Chinese Conception of Mental Illness: A Comparative Culture Analysis


  • Alfred Chan Cheung-ming Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies, Lingnan University
  • Ting Cao Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies, Lingnan University
  • Meng-ting Gao Asia-Pacific Institute of Ageing Studies, Lingnan University


Mental illness, Psychiatric symptoms, Adaptation, Environmental influences


It has been said that Asians, including Chinese, present mental illness somatically. Therefore their expressions of psychiatric symptoms, in terms of recognition, manifestations and responses, are different to their western counterparts. By adopting a comparative culture methodology, this paper reviewed the development of medicine and the recognition of psychiatric concepts between the East and the West in different historical stages. It unravelled that the expressed differences in mental illness could have been part and parcel of different natural man-environment adaptations in responding to environmental conditions. The Chinese in their early days, similar to those in the West, linked the mind and the body together and therefore psychiatric conditions were thought of as a result of bodily functions (or dysfunctions). However, the concern of mind-body-nature equilibrium in the history contributes to the Chinese’s different perception and expression of mental symptoms. It is proposed that the differences noted nowadays between the Chinese and the West in conceptualizing mental illness could be better understood in terms of environmental influences rather than in terms of inherent cultural differences.



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How to Cite

Cheung-ming, A. C., Cao, T., & Gao, M.- ting. (2015). Chinese Conception of Mental Illness: A Comparative Culture Analysis. Asian Journal of Pharmacy, Nursing and Medical Sciences, 3(1). Retrieved from