Retrospection and Reflection on the Role of Henry C. Lu as a Traditional Chinese Medicine Writer, Educator, and Translator : Chinese Medicine and Culture

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Special Section in Memory of Henry C. Lu

Retrospection and Reflection on the Role of Henry C. Lu as a Traditional Chinese Medicine Writer, Educator, and Translator

Li, Xiao-Li; Ma, Li-An; Wu, Qing

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doi: 10.1097/MC9.0000000000000022
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Abstract

1 Introduction

It is not the first time that someone’s death has brought public notice to the life of deceased and it will not be the last. On February 11, 2022, the passing of Dr. Henry C. Lu (September 3, 1936–January 18, 2022)1 was announced on Chinese social media, and the grievous news soon spread throughout the academic community of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) translation studies and the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies. A memorial article about Dr. Lu was written by Prof. Wang Yinquan (王银泉)2 from Nanjing Agricultural University the next day, and a news report by Dr. Chen Yemeng (陈业孟)3 from the New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine was published on China Daily 1 week later.

As the founding president of International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Vancouver, which was established in 1986 and renamed as Tzu Chi International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2016, Dr. Lu did not receive much public notice except in a 2015 interview.4 As Dr. Lu has a Chinese name, Lyu Congming (吕聪明), several academic works have listed Henry C. Lu and Lyu Congming as two different people.5 This mistake was identified in 2011.6 Despite his prolific TCM publications and active contributions to TCM education and legislation in Canada, Dr. Lu remains anonymous in China, which contrasts with his popularity in the West.

We have no personal ties with Dr. Lu (Fig. 1), nor have we ever had the honor of meeting him in person. In 2002, however, the first author of this paper was assigned as an interpreter for some of his students who were on a summer camp internship tour, including a visit to Dongzhimen Hospital, an affiliated hospital of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Dr. Lu’s students impressed their Chinese teachers with their good mastery of TCM fundamentals and eagerness to improve their clinical efficacy. As Dr. Lu stated in an interview, efficacy is the only criterion of supporting evidence for TCM.4 We discovered fascinating details when we reviewed his bibliography, such as his great works as a TCM educator and translator. We should have given Dr. Lu more credit for his achievements.

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Figure 1:
Dr. Henry C. Lu’s portrait on the book jacket of A Complete Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine and the Difficult Classic (Nei-Jing and Nan-Jing) by Dr. Henry C. Lu in 20047

2 Dr. Lu’s TCM journey

Dr. Henry C. Lu was born and raised in Taiwan, China. After completing his undergraduate studies in Taipei, he went to University of Hawaii in the United States, where he received his master’s degree. He later received his doctor’s degree from University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. His initial research interest was education, as shown by several early publications focused on John Dewey (Note 1). Between 1968 and 1971, Dr. Lu taught for a few years at University of Alberta and University of Calgary. He started practicing TCM since 1972. In 1986, he founded International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Vancouver, which was later donated to the Tzu Chi Foundation in December 2015 and became Tzu Chi International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dr. Lu passed away on January 18, 2022.

Dr. Lu turned his attention to TCM when a Chinese herbalist in Taiwan miraculously cured his long-term ill health. There is no record of how and when he began to study TCM prior to 1972, the year when he started his practice. Nevertheless, we can infer that it took Dr. Lu at least 10 years (Note 2) to commit himself to a new profession and he had dedicated the rest of his life to TCM education and translations. In the interview article, Dr. Lu commented that:

“Upon my arrival in Honolulu, I was anxious to consult American doctors for my problems. However, I did not expect them to give me the same treatments as I had been given in Taiwan, the same laxatives that caused pain to my intestines. All in all, I was very disappointed. It made me realize that the use of laxatives in Western medicine to treat all types of constipation was a typical symptomatic treatment. Other solutions suggested to me included fruits, diet, and exercises, none of which helped me. My chronic constipation and constant nasal discharge were causing me extreme fatigue. Later on, I went back to Taiwan to visit my relatives and I had the chance to consult a Chinese herbalist. He gave me an herbal formula to take. I began to feel very energetic within a few days, which impressed me a great deal.”4

