History of Acupuncture

The history of acupuncture is believed to have formed in China; the documents that first make mention of it date back to almost a few hundred years that lead up right to the common era. It has been interpreted that sharpened bones and stones which date back from almost 6000 BCE were the instruments used in acupuncture treatment; however, the understanding is that they may have been used more as surgical instruments to lance abscesses and draw blood.

Some documents that were discovered in China, in a tomb named Ma-Wang-Dui (that was sealed way back in 198 BCE), doesn’t have any mention of acupuncture; however, it does refer to a certain system of meridians. This system was very different from a model which was accepted later.

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The “Ice Man”

There is some debate around the tattoo marks which are see on an “Ice man” who perished in around 3300 BCE. His body surfaced when a glacier in the Alps melted. The tattoos on his body may indicate that a type of stimulatory treatment which is very similar to acupuncture also developed independent of China.

The very first documents which categorically described a very organised system of both, diagnosis & treatment that is recognised as acupuncture is one that dates back to about 100 BCE – The Yellow Emperor’s Classic Of Internal Medicine. This information shows up as questions that the Emperor put forth and the replies that Chhi-Po, his learned minister gave. In most probability, this text may be a comprehensive compilation of various traditions that have been handed down from one generation to the next, over the centuries.

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About Qi

In this time, the concepts of conduits and meridians (channels) in which the energy of life flowed (Qi), were quite well-established by this time. The more specific acupunctural anatomic locations developed only later. In the following centuries, the development of acupuncture continued slowly and very soon, it became a very standard therapy to be used across China; it was regularly used alongside massage, diet, moxibustion (heat) and herbs.

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Contradictory Theories

Over the years, a number of different diagnosis & treatment theories emerged; at times, many of these theories were contradictory in nature. These must have been theories from schools who had been competing with each other and attempting to gain dominance in the space. There were some statues from the 15th century that indicate the acupuncture points that are being used in the current day; at that point they were also used for purposes such as teaching & examination.

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Acupuncture during the Ming Dynasty

In 1368-1644 (when the Ming Dynasty reigned), publication of The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion took place; this was the foundation of modern acupuncture. This compendium has very clear and concise descriptions of all the sets of 365 points; these points represent the openings into the channels via which it is possible to insert needles to modify the Qi energy-flow.

It’s also important to note that the wealth of knowledge about disease and health within the country largely developed from the observation of various living subjects. This was because any type of dissection was completely forbidden; the concept of anatomy also did not exist at this point of time.

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Acupuncture Abolished from China

From the 17th century onwards, there was a distinct drop in the interest in acupuncture in China; most people regarded it to be irrational and superstitious. In 1822, through a decree from the emperor, it was also eventually removed from the Imperial Medical Institute. Despite this, the skill and knowledge of acupuncture did not fade away completely. Rural healers continued using it in their practice and those who were interested in academics also continued to learn more about it.

By the start of the 20th century, China started becoming more accepting of Western Medicine. The final blow to the practice of acupuncture came in 1929 – this was when, along with various other forms of conventional medicine, it too was outlawed. It was only in 1949, after the Communist government was instated that conventional forms of medicine such as acupuncture were brought back into the mainstream.

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TCM was Formed

Though this may have been done with nationalist motives in view, it also became an excellent way to provide the country’s massive population with basic levels of health. Soon the different strands of acupuncture practice and theory were all brought under a single umbrella and cumulatively known as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). By the 1950’s a large number of acupuncture institutes were established across the country. Even in Western-style hospitals, the treatment became available in segregated acupuncture departments.

Around the same time, in Beijing, Prof Han sought a much more scientific explanation of this practice. He made some ground-breaking research on how neurotransmitters (mainly, opioid peptides), were released when a person was being treated with acupuncture. Before long, acceptance of acupuncture started spreading to other countries in the world, via different routes and at different times.

Korea and Japan incorporated Chinese acupuncture and herbs into their own medical systems in the 6th century; these countries continue to use acupuncture in tandem with western therapies. Between the 8th and 10th centuries, acupuncture saw its way into Vietnam.

In the Western world, France was more forthcoming in adopting acupuncture in comparison to other countries; the practice as it is in the country today, is strongly influenced by Souliet du Morant, a diplomat who lived in China for a number of years, and from 1939 onwards, published several treatises about the practice of acupuncture.

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The 19th Century Onwards

By the start of the 19th century, many people had started taking an interest in acupuncture, in Britain as well as in the U.S. By 1911, herbal medicines and acupuncture started being used in Australia, to treat various ailments. Over the last decade, there has been an enormous growth in acupuncture. Since Australia has a large number of Asian immigrants – they have brought even more knowledge about acupuncture into the country; it’s common to see a large number of acupuncture clinics across Australia.

If you want to know more about acupuncture, you can get in touch with us at New Body Physiotherapy and Postural Management. Just fill in this contact us form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also give us a call at 02 9958 2277.

Best Regards,
Corey Iskenderian