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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,
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
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.