Learn to Read Chinese

with Nicolaas Herman Oving

An online course to guide you in the study of medical Chinese.
Block A qualifies for 10 x 10 NCCAOM PDA Points

Chinese Medical Concepts in Context

Philosophical and etymological background of Chinese Medical Characters, and how they function in classical texts as applied in the clinical context.

Course objective and description

The course will help you to develop a deeper understanding of concepts in Chinese Medicine through the study of characters and their use in classical texts. It guides you in your studies of the basic vocabulary of Chinese Medicine. The characters are traced to their origins, and placed in the context of the medical classics. You will get access to the original descriptions of the concepts in medical classics like the Neijing and Nanjing by close reading of citations from those texts. Through increasing understanding of Chinese medical concepts, the practitioner leaves with a far greater depth of understanding of the medicine as it applies to self-taught knowledge, peer to peer exchanges, approaches to continuing education, and thus day-to-day practice, diagnosis, treatment and overall patient care. The components of this “hands-on” workshop include:

Practical benefits to the practitioner: relationship to scope of practice and continuing education (demonstrated through examples). This is the equivalent of an intensive (mini) master’s level course in OM concepts and principles. Again, as stated above, best OM Medical Practices are achieved, in part, through competency in the language. This allows for more finely nuanced herbal prescribing and acupuncture interventions. The importance of this concern has a direct impact on clinical practice, patient care and systems based care, as well as access to the vast clinical resources available only in Chinese.

Learning Methodology

Study assignments are sent by email. Group discussion is encouraged. Self-study is crucial, but Nicolaas will always give feedback to individual questions, and he will help you to evaluate progress regularly.

Participation requirements

Some basic knowledge of Chinese Medicine is helpful, but the course is open for beginning as well as advanced students and practitioners of Chinese Medicine. The contents of the course can be adjusted according to the needs and wishes of the students.

Course leader

Nicolaas Herman Oving is a sinologist and practitioner of Chinese Medicine. He has taught Chinese medical language to students and practitioners for fifteen years and works as a translator of Chinese medical texts. He is currently living at the coast in northern California where he is growing Chinese medicinal herbs, and involved in various activities regarding sustainable living.

Contents of Block A: Basic Concepts

You will study characters from Chinese Medical Chinese (see below).  Nicolaas gives individual guidance to help you improve your hand-written characters.  He has developed additional material exploring the historical and philosophical roots of concepts using quotes from the classical literature.

Part 1 Introduction to Chinese Medical Chinese. How to study Chinese
Part 2 * Brief introduction to ancient Chinese thought. Qì in early medical literature: physiology, pathology, macrobiotic hygiene, and magico-religious practices.
Part 3 * Quotes from philosophical and medical classics about qì.
Part 4 * Qì: Transmission and translation. Translations, definitions, and comments from various authors & translators.
Part 5 and Part 6 * Different kinds of qì: scanning the medical classics and discussing the quotes in which qì appears.
Part 7 * Qì in acupoint names. Qì in common language.
Part 8 Yīn and yáng: philosophy, etymology, and quotes.


Part 9 Shén: discussion of the concept, and its use in medical literature.
Part 10 Five phase theory in Chinese.
Part 11 EXAM
* Note: In the material about (part 2 – part 7) several other important concepts are discussed.


At the end of each Part there is a quiz and a test.  


Nicolaas Herman Oving will send you documents to study. He will tell you which characters to study in the book Chinese Medical Characters. You will learn to read and write a couple of characters each week. Nicolaas will show you how to use the internet to learn how to pronounce them.

The quizzes, tests, and final exam are to check your knowledge of the characters studied thus far and the exam includes a short essay. Writing the quizzes and tests and passing the exam is a prerequisite for continuing to Block B and C.

Study-load and CEU’s/ CPD

To get the maximum out of this course, you will need to study an hour a day. The course (Block A) qualifies for 100 NCCAOM PDA Points. These points are divided over ten certificates each worth ten points. The duration of the course (Block A) is five months.

Course material

You are required to study Chinese Medical Characters, Volume One: Basic Vocabulary (Paradigm Publications, 2003). You can begin to study Chinese Medical Chinese, Grammar and Vocabulary (Paradigm Publications, 2002). Herman will provide extra study material in the form of pdf documents and study assignments per email. A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine is strongly recommended.


Spring 2017 Session: Block A will begin in April 2017; a specific date will be set when class registrations are complete.


Block A: $  795 US dollars; paid with course registration.  Blocks B & C: together $ 1,595 US dollars.  Your fee is fully refundable if the class is canceled. Payment in installments is an option.  The entire course, Blocks A, B and C can be purchased for $ 2,250.


Contact Nicolaas Herman Oving for further information.

Contents of Block B and C: Continuing Study

You will increase your speed of learning of Chinese medical characters, continue to deepen your understanding by studying quotes from the medical classics, and begin to study grammar.  In Block B you will study the basics of classical Chinese grammar, and in Block C you will read and translate excerpts from classical medical literature.  Subjects are: organ theory; channel theory; and pulse qualities. We will also discuss more single characters, such as those appearing in acupoint names and a series of characters used in terms for therapeutic principles. Names of medicinals and formulas will be discussed as well.


Block B (current session) will run from February 2016 to August 2016, and Block C from September 2016 to February 2017. To enter Block B and C, you need to pass the exam of the previous block. The final examination will test your proficiency at translating a simple text.

Literature for Block B

Chinese Medical Chinese, Grammar and Vocabulary (Paradigm Publications, 2002)

Chinese Medical Characters, Volume II: Acupoint Vocabulary (Paradigm Publications, 2005)

Chinese Medical Characters, Volume III: Materia Medica (Paradigm Publications, 2006)

Additional material will be provided by the teacher.

Literature for Block C will be announced later.