The chances are that few, if any, patients would take the initiative to learn and practice TCM after being cured by Chinese herbal medicine. Undoubtedly, Dr. Lu was one of these few people. Since then, he has dedicated his life to learning, teaching, and practicing TCM. Translating TCM books was only a means to an end, that is, making the vast volume of TCM books in Chinese available to English readers, although it was only “a drop in the bucket.”4

3 What did Dr. Lu achieve?

3.1 TCM education

Dr. Lu is best known for teaching TCM at International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Vancouver, which he established in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada when he was 50 years old. The college offered a 3-year doctorate program in TCM. As the president of the college since its establishment, Dr. Lu taught TCM both in person and via correspondence. His students came from many countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Germany, France, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mexico, and Japan. Thus, Dr. Lu played an active role in teaching TCM in the West and in developing the college’s accredited curricula.

It is easy to appreciate the great efforts that Dr. Lu put into his daily activities to keep the college running for over 30 years. Dr. Lu was not from a family with a prestigious TCM background. He was merely a former patient who had experienced the miraculous effect of TCM, and then devoted his life to a learner, practitioner, educator, scholar, and translator of TCM. Based on his educational research background, Dr. Lu endeavored to follow his passions and commitment for TCM. Although he had never published any research papers on TCM, Dr. Lu had written or compiled a large number of English literature related to TCM education by the time of his death.

3.2 TCM legislation in Canada

As part of his active involvement in the legislation of TCM in British Columbia, Dr. Lu was a member of the Executive Board of Canadian Natural Health Products. He maintained close contact with TCM communities in China and Japan. In 1999, the Province of British Columbia appointed Dr. Lu to the Board of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia. In 2003, the Government of Canada also appointed Dr. Lu to the Expert Advisory Committee for Natural Health Products.

Through Dr. Lu and his colleagues’ great efforts, the Government of British Columbia recognized TCM practitioners and acupuncturists as health-care professionals. Following the 1996 Health Professions Act of British Columbia, the College of Acupuncturists was established to regulate the practice of acupuncture in British Columbia, Canada. The college later expanded to include TCM herbal practitioners in 1999, and changed its name to the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia.

3.3 TCM publications

It is unknown how many books have been published by Dr. Henry Lu (Fig. 2). Four webpages and 64 books are listed on Amazon,2 among which the highest rated books are those written for the general public. A 2005 interview with Dr. Lu4 mentioned that he had translated and published more than 30 books on TCM, which was certainly a modest underestimate.

According to Amazon, WorldCat, GetTextbooks, Google Books, and Goodreads, Dr. Lu wrote or compiled over 100 books or textbooks, among which 88 books have individual ISBN codes and two lack information. These books can be classified into three categories: translated TCM classics, compiled basic or clinical textbooks, and Chinese language learning materials in the TCM context. For detailed information, please refer to bibliography (see Supplementary Information).

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Figure 2:
Dr. Henry C. Lu’s publications on traditional Chinese medicine8

In 1960, Dr. Lu published his first book on TCM, the Tongue Diagnosis in Color,9 which was later expanded and reprinted in 1980 as The Chinese Classics of Tongue Diagnosis in Color: With Traditional and Modern Commentary.10 This book was probably published during the period when Dr. Lu was studying for his doctor’s degree, or in the early years when he just started to study TCM. It contains a partial translation of Shanghan Shejian (《伤寒舌鉴》 Tongue Inspection in Cold Damage) because Dr. Lu translated the diagnosis section, but did not include the treatment section. Although Dr. Lu made quite a few mistakes, it was an excellent effort (Note 3) in that era.

