Rudimentary forms of acupuncture which probably arose during the Stone Age have survived in many parts of the world right down to present day. The Eskimos, for instance are still using sharpened stones for treating their illness. The Bantus of South Africa scratch certain areas of their skin to allay the symptoms of many illnesses, while in Brazil there is a tribe whose method of treating illness is to shoot tiny arrows from a blowpipe on to specific areas of the skin. The practice of cauterizing a part of the ear with a hot metal probe has also been reported among certain tribes in Arabia. This is probably a vestige of the acupuncture practised in ancient Egypt and Saudi Arab.
The Ebers papyrus of 1550 B.C. (now in the British Museum) describes a system of channels and vessels in the body which approximates more closely to the Chinese system of channels than to any known system of blood vessels, lymph vessels or nerves.
Acupuncture is a very ancient form of healing which pre-dates recorded history. The philosophy is rooted in the Taoist tradition which goes back over 8000 years. The people of this time period would meditate and observe the flow of energy within and without. They also were keen to observe man's relations with nature and the universe.
There were many sages of this period, but the most legendary was Fu Hsi, who lived in the Yellow River area of China approximately 8000 years ago. By observing nature, he formulated the first two symbols, a broken line and unbroken line. These symbols represented the two major forces in the universe - creation and reception - and how their interaction forms life. This duality was named Yin-Yang and they represent the backbone of Chinese Medicine theory and application.
Yin and Yang symbol
The Ming Dynasty (1568-1644) was the enlightening period for the advancement of Acupuncture. Many new developments included:
From the Qing Dynasty to the Opium Wars (1644-1840), herbal medicine became the main tool of physicians and Acupuncture was suppressed.
Following the Revolution of 1911, Western Medicine was introduced and Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology were suppressed. Due to the large population and need for medical care, Acupuncture and herbs remained popular among the folk people, and the "barefoot doctor" emerged.
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 1950 Chairman Mao officially united Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western Medicine, and acupuncture became established in many hospitals. 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 anaesthesia, 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.
Although acupuncture has become modernised, it will never lose its connection to a philosophy established thousands of years ago.