The Chinese and other Eastern peoples have been using acupuncture to restore, promote and maintain good health for about 2,500 years. Stone needles were originally used, and later bronze, gold and silver needles. The first medical account of acupuncture was the Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine) which dates from about 300 BC. It is said to be the oldest medical book in the world. Acupuncture is rooted in the Taoist philosophy of change, growth, balance and harmony. This text outlines the principles of natural law and the movements of life, yin and yang, the Five Elements, the organ system and the meridian network along which acupuncture points are located. It is an account of a famous dialogue between Huang Di and his physician Qi Bo, in which they discuss the whole spectrum of the Chinese Medical Arts. The book consists of two parts:
1. The Su Wen (Plain Questions): The Su Wen introduces anatomy and physiology, etiology of disease, pathology, diagnosis, differentiation of syndromes, prevention, yin-yang, five elements, treatment, and man's relationship with nature and the cosmos.
2. The Ling Shu (Miraculous Pivot,Spiritual Axis): The Ling Shu's focus is acupuncture, description of the meridians, functions of the zang-fu organs, nine types of needles, functions of the acupuncture points, needling techniques, types of Qi, location of 160 points.
During the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.) acupuncture and moxibustion continued to develop. At this time there appeared a book - the Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing (The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) - that dealt with the theory and principles of acupuncture, the properties and indications of each point, methods of manipulation, dangerous points and prohibitions. The art of "cupping" also made its appearance as an ancillary method used in combination with acupuncture.
The Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D) is important because it was at this time that the Imperial Medical College, with a special department for acupuncture & moxibustion, was established. This was the first organized medical school in China. It came into being 200 years before the first medical school in Europe.
During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.) Dr Wang Wei Yi created the first full-size bronze acupuncture model. Dr. Wang also wrote a book called Tong Ren Yu Xue Zhen Jiu Tu (Illustration of the Bronze Man Acupuncture and Moxibustion). The book explained the relationship of the 12 organs and the 12 Qi channels and included acupuncture charts.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was the enlightening period for the advancement of acupuncture. Many new developments included:
1. Revision of the classic texts.
2. Refinement of Acupuncture techniques and manipulation.
3. Development of Moxa sticks for indirect treatment.
4. Development of extra points outside the main meridians.
5. The encyclopedic work of 120 volumes- Principle and Practice of Medicine was written by the famous physician Wang Gendung.
6. Yang Jizhou wrote Zhenjin Dacheng ( Principles of Acupuncture and Moxibustion). This great treatise on acupuncture reinforced the principles of the Nei Jing and Nan Jing. This work was the foundation of the teachings of G.Soulie de Morant who introduced acupuncture into Europe.
From the Qing Dynasty to the Opium Wars (1644-1911) was a period when China was thrown open to Western influence. This was the time when the Manchus seized power through all China. Huge encyclopedias which were four times the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica were published at this time. One of them called the Golden Mirror of Medicine dealt exclusively with medical science and was fully illustrated. The Qing rulers were however hostile towards acupuncture and issued a decree in 1822 to ban its practice.
Following the Revolution of 1911, Western Medicine was introduced and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology were suppressed. However, due to the large population and need for medical care, acupuncture and herbs remained popular among the folk people, and the "barefoot doctor" emerged.
In 1929 the Government proposed to declare a complete ban on traditional medicine, but this suggestion met with such bitter opposition by the people that they had to withdraw. Nevertheless everything possible was done to discourage traditional forms of medicine, and a rift was created between traditional doctors. (Chung-I) and doctors who were trained in Western medicine (His-I).
Acupuncture was used exclusively during the Long March (1934-35) and despite harsh conditions it helped maintain the health of the army. This led Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party, to see that acupuncture remained an important element in China's medical system. In October, 1944, at a conference held in Yenan, Mao Zedong called upon Western doctors and traditional practitioners to forget their professional jealousies and work together in a common program of disease prevention and health upliftment.
In the late 1950's to the 1960's Acupuncture research continued with further study of the ancient texts, clinical effect on various diseases, acupuncture anesthesia, and acupuncture's effect on the internal organs. From the 1970's to the present, Acupuncture continues to play an important role in China's medical system. China has taken the lead in researching all aspects of acupuncture's application and clinical effects.
In June 1979 A World Health Organization interregional seminar on acupuncture, moxibustion and acupuncture anesthesia was held in Beijing (Peking). It was attended by participants from twelve countries. Its purpose was to discuss ways in which priorities and standards could be determined in the acupuncture areas of clinical work, research, training, and technology transfer. "Scientific investigation must be closely correlated with demonstrations of acupuncture's clinical efficacy. Apart from acupuncture analgesia used in major surgical procedures, acupuncture also has been applied as a diagnostic aid and in conjunction with fluoroscopy in gastrointestinal diseases. Acupuncture is clearly not a panacea for all ills but the sheer weight of evidence demands that acupuncture must be taken seriously as a clinical procedure of considerable value."
R.H. BANNERMAN, M.D
World Health Organization
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