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China: Health, Environment and Traditional Chinese Medicine (SIT)


Brenda Tooley

Director, Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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While on this unique program, you will have the opportunity to learn from and practice alongside doctors and other professionally trained medical professionals from our institutional partner at the Yunnan Provincial Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, learning the skills of Chinese massage (tuina), acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal medicine. You will learn the theory of the energy channels and meridian through which vital life force (qi) flows through our bodies and the various pressure points that are used in healing. You will also learn about the ancient Daoist philosophical underpinnings of what is now a modernized and increasingly scientific system, often used in conjunction with western medicines and surgical practices. Then, under the guidance of medical professionals, you’ll practice techniques such as acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and the Five Animal Movements yourself. You’ll also learn 24 forms Taiji through daily exercise.

You’ll live in the beautiful capital of Yunnan Province: Kunming, a city situated at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level, and known throughout China as the “City of Eternal Spring.” Kunming is also home to spacious parks and green spaces that are well loved by its friendly and ethnically diverse population. Kunming enjoys some of the best air quality among Chinese cities and was recently named one of the world’s most biodiverse cities.

In addition to two homestays, in Kunming and a rural minority community, you’ll meet students in Kunming and during excursion to Northwest Yunnan. Through the Yunnan Exploration Project, you can also design a five-day trip to meet local residents and gain field study skills.

Major topics of study include:

  • The role of traditional Chinese cultures and belief systems in contemporary life
  • Health, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and additional indigenous health care knowledge systems in Yunnan
  • Chinese minorities’ healing systems and their views on health preservation at the community level
  • Relationship between ethnic minority tourism, cultural change, and environmental sustainability
  • Historical, religious and social factors that have worked to shape the Chinese healthcare system
  • Role of indigenous knowledge in health preservation, environmental protection, and sustainable development
  • View of western and Chinese health concepts and practices within China and on the global stage

You’ll travel to the Daoist mountain Weibaoshan, the ancient city of Dali, the town of Shaxi on the ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Route, Lijiang World Heritage site, and Zhongdian Tibetan area. In these locations, you'll learn about the vast differences in daily life, medical care, and medical practices in urban versus rural settings. You will also discover the unique qualities of Bai traditional herbal medicine, Naxi Dongba shamanism, and Tibetan medicine. These excursions will help you understand the historical and social factors that have shaped China and the challenges indigenous people are facing today. You’ll engage in observation and discussion and workshops and hands-on activities on ancient Chinese philosophy and religions.

In the final month of the semester, you will undertake an Independent Study Project (ISP), which provides an opportunity for you to critically examine a topic, community, or situation related to Chinese culture and ethnic minorities in China. Sample ISP topics include:

  • Traditional ecological knowledge and sustainable food sourcing
  • Working with locals to restore biodiversity to a rubber-dominated landscape
  • An analysis of China’s energy sources and the case for clean energy
  • Addressing disparities in China’s health, education, and social welfare systems
  • Tibetan mental health
  • Tibetan women’s experiences with childbirth
  • The impact of the Chinese rural healthcare system on infectious disease
  • A comparative study of the barriers to HIV self-management among Myanmar migrant and Han Chinese Women in Yunnan, China
  • The perceived mental health effects of China’s one-child policy
  • Bai herbal medicine
  • Naxi shamanic healing system
  • Confucianist and Daoist philosophies and their influences on health preservation and environmental protection
  • Treatment accessibility for co-infected injecting drug users in China
  • Preservation and renewal of Tibetan arts
  • Women’s health in China
  • Development of Tibetan Medicine in Shangri-la
  • Traditional Chinese painting, music, and medicine
  • Buddhist philosophy and its relationship with health preservation in China

Learn more about the China: Health, Environment and Traditional Chinese Medicine program and other SIT programs.

Credits: 4.5 Knox credits for the fall or spring semester.

Advisor: Professor Weihong Du

Click here for more information about the application process, program selection, and more!

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Printed on Tuesday, July 14, 2020