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Dr Yin Gao

Conjoint Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science (Philosophy)

Career Summary


Building a Bridge between the East and West

Dr. Yin Gao is a researcher endeavoring in building an intellectual bridge between the Western and Chinese philosophical and scientific traditions so that a meaningful dialog among these traditions becomes possible.

Dr. Yin Gao came to Australia in 1993 after worked in both civil engineering industry and a university in P. R. China. She was strongly influenced by her father, a research fellow of public health education, and her grandfather, a classic scholar and high school teacher of Chinese. Both of them were educated in old fashioned private school and had a passion for classical literature and poetry. She grew up memorizing and chanting classical texts and poetry by well-known writers and poets as well as poems composed by her father and grandfather and inherits their passion and acquired extensive knowledge of Chinese classics. While conducting her PhD research on philosophy of science, her passion for classical Chinese philosophy and its roles in Chinese science and technologies were ignited by the radically different philosophical presumptions underpinning modern science and the so-called “Needham Question”, as phrased by the great historian of Chinese science and technology Joseph Needham, “the essential problem [is] why modern science had not developed in Chinese civilization (or Indian) but only in Europe”.

Although her PhD thesis did not directly address the “Needham Question”, it has one chapter devoted to a comparative study of the theoretical framework and organizational infrastructure of western scientific practice to those of Chinese scientific practice. The particular subject-matters under investigation are the Human Genome Project and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) respectively. This work and subsequent research into evidence-based medicine (EBM) and the theories and practice of TCM suggested that the “Needham Question” is rather misleading because it assumes a linear progressive view of science and technology. Perhaps the question is not “why modern science had not developed in China?”, but “what kind of science had developed in China?” or “what lead to different kind of science in China?”

Informed by contemporary history and philosophy of science especially the work of Thomas Kohn and others, Dr. Yin Gao and her colleagues begin their inquiry into the philosophic foundation of Chinese science. They initiated their investigation on theories and practice of TCM starting with a literal reading of classical Chinese philosophical and medical texts followed by an enriched reading of these texts informed by modern research into TCM and complex adaptive system theory. Their research suggests that there is a set of metaphysical, epistemological, as well as derived ontological presumptions about human perception, knowledge, skills, human body, health and disease, and the natural and human world presented in these texts that are radically different from those underlying modern science of the West.  Some of these works have been published in the last decade and more is to come in a cluster of related subjects including:  the philosophical foundation of TCM, TCM and complex adaptive system, philosophy of complex adaptive system, comparative philosophy, military metaphors in medicine, and modern history of modern medicine and TCM in China, etc. Her published works focus on:

  1. Constructing a set of conceptual tools borrowed from complex adaptive system theory to interpret TCM theory as presented in classical texts including Daodejing, Zhuangzi, Huainanzi, the Yellow Emperor Inner Canon and other philosophical and medical texts;  
  2. Articulating the concepts of human perception, knowledge/skill, human body, health and diseases in these texts ;
  3. Interpreting the philosophical framework of TCM using concepts borrowed from complex adaptive system theory so that the theories and practices of TCM became accessible to western audience in general and researchers and practitioners of biomedicine;
  4. Critically analyzing the current research and practice of TCM in PRC and introducing a new approach in assessing TCM research in PRC and in the West;
  5. Analyzing the philosophical presumptions underlying the current debate about TCM in PRC.  

She also published works in other area related to the applications of complex adaptive system theory:

  1. Analyzing the conceptual and physical infrastructure of scientific practice in the West from a complex system perspective;
  2. Constructing a conceptual frameworks of research for analyzing ecosystem ecology;
  3. Articulating a new conceptual framework for architectural design and town planning policy informed by complex system theory.  

Her current work continues to explore the philosophical basis of Chinese science in general and TCM in particular and investigates conceptual constructs in the theories of TCM such as key metaphors and key metaphysical and epistemological assumptions presented in classical Chinese philosophical and medical texts. She is also collaborating with colleagues to introduce a comparative philosophy branch to her research as well as the current debate on TCM in both China and Australia. Her current research projects include:  

  1. A comparative study of military metaphors and other metaphors in biomedicine and TCM
  2. The philosophical issues in the current debate on TCM
  3. Comparative study of human perception, knowledge, and skill in the Daoist tradition and phenomenology  
  4. The rise of western medicine and the fall of TCM in China since 1894
  5. Key metaphysical presumptions made in Daoist tradition and TCM

Dr. Yin Gao’s published works and current research projects will provide a critical bridging device connecting the philosophical and scientific traditions in the East and West. They would also provide an access point for anyone who is interested to learn alternative frameworks of metaphysics, epistemology and related ontology to those defined by mainstream western philosophical traditions. These works would contribute to the general understanding of Chinese philosophy and its roles in the development of Chinese science and technology. In a sense, they would address not the “Needham Question” but the related question “what kind of science had developed in China?” and perhaps the more precisely defined question “why this particular kind of science and technology have developed in China?”.


  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Engineering, Shenyang Architect University - PR China
  • Master of Arts (Liberal Arts), Heilongjiang Social Sciences Institute - PR China


  • Chinese philosophy
  • Comparative philosophy
  • Philosophy of medicine
  • Philosophy of science
  • Philosophy of technology

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
220205 History and Philosophy of Medicine 40
220206 History and Philosophy of Science (incl. Non-historical Philosophy of Science) 30
220316 Philosophy of Specific Cultures (incl. Comparative Philosophy) 30


Code Course Role Duration
PHIL2920 Philosophy and the Digital Generation
University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

The course introduces students to the basic concepts and principles of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. It also teaches students to apply these ideas and principles to analyse the philosophical issues arising from the information technologies in contemporary society by examining how the technologies influence our understanding of human mind, the self, reality, artificial intelligence, human existence/experience in virtual world vs. real world, online community and politics, as well as related social, legal, ethical and political issues.

