Brief History of the Development of Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Acupuncture and moxibustion has a long history from its birth to maturity.

Legends about the origin of acupuncture therapy can be traced back to the period of clan commune in the primitive society of China. For example, there were records in ancient books about Fu Xi “tasting hundreds of herbs and making nine kind of needles” and “acupuncture therapy originated after Huang Di consulting Qi Bo,Bo Gao,ShaoYu”. The actual originating time of acupuncture therapy should have been a long period after the application of “Bian stone” in the Neolithic Age, although Fu Xi, etc. were representatives in ancient legends.

“Bian stone”, the prototype or predecessor of needles, is the product of ancient people’s experience accumulation in their life and labor. It has gone through a long time from unexpected findings that the stone’s pressing or puncturing the body surface can cure disease to the purposeful processing of the stone into Bian stone for exclusive treatment use. When humans entered the Neolithic Age, refined stone needles appeared; after that, the emergence of various kinds of needles, such as bone needles, ceramic needles, bamboo needles, etc., especially metal needles after the invention of metallurgy by human, greatly promoted the development of acupuncture method.

The origin of moxibustion therapy can be traced back to the primitive society after humans learned to use fire. During the process of using fire, people gradually realized the therapeutic effect of warmth and heat. Then moxibustion therapy was formed through the long-term practice.

After the creation of acupuncture and moxibustion therapies, the theoretical system of acupuncture and moxibustion, with the accumulation of practical experience and the penetration of ancient philosophy and other natural sciences, began to form, develop, and be improved constantly, which can be roughly summarized in the following periods.

Theoretical Beginning Period

This period mainly is a preliminary understanding of acupuncture and moxibustion through personal clinical practice, about before the appearance of Huangdi’s Internal Classic. Representatives include the legendary figures Qi Bo, Bo Gao, Shao Yu, and the famous doctors Yi Huan and Yi He in the Spring and Autumn period. In 1973,there were two ancient meridian documents in the silk medical manuscripts unearthed from the Han Tomb No.3 of Mawangdui, Changsha, Hunan province, namely, Moxibustion Classic for Eleven Hand- Foot Meridians and Moxibustion Classic for Eleven Yin-Yang Meridians. The course and distribution of the meridians, symptoms and moxibustion methods are discussed in the books. These are the earliest extant literature on acupuncture and moxibustion, reflecting the early appearance of the theoretical understanding of the meridian system.

Theoretical Establishment Period

This period is from Warring States to Qin and Han Dynasties, which is marked by the completion of Huangdi’s Internal Classic.

Huangdi’s Internal Classic, which establishes a basic theoretical system for traditional Chinese medicine, expounds the physiology and pathology of the human body, the methods and principles of diagnosis and treatment, with the main content of Yin and Yang, five elements, viscera, meridian, Qi, blood and body fluid. The book also discusses in detail the

course of meridians, symptoms, acupoints, and methods, indications and contraindications of acupuncture and moxibustion, etc. Particularly, there are a lot of space dedicated to the theory and clinical treatment of acupuncture and moxibustion in Spiritual Pival, therefore, it is called “Acupuncture Classic”, which marks the basic formation of the theoretical system of acupuncture and moxibustion.

The records of the acupuncture appliances, “Nine Needles”, are first seen in Huangdi Internal Classic in the current extant literatures. The invention of the Nine Needles is not only the ultimate development of ancient Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion appliances but also the wisdom crystallization of ancient Chinese physicians’ continuous innovation, providing a powerful “weapon” for acupuncture and moxibustion clinical treatment of various diseases. Even to this day, the development and clinical application of acupuncture tools are still difficult to exceed the scope of the ancient Nine Needles.

The Nine Needles refer to Chanzhen (sagittate needle),Yuanzhen(round-pointed needle),Dizhen (arrow-shaped needle),Fengzhen(sharp needle),Pizhen(sword-shaped needle),Yuanlizhen(round-sharp needle),Haozhen(filiform needle),Changzhen(long needle),and Dazhen(large needle).They have different shape,length,size,and application. Under the social background and economic development level at that time, the shape, specification and indications of these Nine Needles were strictly stipulated, which showed the continuous improvement of acupuncture tools during the practice of acupuncture and moxibustion therapy in disease treatment, and eventually developed to an unprecedentedly high level.