However, Dr. Lu is most famous for his book A Complete Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine and the Difficult Classic (Nei-Jing and Nan-Jing), which contains a complete Chinese-to-English translation of Nei Jing (《内经》 The Inner Classic). Nei Jing is esteemed as a classic Chinese medical bible, which not only inspired the development of TCM but is also highly regarded by Chinese physicians. Nei Jing consists of two parts, namely Su Wen (《素问》 Basic Questions) and Ling Shu (《灵枢》 Spiritual Pivot), each containing 81 chapters with a total of over 156,000 Chinese characters. In 1973, Dr. Lu published his English translation of Ling Shu, The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Acupuncture (Fig. 3). In 1978, he eventually published the impressively huge book, A Complete Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine and the Difficult Classic (Nei-Jing and Nan-Jing) (Fig. 4), which was later republished in 2004. This book was considered “easy to read,” “informative,” “much more understandable than some other translations,” and a “great” book.11 Dr. Lu’s translation of Nei Jing was influential in the West because it was the first complete translation in a textbook format for those who wished to read the Chinese classic.

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Figure 3:
Book cover for the 1973 edition of The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Acupuncture 12
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Figure 4:
Book cover for A Complete Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine and the Difficult Classic (Nei-Jing and Nan-Jing)7

Nineteen scholars (Note 4) attempted to translate Nei Jing, but only six completed both Su Wen and Ling Shu. They are Dr. Lu (1973, 1978, 2004),7,12,13 Wu Liansheng (吴连胜) and Wu Qi (吴奇) (1997),14 Li Zhaoguo (李照国) (2005, 2008),15,16 Paul Unschuld (2003, 2011, 2016),17–19 and Yang Mingshan (杨明山) (2015, 2019)20,21 (Note 5).22 Of these translators, only Dr. Lu,13 Unschuld,23 and Li16 translated both Nei Jing and Nan Jing (《难经》 The Classic of Difficult Issues). In the history of translation of TCM literature, Prof. Unschuld was mistaken as the first person who translated Nan Jing in 1986.24 However, Dr. Lu’s 1978 version was 8 years earlier than Unschuld’s version. In addition, Dr. Lu may be the only person who has translated the three TCM classics of Nei Jing, Nan Jing, and Mai Jing (《脉经》 The Pulse Classic).

4 How were Dr. Lu’s books rated?

Most of Dr. Lu’s books were published between 1990 and 2005. We searched the Amazon and Goodreads websites for readers’ ratings and reviews. Dr. Lu’s most highly rated books are listed below in descending order: Chinese Natural Cures: Methods and Philosophies for Remedy of Ailments and Diseases (2006), Chinese System of Food Cures: Prevention & Remedies (1986), Chinese Natural Cures: Traditional Methods for Remedies and Preventions (1999), Traditional Chinese Medicine: How to Maintain Your Health and Treat Illness (2005), Chinese Foods for Longevity: The Art of Long Life (1990), Chinese Herbs With Common Foods: Recipes for Health and Healing (1998), Chinese System of Natural Cures (1994), and Chinese System of Foods for Health & Healing (1999) (see Table S1 for more detailed information).

Except for Dr. Lu’s early works, most of his later books had few ratings or reviews. As Amazon was founded on July 5, 1994, we can reasonably consider that Dr. Lu’s highly rated books were most published in the 1990s. During the 21st century, English books on TCM have experienced a publishing boom. Other prolific contemporary authors gained great attention. Among them are Giovanni Maciocia, Bob Flaws, Harriet Beinfield, Ted J. Kaptchuk, Dan Bensky, and Nigel Wiseman.

Dr. Lu’s most highly rated books were clearly intended for the general public to help them gain a better understanding of TCM. His focus is mainly on the use of TCM herbs and foods, especially how they are related to health preservation, disease treatment and prevention, and longevity. The reviews are generally favorable. For example, his books are “informative,” “comprehensive,” “thorough,” and “valuable.” However, some reviewers have less favorable and even paradoxical comments, such as the books were “easy to understand,” whereas others thought it was “hard to follow.” Other reviewers comment on the subpar format of his works, including small font size, confusing indexes, and poor organization of content (Note 6).

