Acupuncture can be traced back as far as the Stone Age in China, when stone knives and pointed rocks were used to relieve pain and diseases. These instruments were known by the ancients as "bian." In the Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE) an Analytical Dictionary of Characters "Shuo Wen Jie Zi" describes the character "bian" as meaning a stone to treat disease. Later these stones were replaced by needles made of bamboo and slivers of animal bone, then finally in the Shang Dynasty bronze casting techniques made metal needles possible, which conducted electricity (and qi). This led to the mapping of the meridian system or "channels" of energy within the body. (Historical Time Line). A summary of medical knowledge, the "Huangdi Nei Jing" or "Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine" compiled in 475-221 BCE, describes the use of acupuncture and moxibustion, pathology of the meridians and viscera, acupuncture points, indications, contraindications and the application of nine kinds of needles. In fact, acupuncture was a large part of the entire compilation of medical knowledge at that time. m The famous Chinese surgeon, Hua Tuo, was an expert in acupuncture, and it was during his time period (Han Dynasty) that the "tsun", a measurement system that uses the width of a joint of the patient's own finger was developed to help locate the acu-points more accurately. Acupuncture developed rapidly and was systematically researched during the Western dynasties. A book appeared around 400 CE called "Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing" or "A Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion", which described the names and number of points for each channel, their exact locations, indications, and methods of manipulation. Although medical advances and modern technology has helped to refine the art, his text describes the basic point locations that are still used in modern Acupuncture and Acupressure. In the Sung, Kin and Yuan dynasties (960-1368 CE) the text "Tong Jen Shu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu Jing" or "Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion as Found on the Bronze Figure) written by Wang Wei-yi, made detailed studies and observations of 657 points on the human body. Wang also sponsored the casting of two life-size, hollow bronze figures with the surface marked with channels and exact point locations. With these models, the teaching of acupuncture flourished and spread through the country, and the established practice of herbal medicine began to adopt the channel and meridian theories into their practice. With this common theory between the two leading health disciplines, the medicine of China was quickly transformed as both schools contributed to the extensive library of data being collected and recorded.
The rulers of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) issued a decree banning Acupuncture practice because they felt as though it was inferior to medicines being introduced by invading Western cultures. But by that time, it was too late... the people were convinced that acupuncture worked and it was in widespread use among the common people as well as the wealthy and educated. In fact, China's contact with other foreign countries at that time enabled acupuncture and herbal medicine to be exported to other countries. A Jesuit priest brought acupuncture to Europe via France when he wrote "Les Secrets de la Medicine des Chinois," in 1671 and a German, Dr. E. Kampfer, introduced acupuncture to his country in 1683 with a book entitled "The Medicine of China", which was published in France. Another attempt at banning acupuncture occurred in 1920s by the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government, which banned all Chinese medicine. But again, in spite of setbacks, Acupuncture, Moxibustion, and other forms of traditional medicine (taijiquan, qigong, etc.) remained popular among the people who relied on it. By the 1900s, Chinese medicine had already spread to Japan and other nearby countries as well as Arabian and European countries who traded with China. When the Communist government took over in the 1940s, Mao Tsetung advocated the use of both Chinese and Western treatments. Acupuncture played a major role in the healthcare of the Chinese people and soldiers during their war with Japan and their internal struggles. It was cheap, effective and could be used almost anywhere. In the 1950s, clinics, research organizations and colleges specializing in Chinese medicine were established in Beijing and other major cities throughout China. It was this East-West approach that developed "Acupuncture Anesthesia" which is widely recognized in the West. Although the Communist government helped revive traditional Chinese medicine and standardize it, much of the Daoist-based theory was eliminated and regarded as superstitious. As in previous attempts to ban or control the art, the common people and those who practiced Taijiquan and Qigong in the quiet corners of the parks keep the theories alive for future generations.
Introduction | History | Acceptance | Theory | Meridians | Clinical Visit