Acupuncture – A brief History

The exact origin of Acupunctures is difficult to date as references of varying evidential value can be cited.

For example, there was much excitement amongst the world of acupuncture following the  1991 discovery of  “Otzi the iceman” in the Italian Alps.  This near perfectly preserved and mummified neolithic man had tattoo’s on his body that correspond to known acupuncture channels.   Carbon dating showed that he had lived 5,000 years ago.

Even before this however some believe that stone needles or “Bian Shi”, recovered during archaeological digs in inner Mongolia, could place the practise at a much earlier point in history.


What is clearer is the written record which started approximately  2,000 years ago in the 3 Sovereigns period with the Huang Di Nei Jing, or Yellow Emperors Internal Cannon, a book on which the traditional practise of Chinese Medicine is founded and which remains a significant source of knowledge and inspiration to this day.  Indeed a copy can be found in the personal library of many practitioners, including my own.

Since this book many other texts and schools of thought have been committed to paper to establish an unbroken literary record.  Whilst remaining unbroken, it has however suffered over the years.  The “Fen Shu Keng Ru” a dark period in Chinese History during the Qin dynasty when the emperor ordered the burning of books and scholars, did not succeed in wiping the history but it never the less delivered a serious blow.  The extent of damage and amount of information lost during this time can only be imagined but could be assumed to be significant.

Acupuncture first started its journey out of China via the silk roads and is believed to have been brought back to Europe by French Jesuit missionaries.  Whilst practised for many years, popularity in the west saw substantial growth in 1971 following the appendectomy of New York Times reporter James Reston who became ill whilst covering President Nixon’s impending visit to China.  The surgery took place in a Chinese hospital where he received acupuncture during post operative recuperation, an integrated approach still practised in Chinese hospitals and much envied by western practitioners.  He was so impressed with the treatment he wrote an article on it for the newspaper awakening the western audience to this little known form of healing.

Acupuncture has continued to grow in popularity and is now practised in a variety of styles and setting across the world. In a modern world of stress and resistance to drugs, many are seeing the benefits of holistic, natural healing as practised for nearly 2,000 years.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post.  In the coming weeks I will be blogging about some of the historical influences that contributed to the development Traditional Chinese Medicine and its many philosophies.

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