Acupuncture/Acupressure can be tranced 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 B.C. to 220 A.D.) 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.
A summary of medical knowledge, the Huang Di Nei Jing or Yellow Emperer's Classic of Medicine compiled in 475-221 B.C., 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. The famous Chinese surgeon, Hua Tuo, was an expertin 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 A.D. called Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jin. A Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, which described the names andnumber 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 A.D.) the text Tong Jen Shu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu Jing or Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion was 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.
But Not Everyone Was Convinced:
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.
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.
When the Communist government took over in 1949, Mao Tsetungadvocated the use of both Chinese and Westerntreatments. Acupuncture played a major role in the healthcare of the Chinese people. 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.
The History of Acupuncture outside China
In the sixth century A.D., Acupuncture was introduced to both Japan and Korea. With the cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries, Acupuncture was disseminated to South East Asia and thecontinent of India. In the fourteenth century, Chinese Acupuncturist Zou Yin, went to Viet Nam to treat diseases for the Vietnamese nobles. Also in the 14th century,due to reports from Marco Polo, that acupuncture became known in Europe, although it had no influence on medicine. It was only through the trade missions of England, Holland and France in East Asia in the 17th century that acupuncture finally came to Europe.
The first publications appeared in Europe at this time as well. In 1658, the Dutch doctor Jakob de Bondt published an extensive, six volume work about the history of nature and medicine in East India.
Wilhelm Ten Rhyne (1683) and Andreas Cleyeer (1686) published the first extensive works on acupuncture. Thereafter, a number of studies in acupuncture appeared. Acupuncture was applied in Europe for the first time. The doctor Engelbert K. applied the therapy as the personal physician of Count von der Lippe and reported his findings. In the 17th and 18th centuries, acupuncture was applied in some cases, but usually only among royalty.
It was in the 1950s in Europe and the USA when acupuncture re-emerged in the West. The 4th International Acupuncture Congress in Paris caused a sensation. Doctors throughout Europe became interested in this (supposedly new) form of therapy and the first medical acupuncture organizations came into being. The German Acupuncture Society was established in 1951.
The practice of TCM stayed in Asia for centuries. Chinese immigrants had been practicing TCM in the United States since the mid-19th century, but its existence was unknown to most Americans before 1971. That year, New York Times reporter James Reston, who was in China covering former President Nixon's trip, had to have an emergency appendix operation. After the operation he received acupuncture for pain, and his stories about this experience with TCM fascinated the public. Since then, TCM has gone on to become a mainstream alternative medicine practiced all over the world. In 1972 President Nixons visit to China caused acupuncture to gain media popularity in Europe and the USA.
Acupuncture is today a recognized therapeutic method in the West, which is being readily researched and developed. In many countries it is a recognized addition to western orthodox medicine.
In Britain over the last thirtyyears acupuncture has taken root and in the last 20 years it has been flourishing alongside other alternative and complimentary medicines. In 1996 The Acupuncture Society was recognized bythe London Local Authorities under the London Local Authorities Act 1991 to further the development of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine in Britain along side many other Chinese and British societies, associations and schools.
Acupuncture has grown as a self regulatory profession independent of the orthodox medical profession yet it has earned a reputation as an effective therapy in its own right, many doctors and health professionals now incorporate it to supplement their own particular disciplines.
Already there are 35 Oriental medicine training programs in the United States. Recently, nine Chinese medical institutions and Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine joined forces to study how TCM can be applied to Western medicine. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh created an International TCM Center to coordinate research efforts with TCM institutions in China. Future research studies and clinical trials on TCM are needed to find out exactly how it works, and its effectiveness, safety, and cost.