In his translations of TCM books, Dr. Lu expressed prudent ideas on how proper TCM translations should be done. However, only a brief description of his thoughts can be found in the introduction section of his book A Complete Translation of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine and the Difficult Classic (Nei-Jing and Nan-Jing),13 which demonstrated his clear focus on consistency and conformity to TCM theories:

“The translation of the Chinese text is conventional in that it follows the conventional interpretation of the original Chinese text already established in the course of Chinese history; in case of ambiguities of the text or disagreements among the Chinese scholars, however, two principles are followed in translating the text which include the principle of consistency throughout the text and conformity to the modern theory of Chinese medicine.”

Dr. Lu’s Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2013) contains 1630 terms divided into nine categories. The book’s sober and plain design does not reveal any details of its contents. In addition, the book does not include a forward or translator’s note. However, Dr. Lu faithfully translated every term and used these terms consistently in his translation. In addition, his choice of terms is likely to be based on clinical practice and relevancy. For example, in chapter 7, Diagnostics, the terms related to pulse-taking were not limited to the 28 pulse conditions only (Note 7). Dr. Lu also translated and explained the correct procedure of pulse diagnosis. Furthermore, he used distal pulse, middle pulse, and proximal pulse to refer to the three positions (cun 寸, guan 关, and chi 尺) of pulse-taking, respectively. TCM practitioners and students find Dr. Lu’s version to be both faithful and easy to understand. Table 1 lists the 28 pulse conditions translated by Dr. Lu in his 2013 edition of the Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medicine. His choice of English terms is worthy of further analysis and comparison. However, a general impression is that his translation style is more practical, aiming at clinical applications and easy understanding while faithfully conforming to their underlying concepts.

Table 1 - Twenty-eight pulse types translated by Dr. Lu in Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medicine25
Term codes Pulse terms (pinyin) Pulse terms (Chinese) English terms
7.137 Fu Mai 浮脉 Superficial pulse
7.138 Chen Mai 沉脉 Deep pulse
7.139 Chi Mai 迟脉 Slow pulse
7.140 Shuo Mai 数脉 Rapid pulse
7.141 Hua Mai 滑脉 Sliding pulse
7.142 Se Mai 涩脉 Retarded pulse
7.143 Xu Mai 虚脉 Deficiency pulse
7.144 Shi Mai 实脉 Excess pulse
7.145 Chang Mai 长脉 Long pulse
7.146 Duan Mai 短脉 Short pulse
7.147 Wei Mai 微脉 Disappearing pulse
7.148 Hong Mai 洪脉 Big or flooding pulse
7.149 Jin Mai 紧脉 Tight pulse
7.150 Huan Mai 缓脉 Relaxed pulse
7.151 Xian Mai 弦脉 Wiry pulse
7.152 Kou Mai 芤脉 Empty pulse
7.153 Ge Mai 革脉 Drumming pulse
7.154 Lao Mai 牢脉 Persisting pulse
7.155 Ru Mai 濡脉 Soft pulse
7.156 Ruo Mai 弱脉 Weak pulse
7.157 San Mai 散脉 Dispersing pulse
7.158 Xi Mai 细脉 Small pulse
7.159 Fu Mai 伏脉 Hidden pulse
7.160 Dong Mai 动脉 Shaking pulse
7.161 Cu Mai 促脉 Quick and irregular pulse
7.162 Jie Mai 结脉 Intermittent pulse
7.163 Dai Mai 代脉 Slowing pulse
7.164 Da Mai 大脉 Large pulse
7.165 Ji Mai 急脉 Hurried pulse

The Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medicine received no online rating. As one of its first reviewers, we would rate it as “useful” and “valuable” despite its plain appearance. Every entry contains the pinyin name with tones. An English translation and the corresponding Chinese characters are provided, followed by a detailed explanation to facilitate understanding of the term. It is undoubtedly a helpful reference book for TCM college teachers and students.

