This paper demonstrates that in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, there are striking similarities between the mechanisms of psychoactive agents used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and those of western psychopharmacology. While western researchers search for new treatments and novel mechanisms of action, investigators in Asia are analyzing traditional remedies in order to understand the mechanisms responsible for their effectiveness. A review of contemporary pharmacologic studies of agents used in TCM for psychiatric indications reveals that virtually all of the active principles of drug action established in 20th century psychopharmacology were encountered empirically in Chinese herbal medicine over the past 2000 years. Building bridges between these two traditions may thus be of benefit to both cultures. In addition to providing western patients with a wider selection of treatment options, the effort may help Asian clinicians and researchers avoid some of the errors that have troubled their western counterparts. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.