The course is able to enhance students’ knowledge and skills on two key graduate attributes of this university. One of them is the ability to identify, define, and analyse problems arising from the wide use of digital technologies. This course, by critically examining the philosophical issues arising from the digital technologies, will help students to identify, define, and analyse the social, political, and ethical problems encountered in using this kind of technologies. Another key graduate attribute is that the graduates should have the capacity to appreciate the philosophical and social contexts of their disciplines. For students interested in the philosophical, socio-political impacts of digital technologies in contemporary societies, or students studying the design, development, or application of digital technologies, the course helps them to gain an understanding of the philosophical, social, and political implications of the technologies in contemporary world.

Course Coordinator 25/7/2016 - 4/11/2016
PHIL3910 Ethics, Technology & Engineering
University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

The engineering profession in Australia aims to facilitate its practice for the common good based on values of ethical behaviour, competent performance, innovative practice, engineering excellence, equality of opportunity, social justice and sustainable development. This course integrates values at a senior level so that on successful completion the student will be able to demonstrate a professional competency embracing all these values with a specific focus on ethical behaviour and a sustainability ethic. Students will be able to demonstrate their ability both orally and in writing; individually and in group situations.

The course teaches engineering ethics appropriate to contemporary Western commercial, political and social contexts of engineering practice. It provides the framework within which social understanding and responsible behaviours are conveyed to future professional engineers. It also examines the ethical implications of contemporary technology in its full technical and organizational complexity.
The course meets Engineering Australia Stage 1 Competency Standard for Professional Engineer (Section 3.1)  - Ethical conduct and professional accountability where the professional engineer is to demonstrate commitment to ethics, understand the need for accountability, `due-diligence' and an awareness of intellectual rights.

Course Coordinator 22/2/2016 - 3/6/2016


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Chapter (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Herfel WE, Gao Y, Rodrigues DJ, 'Chinese medicine and complex systems dynamics', Philosophy of Complex Systems (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science), Elsevier, Amsterdam, NL 675-719 (2011) [B1]
Citations Scopus - 3
2011 Gao Y, Herfel WE, 'Constructing post-classical ecosystems ecology. The emerging dynamic perspective from self-organising complex adaptive systems', Philosophy of Complex Systems (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science), Elsevier, Amsterdam, NL 389-416 (2011) [B1]
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-444-52076-0.50014-6
Citations Scopus - 1

Journal article (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 Gao Y, Lu A, 'Conception of health and disease in medicine: Philosophical reflections on the 2006 debate of Chinese Medicine in the People's Republic of China', Chinese Journal of Basic Medicine in Traditional Chinese Medicine, 17 101-106 (2011) [C1]
2009 Gao Y, Gu N, 'Complexity, human agents, and architectural design: A computational framework', Design Principles & Practices: An International Journal, 3 115-125 (2009) [C1]
2008 Gao Y, Herfel WE, Rodrigues D, 'Towards a new research paradigm: Traditional Chinese medicine from a nonlinear dynamical perspective', Medicine and Philosophy, 29 70-71 (2008) [C1]
2008 Rodrigues D, Gao Y, Herfel WE, 'Applying self-organizing dissipative system theory to analyze a traditional Chinese medicine case study', Medicine and Philosophy, 29 56-57 (2008) [C1]
2007 Herfel WE, Rodrigues D, Gao Y, 'Chinese Medicine and the Dynamic Conceptions of Health and Disease', Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 34 57-79 (2007) [C1]
DOI 10.1111/j.1540-6253.2007.00453.x
Citations Web of Science - 7
Show 2 more journal articles

Conference (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2009 Gao Y, 'Narrative pain in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)', The 2nd ArtsHealth Conference Proceedings, Newcastle, NSW (2009) [E3]
2007 Gao Y, Herfel W, 'Post-classical ecology: On the emerging dynamic perspective from self-organizing complex adaptive systems', Biannual Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Biology 2007. Abstracts, Exeter, UK (2007) [E3]
2007 Herfel W, Rodrigues D, Gao Y, 'Chinese medicine and the dynamic conceptions of health and disease', Journal of Chinese Philosophy (2007)
DOI 10.1111/j.1540-6253.2007.00453.x
Citations Scopus - 7

Grants and Funding


Number of grants 4
Total funding $18,126

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

20101 grants / $1,000

Hawaii International Conference on Arts & Humanities, Hawaii, 13-16 January 2010$1,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Yin Gao
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2010
Funding Finish 2010
GNo G0190578
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

20081 grants / $9,926

Innovative Research Methodology for Traditional Chinese Medicine$9,926

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Yin Gao
Scheme Early Career Researcher Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2008
Funding Finish 2008
GNo G0189509
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

20072 grants / $7,200

The epistemological and ethical significance of understanding traditional Chinese medicine in biomedical context$5,500

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Yin Gao
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2007
Funding Finish 2007
GNo G0188350
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

ISHPSSB Conference 2007, The ZSRC Center for Genomics in Society, 25/7/2007 - 29/7/2007$1,700

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Yin Gao
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2007
Funding Finish 2007
GNo G0187847
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title Program Supervisor Type
2014 PhD The Intersection of Body, Self-cultivation and Medical Practice in the Early Chinese Philosophical Classics: A Phenomenological Investigation PhD (Philosophy), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle Co-Supervisor

Dr Yin Gao


Conjoint Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area


Contact Details

Phone (02) 49215191
Fax (02) 49216933


Room MC121
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308