.There are many records about and praising comments on the Nine Needles in Huangdi’s Internal Classic For examples, the Section Discussion on the Nine Needles in the book Spiritual pivot records that “The Nine Needles were developed according to the law of the heaven and the earth. The great number of the heaven and the earth begins with one and ends with nine” The Section Application of Needles in the book Spiritual Pivot states that “The key of needling lies in the reasonable application of the needles. The Nine Needles have different usages. They are either long, or short, or large, or small. They are used for different purposes. Wrong use of them cannot cure diseases. “The Section Diagnosing the Interior by Examining the Exterior in the book Spiritual pivot states that “the theory of the Nine Needles is so abstruse that it cannot accommodate anything when it becomes small and nothing can accommodate it when it grows large. It is something that is so deep that nothing can exist below it and so high that nothing can cover it. It is so subtle and abstruse that it permeates through everywhere without any limitation. “The Section Explanation of Acupuncture in the book Plains Questions documents that “the Nine Needles correspond to the earth and heaven, the four seasons and Yin and Yang. I’d like to know the reason and pass it on to the later generations as the essential methods. “The reason why the Nine Needles are so highly praised not only is that their treatment range greatly exceeds that of Bian stone, but also each needle has its own unique treatment characteristics.

Classic of Difficulties was written in Han Dynasty or so, with the main purpose of illuminating Huangdi’s Internal Classic, Its expounding of eight extra meridians and source Qi supplements the content of Huangdi’s Internal Classic, Simultaneously, it also proposes the eight meeting acupoints and uses five elements theory to explain the theory and application of the five transport acupoints in detail. The lost Treatment Essentials of acupuncture and

Moxibustion Points should have been a monograph on acupoints during this period. Hua Tuo also had great attainments in acupuncture and moxibustion, and founded “Huatuo Jiaji acupoints”. Zhang Zhongjing of the Eastern Han Dynasty founded the six-meridian pattern differentiation and also recorded many acupuncture and moxibustion prescriptions in Treatise on Cold Damage, advocating syndrome differentiation and the combined use of acupuncture and medicine. These academic achievements have become the cornerstone for the development of acupuncture and moxibustion in later generations.

Rapid Academic Development Period

During the Ganlu period (256-260)of Wei and Jin Dynasties, Huangfu Mi compiled the relevant contents from Plains Questions, Spiritual Pivot and Treatment Essentials of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Points into the book A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. It collected the name, location and acupuncture and moxibustion techniques of 348 acupoints and systematically categorized the acupuncture and moxibustion treatment of various diseases. It was the earliest extant monograph on acupuncture and moxibustion, which was another summary of acupuncture and moxibustion after Huangdi’s Internal Classic, and served as a link between past and future in the development history of acupuncture and moxibustion.

With the clinical deepening of acupuncture and moxibustion in the Western and Eastern Jin Dynasties and the Northern and Southern Dynasties, many doctors and monographs on acupuncture and moxibustion appeared. For example, Ge Hong,a famous doctor in the Jin Dynasty, compiled the book Handbook of Prescriptions for emergency, containing 109 acupuncture and moxibustion prescriptions, 99 of which were moxibustion prescriptions. This significantly promoted the clinical application of moxibustion therapy.

Acupuncture and moxibustion greatly developed in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. It became a specialized discipline in the early Tang Dynasty, and the imperial court also provided professional titles such as “acupuncturist” and “moxibuster”.In the Sui and Tang Dynasties, Zhen Quan and Sun Simiao were all major medical experts proficient in various fields of traditional Chinese medicine and also made outstanding achievements in acupuncture and moxibustion.

Zhen Quan authored Acupuncture Principles, Copies of acupuncture Classic and Human Bodys Meridia Illustration (all lost). During the Zhenguan period (627-649)of Tang Dynasty, the government organized Zhen Quan and others to revise Illustrated Manual of Human Body’s Meridian, which showed the importance attached to acupuncture and moxibustion at that time. Sun Simiao extensively collected the acupuncture and moxibustion experience of the doctors of the previous generations in Important Prescriptions Iorth a Thousand Gold for Emergency and drew Three-Angle Lustration of Human Body’s Meridian, in which the twelve meridians of human body’s front side and back were marked with five colors, and the eight extra meridians with green colors, which become the earliest colored meridian acupoint illustration in history (already lost).Moreover, he also created “Ashi acupoint” and “finger Cun method”. Moreover, Wang Tao’s Arcane Essentials from the Imperial Library and Cui Zhiti’s Moxibustion Prescription for Bone-Steaming Ferer contained great number of moxibustion treatment experience. It can be seen that in the Jin and Tang Dynasties moxibustion was widely used.

