaboration is needed to fully flesh out Christian perspectives on Chinese medicine by including more discussions on the biblical theology of health and sickness, and highlighting parallels, as well as contrasts, to the philosophies behind Chinese medicine. Nonetheless, readers are encouraged through to approach this topic with a clear mind, and to arrive at their own understanding of Chinese medicine uninfluenced by pre-conceived beliefs. This has proven to be a strength of this book. Readers of various belief systems are also invited to take part in this learning journey for there is no forced persuasion taking place, only open understanding. The central message of this book is not lost, as the author repeatedly reminds his readers that taking the effort to understand the other without bias is the first step in loving our neighbours. For Christians who are seeking to reconcile the practice of Chinese medicine with their beliefs, this commandment is all the more an encouragement to approach the unfamiliar with humility and a willingness to learn as a very first step to reconciliation.

You can view a sample of The Dao of Healing here.

This review is written by Juniana.

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