5 Conclusion

Dr. Henry C. Lu was a great educator and prolific translator, and a good example to be followed in the TCM field. He was an influential figure in the early period of spreading TCM knowledge to the West, especially before the late 20th century. His passing was a great loss not only to his family, his colleagues, and friends in Canada, but also to all TCM professionals and patients worldwide. As John Dewy observed, “Education is not an affair of telling and being told, but an active and constructive process.” In essence, Dr. Henry C. Lu’s life was an active and constructive process of disseminating TCM knowledge by providing TCM education internationally.

This paper was written according to sources of indirect information. All information was obtained via open data or free access. Although it was surprisingly difficult to find relevant information about Dr. Henry C. Lu either in English or in Chinese online, we managed to link all the available resources and provide a preliminary sketch of his profile. Further studies should explore his life story, his books, and his thoughts, which could inspire more people.

Notes

Note 1: John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educator who was one of the early founders of pragmatism and functional psychology.

Note 2: Prof. Wang Yinquan believes that Dr. Lu studied TCM for 5 years.2 However, some quick math (i.e., 1960–1972) shows that Dr. Lu began translating TCM books on tongue diagnosis 12 years before he finally became a TCM practitioner. Hence, Dr. Lu had spent at least 10 years learning TCM before starting his professional practice.

Note 3: Please note that we have not read nor compared these two books. These comments are verbatim quotes from our personal communication with a specialist on tongue diagnosis, Dr. Ioannis Solos, who has studied both books.

Note 4: A recent article5 identified 18 English translators of the Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Inner Medicine instead of 19, leaving Debra Moorgat not included. She finished her English version Huangdi Neijing: Ling Shu (volumes I, II, and III, in 2005, 2008, and 2010, respectively) based on the French version by Nguyen Van Nghi, Tran Viet Dzung, and Christine Recours Nguyen (often referred to as the N.V.N. version) in 1994. Furthermore, the N.V.N. version was also translated into English by Edward S. Garbacz with additional commentary by Sean Christiaan Marshall as a rough draft for students of the Jung Tao School of Classical Chinese Medicine. It is not a freely available publication, thus, the translator is not included as the 20th translator.

Note 5: In 2019,22 the World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd. published Prof. Yang Mingshan The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine – Essential Questions: Translation of Huangdi Neijing Suwen. This book is probably an updated version of the book published in 2015, New English Versions of Essential Questions in Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, which contains both Su Wen and Ling Shu, although the book’s English title suggests the inclusion of only Su Wen.

Note 6: According to readers’ reviews, great improvements were made to the 2006 edition of Chinese Natural Cures: Methods and Philosophies for Remedy of Ailments and Diseases compared with the 1999 edition of Chinese Natural Cures: Traditional Methods for Remedies and Preventions.

Note 7: Examples of such terms are taken from pp. 227–229 of Dr. Lu’s Terminology of Traditional Chinese Medicine,25 including lifting (ju 举), pressing (an 按), pushing (tui 推), search (xun 寻), singular pressure (dan-an 单按), simultaneous pressure (zong-an 总按), spreading of fingers (bu-zhi 布指), shifting of fingers (yi-zhi 移指), initial stage of taking the pulse (chu-chi 初持), and prolonged stage of taking the pulse (jiu-chi 久持).

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to contributors including Wen-Xin Xie, who helped to confirm one footnote about N.V.N version of Nei jing and Dr. Ioannis Solos, who provided his reviews on Dr Lu’s tongue diagnosis books. Greatest appreciation goes to Prof. Wang Yinquan for his trust, support and guidance in writing this paper.

Funding

This study was financed by the grant from the Research Project in Education and Teaching of Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (No. XJY21039).

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by either of the authors.

Author contributions

Xiao-Li Li conceptualized the framework and wrote the manuscript. Li-An Ma helped searching and sorting the internet information and organized the bibliography. Qing Wu supervised the process and revised the draft. All authors agreed to the contents of the whole manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare no financial or other conflicts of interest.

Supplementary information

Supplementary data to this article can be found online at: https://links.lww.com/CMC/A3.

References

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Keywords:

Education; Henry C. Lu; International dissemination; Traditional Chinese medicine; Translation; Translator study

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