The national acupuncture and moxibustion education system started from the Tang Dynasty. Its Imperial Medical Academy was responsible for medical education and offered acupuncture and moxibustion major, with “one doctor, one assistant, ten acupuncturists, twenty staffs, and twenty students”, which laid the foundation for the standardized education of acupuncture and moxibustion.

During Song,Jin and Yuan Dynasties after Tang Dynasty, China established more advanced acupuncture and moxibustion institution and education system, with acupuncture department and moxibustion department offered. And Plains Questions, Classic of Difficulties and A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion were stipulated as compulsory subjects in teaching.

Wang Weiyi, the famous expert of acupuncture and moxibustion of Northern Song Dynasty, pioneered the acupoint textual research and correction as well as the invention of teaching tools for acupuncture and moxibustion. At that time, acupuncture and moxibustion treatment was very popular. However, there were often undesirable medical errors or accidents caused by such factors as the difficulty in copying and engraving ancient acupuncture and moxibustion books, the missing of inscribed bamboo slips, or even mistakes. Therefore, Wang Weiyi and other experts suggested several times that it is urgent to compile a standardized acupuncture map and cast a bronze acupuncture figure model marked with the twelve meridian routes and acupoints to standardize the theory of the meridians and acupoints.

Wang Weiyi conducted textual research and correction again for 354 acupoints. In the fourth year of Tansheng period (1026),he authored Illustrated Manual of Acupoints of the Bonge Fignre and engraved it and inscribed it on monuments that were promulgated by the government. He personally designed the bronze acupuncture figure model from the embryo molding, model making to the whole process of casting, worked with the craftsmen to overcome the technical difficulties, and finally cast two acupuncture figure models in 1027 for teaching and examination purposes, which were called “sacred bronze figures “by later generations(Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1 Newly-cast bronze acupuncture figure model of the Northern Song Dynasty

The “sacred bronze figures” had three basic characteristics: one is the “front-back separability”, that is, it can be separated into the front and back pieces, on which the meridian course and acupuncture holes were engraved; the second is completeness, with five Zang-organs and six Fu-organs that can be seen after separation; and the third is empty interior, with yellow wax on the exterior, which can be filled with water (mercury) and clothed. When the medical practitioner is tested, the criterion for judging whether the acupoints are selected accurately is the immediate flow out of the water (mercury) as soon as the needle is inserted into the sacred bronze figures, Illustrated Mannal of Acupoints of the Bonse Figure and the bronze acupuncture figure model became the world’s first government-promulgated national standards for meridian and acupoint literature and teaching model, which effectively promoted the development of acupuncture and moxibustion in the direction of normalization and standardization.

The invention of printing technique in Song Dynasty greatly promoted the accumulation and dissemination of acupuncture and moxibustion literature, and the acupuncture and moxibustion monographs increased significantly. For example,Moxibustion Tecbnique for Emergency by Wenren Qinian,the acupuncture expert of the Southern Song Dynasty, and Classic of Nourishing Life of Acupuncture and Moxibustion by Wang Zhizhong all were practical monographs that summarized the acupuncture and moxibustion clinical experiences. Wang collected many folk clinical experiences in his book. He was good at moxibustion and using tenderness point to diagnose and treat diseases.

He Ruoyu in Jin Dynasty created “the midnight-noon ebb-flow acupuncture method” and advocated the time-oriented acupoint selecting method, which had a greater impact on later generations. MA Danyang and Dou Hanqing both had certain attainments in acupoint clinical application, with Ma good at “heavenly star twelve acupoints” and Dou good at “the confluence acupoints of eight extraordinary meridians”.

In Yuan Dynasty, Hua Bairen conducted textual research and correction for the meridian course and its related acupoints, and authored Elucidation of Fourteen Channels, in which the Governor vessel, the Conception vessel, and the twelve meridians were collectively called the “fourteen meridians” and provided valuable literature for the study of meridians in later generations. In addition, China’s ethnic minorities also made contributions to acupuncture and moxibustion. For example, Huai Bilie,a Mongolian bachelor of Imperial Hanlin Academy, once wrote Valuable Sketch of Acupoint Selection Along the Meridians. Although it was lost, its original appearance can be deduced from the book Elucidation of Fourteen Channels.

