Towards a Standardised Nomenclature in TCM

The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative towards the development of a standardised nomenclature in TCM is now in its final phases and the review process has been initiated. This paper aims to put forward a set of principles that should inform these efforts. Building on Professor Xie Zhu-fan’s seminal works, the nature and scope of a standardised nomenclature in TCM are examined. Arguments both for and against standardisation are discussed, in order to draw attention to the pressing need for it, as well as to its limitations. Standardised nomenclature is clearly differentiated from translation and exposition. Key differences are discussed with reference to the work of Dr. Nigel Wiseman. The comments in this paper are limited to the areas of philosophical terms, physiological terms, aetiological terms, pathogenetic terms, diagnostic terms and treatment principles. The paper proposes nine principles for word selection: transparency, respect for the mother language, allowance for the unique features of the Chinese language, rendering of generic items, dealing with synonyms in the original Chinese, dealing with English synonyms, consideration of current usage, aesthetics, and avoidance of excessive scrupulousness.

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