Brief History of Acupuncture

In the ancient literature since the sixth century B.C., there was the record of “treatment of disease with stone needle”. The earliest needle was made of stone. In Huangdi Neijing ( Huangdi’s Canon of Medicine) published over 2,000 years ago, silk medical books unearthed in the modern times and ancient Chinese classics, there was the description about how to treat disease with stone needle. In the 1960s, a stone needle was found in the ruins of now Stone Age in the north of China. With the development of metallurgy, needles were gradually made of bronze, iron, gold and silver. Huangdi Neijing ( Huangdi’s Canon of Medicine) mentions “Nine Needles”, the relics of which were found in archaeology. The materials used for moxibustion were various in the early practice, gradually moxa was selected as the most suitable material for performing moxibustion.

In using acupuncture and moxibustion to treat disease, people discovered some therapeutic rules. Purposeful study of these rules led 1o theoretical cognition like the conception of meridians. In the silk medical books unearthed in the tomb of West Hah Dynasty in 1970s in Mawangdui, Changsha City, Hunan Province, there are the descriptions of eleven meridians named as “Eleven meridians of foot and arm for moxibustion” and “Eleven yin and yang meridians for moxibustion”.

Huangdi Neijing ( Huangdi’s Canon on Medicine) compiled in the Hah Dynasty contains rich knowledge of acupuncture and moxibustion, including meridians, acupoints, needling methods, indications and cautions as well as therapeutic principles, tenets, diagnosis and syndrome differentiation. Huangdi Neijing ( Huangdi’s Canon on Medicine) lays the foundation for the theory of acupuncture and moxibustion and guides the development of such a unique specialty.

Zhenjiu Jiayijing ( A-B Classics ~a Acupuncture and Moxibustion) compiled by Huangfu Mi in the Jin Dynasty is a collection of the related contents in Huangdi Neijing ( Huangdi’s Canon on Medicine) and Mingtang Kongxue Zhenjiu Zhiyao and described the locations, indications and needling methods of 349 acupoints as well as specific treatments for various diseases.

Sun Simiao, a great doctor in the Tang Dynasty, described Ashi Point and moxibustion methods for healthcare in Qianjin Fang (Golden Prescriptions) with colored illustrations of meridians. This book also contains many therapeutic methods for various diseases. In the book Waitai Miyao written by Wang Tao contains rich methods for performing moxibustion, which has promoted the development of moxibustion therapy. In the Imperial Medical Bureau, acupuncture and moxibustion became an independent specialty practiced by doctors, assistants and acupuncturist who were also responsible for teaching.

In the 11th century A. D. , Wang Weiyi, an official in charge of medicine in the government in the Song nasty, rectified 354 acupoints and compiled Tongren Shuxue Zhenjiu Tujing ( Diagrams of Meridians and Acupoints on Bronze Figure) which was published nationally. Two bronze figures, the normal size of man, were modeled for teaching and examination of acupuncture and moxibustion. Such an improvement promoted the unity in the location of acupoints and education of acupuncture and moxibustion.

In the Jin and Yuan Dynasties, there was further development in the theory of meridians, methods for selecting acupoints and needling techniques. Hua Boren, a celebrated doctor in the Yuan Dynasty, believed that the governor and conception vessels were as important as the twelve meridians. Therefore he called them four teen meridians and described meridians and acupoints according to the fourteen meridians in his book Shisijin Fahui (Elucidation of Fourteen Meridians). Such an arrangement was helpful for understanding and using the theory of meridians and acupoints in the later generations. Famous doctors like He Ruoyu and Dou Hanqing thought highly of midnight-noon ebb-flow method for selecting acupoints and described such away to use acupoints in their books~ and therefore enriching the content of time medicine. Dou Hanqing also developed the methods of needling by putting forward the methods of cold and heat reinforcing and reducing needling.

In the Ming Dynasty, acupuncture and moxibustion developed to its peak remarked by publication of many monographs on acupuncture and moxibustion, active academic discussion and further development of needling methods, meridian theory and therapeutic methods Yang Jizhou, a famous doctor then, compiled Zhenjiu Dacheng (Compendium of Acupuncture arid Moxibustion) by summarizing the experience of his own and many others’. Xu Feng described many needling methods in his book Zhenjiu Quan (A Comprehensive Collection of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) which further enriched the content of needling methods.

Books on acupuncture and moxibustion published in the Qing Dynasty lacked innovative development. In the middle of the Qing Dynasty the specialty of acupuncture and moxibustion was banned in the Imperial Hospital. However, folk practice was still extensive.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China and owing to the policy made by the government for developing traditional Chinese medicine, the academic studies of acupuncture and moxibustion have developed fast. The rapid development of acupuncture and moxibustion is marked by extensive application of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy, higher education, establishment of academic institutes, recompilation of ancient classics, publication of a great number of academic books and journals, thorough studies on the meridians, acupoints, needling and moxibusting methods and tenets of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy as well as development of various needling methods like acupuncture anesthesia and devices for performing acupuncture and moxibustion.

Acupuncture and moxibustion spread to the other century A.D., Zhenjiu Jiayijing ( A-B Classics on Acupuncture and Moxibustion ) was spread to Korea and Japan. In 552 A. D. the Chinese Government then presented a set of Zhenjing (Acupuncture Canon ) to Japanese Emperor. In the Tang Dynasty, Qianjin Fang (Golden Prescriptions) and Waitai Miyao were brought to Korea. Following the example of the Tang Dynasty, Japan also established acupuncture and moxibustion specialty and Korea appointed doctorate position for acupuncture. The textbooks used were Zhengjjing (Acupuncture Canon) and Zhengjiu Jiayijing ( A-B Classics on Acupuncture and Moxibustion ). In the 17th century, acupuncture and moxibustion was spread to Europe. Since 1950s, many countries have sent doctors to China to study acupuncture and moxibustion. Chinese government has sent acupuncture and moxibustion experts group abroad to offer clinical treatment. Since 1975, to meet file requirement of WHO, China has set up international training centers for acupuncture and moxibustion in Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing to train acupuncture and moxibustion doctors for a number of countries. Currently acupuncture and moxibustion therapy has been used in about 100 countries and regions. A number of international academic organizations have been set up. In 1987, Federation of World Acupuncture and Moxibustion Society were established in China and many international conferences have been held since then. The science of acupuncture and moxibustion has developed smoothly in the whole world.

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