Modern acupuncture is based largely on a text written during the Ming Dynasty in China (1368 – 1644): The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, with its detailed description of the complete set of 365 points we use today.
In the Middle Ages, schools were created to teach the science of acupuncture, and acupuncture became one of the standard medical treatments along with herbs, massage, diet, and moxibustion (heat) therapies. Bronze statues marked with the acupuncture points have been found from this time, and it is believed that they were used for study and examination.
Chinese laws prohibited dissection of the human body, so anatomy was not a subject of study. Everything these students learned about acupuncture came from others’ (and their own) careful observations of living subjects.
Belief in the effectiveness of acupuncture as a valid method of healing ebbed and flowed over the centuries. During 17th century China, for instance, it was viewed as a superstition and irrational belief by the more educated healers, even if rural villagers still relied on their local acupuncturist and herbalist. As China increasingly opened to Western trade and thought, its rulers had a greater desire to embrace Western medicine, with its knowledge of anatomy.
In February 1929, the China Central Health Department, held a conference in then-capital Nanjing. Yu Nan, who had studied Western medicine in Japan, proposed that traditional Chinese medicine (referred to as “old medicine”) be abolished. The plan included registering all TCM physicians, including the acupuncturists, demanding that they obtain alternate training in Western medicine and terminating licenses in 10 years.
Thankfully acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine were actually outlawed in favor of Western medicine for only a short while. After many months of lobbying, the counter-proposal offered by the TCM practitioners prevailed and thus avoiding the loss of all knowledge, experience and health that had been built up in TCM by that point, and allowing it to grow and flourish to this day.
But to think how close it came to losing that entire database of natural healing modalities understanding is mind-boggling. So, we are thankful to those who opposed the government’s decree during that critical period so that we have these amazing natural methodologies of restoring our body into its own homeostasis balance.
China’s civil war during the 1930s also played a key role in reestablishing acupuncture as an acceptable method of healing. During the Long March, the soldiers did not have access to Western medicine, and they soon became ill from starvation and exposure. Acupuncturists began working on the men, and to everyone’s surprise, acupuncture helped maintain the general health and to help the wounded. Following the re-establishing of the Chinese government, Chairman Mao decreed that acupuncture be once again accepted, with Western-style hospitals and clinics devoting entire wings or sections to more traditional Chinese healing methods.
Acupuncture continues to play an important role in medicine in China, and we in the West have become the beneficiaries of more knowledge about and the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture.
Maintaining a free flow of Qi is essential to good health. Quality supplements that support the body’s energy system and provide support for the yin/yang balance proscribed in TCM can greatly enhance your body’s ability to heal and be restored. Acupuncture from an educated acupuncturist can also provide assistance in both qi flow and in blocking pain.
Among my resources used for this blog, I acknowledge contributions from Nature’s Sunshine and Steven Horne.