TCM Theory: Acupuncture Origin and Early Literature


1. Origin of Acupuncture
2. Early Literatures



With a long history and culture, China is a treasure place of medical and pharmacological science. Acupuncture therapy is one of the most brilliant achievements of the Traditional Chinese Medicine.

For thousands of years the Chinese have used tiny acupuncture needles and branches of fragrant moxa to cure diseases by applying them to specific body parts. The theories of channels and collaterals and acupoint were accumulatively developed to contribute to the nation's health-care development.

1. Origin of Acupuncture and Early Literatures
"Zhenjiu", meaning acupuncture and moxibustion, is a collective term of acupuncture and moxibustion therapies. It has a long history of clinical applications.

1. Origin of Acupuncture
Let's review the history of acupuncture and moxibustion. In the Stone Age, the Chinese sages, after long time of resolute pursuit of Tao, obtained the insight on the diagram of "jing and luo."(channels and collaterals). They also began to know how to use small sharpened stones in blood pricking therapy. This small stone, for therapeutic purposes, is called "Bianshi"(Bian Stone). Bone needle, another kind of ancient puncturing appliance, was ground from animal bones. It could be used to sew and in acupuncture procedures.

Moxibustion can be defined as a therapeutic procedure based on the procedure makes use of a moxa cone which will be ignited to place cutaneously on certain point and on specific illness-related body parts. The cone made of Artemisia Vulgaris is called moxa cone. Moxibustion therapy can be direct or indirect.

Shi Jing, the book of Songs by Confucians, records the activities of collecting Artemisia Vulgaris. The book Meng Zhi also suggests the application of three-year-old Artemisia Vulgaris, meaning Artemisia Vulgaris that has preserved for a long time, in moxibustion therapies. Old Artemisia Vulga can be hand-crumbled into moxa to make moxa cones for moxibustion therapies. Cauterizing method is the application of ignited moxa cones to the skin.

Applying heat or fire indirectly on specific skin areas is called "Ironing Therapy". Applying ignited twigs or herbs to heat and to smoke specific skin areas is called "Smoking Therapy". The Chinese words "Jiu(moxibustion)," "ironing"and "smoking", are all derived from fire structurally.

Cupping is another heat therapy using the physical property of fire. In ancient time, animal horns were used as cups to attach on the skin. It was referred to as the "horn method". Bamboo vessels, China and earthen jars, and glass cups, are later used to replace "horns" in moxibustions.

"Bian Stone" is recorded in some ancient literary works as a special kind of stones for medical treatments. Bianshi puncture is the application of sharpened stones in medical procedures. Bian stone was used for drainage effusion and depletions.

The ancient book Canon of Mountains and Rivers indicates that "there is a kind of jade in Gao Shi mountain which could be ground into needles---the needle-shaped "Bian Stones". In remote antiquity, needles were mainly made from animal bones, which they were named after. In addition, there were needles made from bamboo. The Chinese character "bian" with a bamboo radical refers to a bamboo-made needle. Metallic needle was nonexistent before the Bronze Age. So the Chinese character "needle" with a "metal" lateral means metallic needles.

Canon of Internal Medicine, the oldest medical classic, records the comprehensive clinical application of Bian stone, acupuncture techniques, moxibustion, herbal therapies, massage and Qigong. The book suggests that Bian stone came from East China, moxibustion from North China and "needles" from South China.

In 1968, in Mancheng county, Hebei Province, many precious historical relics were found in an excavated ancient tomb Liu Sheng of the Han Dynasty. There were nine needles and five decaying silver ones. Their configurations bear close resemblance to the "nine needles" described in Canon of Internal Medicine. The nine needles were small medical applications with different lengths and diameters. Among them the blunt needle, a round tipped needle, was used for point pressing and massaging purposes. The sword shaped needle configuration is used as a surgical scalpel. The arrow-shaped needle is used for superficial skin puncture and functions similarly as the present "seven-star needle." The sharp-edged needles is similar to the present three-edged needle. Among the nine needles, the filiform needle was the most commonly. It still plays a major role in clinical practice today.

Modern filiform needles are more finely made in great varieties. Among the nine needles, the largest in diameter, is the "large needle". The "long needle" has been evolved into the current arista needle ("Mang Zhen"). The needles for clinical procedures today are evolved from the nine needles(Fig 11)

2. Early Literatures
Canon of Internal Medicine is a masterpiece of medical science of China, it summarized the people's clinical experiences and medical theories after the Iron Age. Canon of Internal Medicine, with its authorship ascribed to the ancient Emperor Huangdi, was compiled by Huangdi and his assistant officials Qi Bo and Lei Gong as they sat in "Ming Tang" (Office) trading opinions in medical theories, meridians, acupuncture and moxibustion. It includes two parts: Ling Shu (Miraculous Pivot) and "Shu Wen" (Plain Questions) in which some chapters describe Zhenjiu therapies and Acupuncture theories. "Ling Shu", which later named 'Zhen Jing" (Canon of Zhen) is a acupuncture classic explaining therapies. It is based mainly on the "nine needles".

"Bo Shu"(meaning "silk books"), a book documented of the "Eleven Meridians", was discovered in a tomb of the Han Dynasty excavated at Mawangdui, Changsha, Huan Province in 1973. It is a medical literature older than "ting Shu, Jingmai Section". But it mentions only moxibustion, Bian stone, acupuncture methods are not recorded, And there is a literal description of Foot Yangming Meridian in "Bo Shu", The "E!even Meridians" described in 'Bo Shu" and the content of "Ling Shu, Jingmai Section" and "Su Wen, Maijie Section" are revelation of the developmental process meridian theories.

Following "Nei Jing", there was another important medical writing, "Nan Jin"(Canon of Eighty-one Difficult Problems), in abbreviation, "Nan Jing" (Canon of Difficult Problems). it is an important masterpiece explaining Nei Jing's theories, including many Zhenjiu(acupoints and acupuncture) techniques.

Please browse the following contents for further study:

  1. Introduction

  2. Mechnism of Yin Yang Operation

  3. Pathogenic Factors

  4. Concept of Qi

  5. Concept of Blood, Body Fluid and Qi

  6. Mechnism of Chinese Massage

  7. Visceral Symptom

  8. Inner Canon of Yellow Emperor

  9. Acupuncture Treatment Principle

  10. Five Element Theory

  11. Channels and Meridians

  12. Acupuncture Doctors and Works

  13. Origin of Acupuncture