The Ming Dynasty was a relatively active period in the development history of acupuncture and moxibustion. The specific manifestations included the collation and research of acupuncture and moxibustion literatures of the previous generations, the emergence of many academic schools and controversies, the creation of abundant acupuncture manipulations, the collective summarization of “extraordinary acupoints” for the acupoints irrelevant to the meridians,etc.And the representative doctors and works included Chen Hui’s Miraculous Effective Classic of Acupuncture, Xu Feng’s Great Complete Collection of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Gao Wu’s A Collection of Gems in Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Yang Jizhou’s Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Wu Kun’s Acupuncture Principles in Six Lolumes,Wang Ji’s Catechism of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Zhang Jiebin’s Pictorial Appendices to The Classified Classic, Li Shizhen’s Consideration of the Eight extra meridians and so on.

Great Complete Collection of Acupuncture and Moxibustion collects and comments acupuncture manipulations. Catechism of Acupuncture and Moxibustion is a book of academic contention with more than 80 questions and answers on acupuncture and moxibustion academic questions. Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion is regarded as the third major summary of acupuncture and moxibustion after A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Based on Yang Jizhou’s patrimonial book Mystery and Essentials of Acupuncture, it compiles the academic views and practical experiences of acupuncture and moxibustion in various generations, and is an important reference for studying acupuncture and moxibustion in later generations.

Academic Recession Period

Acupuncture and moxibustion in Qing Dynasty began to decline, when the doctors paid priority to Chinese herbal medicine and neglected acupuncture, especially the rulers of the Qing Dynasty abolished the department of acupuncture and moxibustion in the Imperial Hospital in 1822 for the ridiculous reason that “acupuncture and moxibustion is not suitable for the emperor”. Generally speaking, the works of acupuncture and moxibustion in this period were less innovative. The main representatives included Wu Qian’s acupuncture Essential Teachings of Golden Mirror of the Medical ncestors,Liao Runhong’s Complete Works on Acupuncture and Li Xuechuan’s Compilation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

After the defeat of the Opium War, Western learning gradually spreaded eastward, and missionary hospitals and Western medicine universities were established in various places, with discrimination and exclusion to traditional Chinese medicine. During the period of the Republic of China, there were proposals to abolish traditional Chinese medicine. However, TCM acupuncture and moxibustion was deeply loved and still widely used by the general public because its low cost, convenient application and good efficacy. In the meantime, great number of far-sighted personages represented by Cheng Dan’an established acupuncture and moxibustion societies and schools to cultivate the talents, which made certain contributions to protect and promote acupuncture and moxibustion.

Academic Boom Period

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the cause of TCM as well as acupuncture and moxibustion appeared an unprecedented prosperity, for the party and the state formulated the policy to develop TCM. TCM universities, hospitals and research institutes have been set up all over the country. Acupuncture and moxibustion is a compulsory course for students in TCM universities, and acupuncture and moxibustion department is a must in TCM hospitals.

In the early 1980s,schools of acupuncture and moxibustion were established in TCM universities, with unified national textbooks. And the cultivation of master and doctoral students in acupuncture and moxibustion was carried out, thus formed a complete system of teaching, medical treatment and scientific research in acupuncture and moxibustion.

Since April 1945,when Yan‘an Bethune International Peace Hospital first established acupuncture and moxibustion department in China’s general hospitals, so did many western medicine hospitals. Likewise, some western medicine universities have also provided acupuncture and moxibustion courses, and some provinces and cities even have set up acupuncture and moxibustion hospitals or branch hospitals. With the vigorous development of acupuncture and moxibustion, its teaching, medical treatment and scientific research have achieved fruitful results. In the early 1950s,the academic focus was mainly on organizing the literature, observing the indications, and expounding the knowledge system with modern scientific methods.

In the late 1950s and 60s, the academic center of acupuncture and moxibustion was

shifted to the monographic research of ancient literature, the massive observation and summary of its curative effect for modern diseases, the comprehensive experimental research (to observe its effect to the organ functions of each system and to reveal its basic functions) and the theoretical research of acupuncture anesthesia and analgesia.

Since the 1970s,with the application of neurophysiology, anatomy, histochemistry. biochemistry, immunology, molecular biology and advanced modern scientific and technological means such as sound, light, electricity, magnetism and so on, the relevant issues of acupuncture and moxibustion have been researched in depth, specially the treatment mechanism and analgesia principle. The indications of acupuncture and moxibustion treatment were also expanded. Clinical practice shows that acupuncture and moxibustion has various degrees of therapeutic effect to more than 300 kinds of disease, covering internal, external, gynecological, pediatric, ophthalmological and otorhinolaryngological, orthopedic and traumatological disease, about 100 of which even with good or perfect curative effect. Many scholars have also made modern researches on acupuncture manipulations.