Michael Gormly interviews Max Ma, Director of Beijing Tong Ren Tang in Sydney
Michael: Could you give us a brief rundown on your company’s history?
Max: “Tong Ren Tang” was established in 1669 in Beijing during Kangxi’s reign in the Qing Dynasty. From 1723, we were appointed as exclusive supplier of Chinese medicine to the Royal Court and are still a world-leading Chinese medicine supplier from manufacturing to retailing to clinical services.
Michael: What’s the secret of such longevity?
Max: Tong Ren Tang is a global icon in Chinese medicine simply because it provides quality, efficacy and trust.
Michael: What are the features of your products?
Max: Quality control for herbal medicine is more complex than for chemical drugs. Variables include the place of origin, authentication, harvest time, processing, grading and specification, environment control, formulation and manufacturing. We control every step to maximise quality. Most of our products are “Registered Medicines” in China but in Australia they are regulated as “Listed Medicine”.
Michael: Tell us about your services in Australia.
Max: We wholesale to local natural-medicine stores and clinics and provide clinical and dispensary services through our retail outlets. Consultations and treatments are conducted by qualified Chinese medicine practitioners, acupuncturists and masseurs who are accredited by government authorities, professional bodies and major local health funds.
Michael: Is Chinese medicine evidence-based?
Max: Chinese medicine has been refined over a long history of usage and testing. A “pseudoscience” can cheat people for a day, a month or a few years, but not over thousands of years. The world’s first pharmacopeia, dating from 569AD, was Chinese and it has been taught in universities for 60 years in China, Japan and Korea, where a huge amount of evidence has been gathered. Like orthodox medicine, continuing assessment and research is necessary.
Michael: How does Chinese medicine work? Who are your main customers?
Max: Chinese medicine assesses and treats people based on the re-balance of Yin and Yang, the secret code of the universe discovered about 8000 years ago. Chinese medicine separates pathogens into exterior and interior, excess and deficiency, heat and cold, Qi, physical and mental, and so on. This approach is valid, which is why many of our customers are referred by GPs or specialists, and even GPs themselves are our patients. Sometimes customers are not satisfied with the treatments or side effects of conventional medicine and spend their own money with us instead of bulk-billing the government. To this extent, Chinese medicine eases the burden of healthcare for the government.
Michael: Do you have any suggestions for the healthcare industry?
Max: Human illnesses are complex. Conventional medicine cannot solve all the problems, which is why complementary medicines are so important. The patient should always be the top priority and different healthcare approaches should respect and learn from each other, and work together.