While traditional Chinese healing methods will undoubtedly continue to be popular, many in Taiwan are also turning to hybrid holistic treatments such as colorpuncture, which combines the theories of age-old Chinese medicine with modern technology.
Holistic healing is not a new concept, but over the past five years there has been a marked rise in the popularity in Taiwan of such alternative methods of treatment.
Such practices have been ridiculed by the mainstream medical profession. Those who study holistic treatments may be presented with a certificate on completion of their studies but such paperwork is next to worthless in Taiwan.
The government acknowledges practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine even though there is no standardized examination system, but it remains hesitant to recognize the healing abilities of non-medicinal and, dare we say it, new-age treatments. Because of this, practitioners of holistic healing like Ben Chen (
"People are now more open to new types of treatments but there are still some stigmas surrounding what we do," Chen said. "We don't like to advertise because we are not officially recognized. And although large numbers of people are turning to alternative forms of medical treatments, a section of society still treats us like quacks."
To counter these snake oil claims, alternative therapists like Chen argue that conventional medicines do not address the needs of the patient as a whole. Non-medical philosophies are, according to Chen, not only safer, but because they incorporate the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of the patients' problems, they are also more in tune with the natural balance of the human body.
"Sure, there's nothing wrong with going to the hospital if you have backache, but the medicine that you are prescribed won't deal with the crux of the problem," said Chen. "The pain will be gone, but the underlying cause of the pain will still be there."
For Chen, who is a qualified acupuncturist, holistic healing is both a profession and a form of relaxation. He still practices traditional Chinese medicine, but over the past couple of years he's become immersed in the world of colorpuncture; a form of treatment that is based on acupuncture but was developed by German naturopath Peter Mandel in the late 1970s.
Although many practitioners of colorpuncture in Taiwan have backgrounds in traditional medicine, Chen was initially skeptical of the process when it was introduced to him four years ago. A case of diarrhea and stomach cramps, however, would change his views toward treatment by light.
"I was at work and felt ill. A friend suggested that I try colorpuncture and I thought that's never going to work," he said. "About 30 minutes after I was treated I felt a bit better. The cramps had stopped and I didn't need to go the bathroom. I never believed it would work, let alone work that well."
Like acupuncture, colorpuncture is based on the principle that a balanced flow of chi through the meridian (which resembles an electrical wiring circuit for the body) can ensure good health and general well-being. Unlike needles, however, the lights used in colorpuncture do not penetrate the skin but instead send information into the body's meridian system in the form of light frequencies.