BEIJING - A government spokesman on Thursday responded to a recent outburst of scepticism over traditional Chinese medicine by saying that China encourages "theoretical exploration and innovation in the practice" of medical science to improve healthcare.
Speaking at a press conference, Ministry of Health spokesman Song Shuli made the remark following a request for comment on achievements claimed by a local health department.
The health department of Northwest China's Gansu province announced earlier this month, after a nine-day training course for its workers, that 41 of 47 practitioners had performed some of the fundamental tasks of the healthcare theory qigong. The 41 had successfully opened up their own "Conception Vessel" (ren mai) and "Governor Vessel" (du mai), according to a statement posted on the department's website.
"They feel vigorous after the accomplishment. Their old diseases are now relieved or cured, and their diet, sleep, and bowel movement are back to normal," it claimed.
Skepticism was quickly raised after the announcement, with many questioning how the practitioners could make the progress in such a brief period, or whether it is achievable at all.
According to ancient Chinese medical theories, the Conception and Governor vessels, located at different acupuncture points, control the flow of the human body's Yin and Yang energy, respectively.
Popular kungfu fictions mention that martial arts masters -- often practitioners of qigong -- become undefeatable after opening up the two vessels. But it supposedly requires years or even decades to accomplish this.
Song did not confirm whether the practitioners in Gansu have actually achieved the mastery, but said that human beings' understanding of life science is ever progressing and will constantly make new discoveries.
"The main objective of the qigong course in Gansu is to help medical staff understand and master more knowledge and methods of TCM," the spokesman said. "TCM is a medical science formed and developed by Chinese people after thousands of years' struggle against diseases, and it has made great contribution to the prosperity of the Chinese nation and world civilization."
By practicing qigong, an exercise to align breath and movement, people are trained to feel the body's "qi," considered a force active in any living thing. With sufficient practice, people are said to be able to open up the two vessels, giving them access to infinite energy.
The spokesman insisted that attaching equal importance to TCM and Western medicine is an important principle for China's health authorities.
China has introduced a series of laws and regulations to promote scientific progress in TCM and to improve TCM services.
"Modern scientific research has continuously provided evidence for TCM's theories and methods," the spokesman added. "There are more and more countries and regions around the world that are studying and accepting TCM."
According to the Health Ministry, more than 70 countries and regions have signed agreements with China's government on TCM cooperation.