History of Acupuncture

How old is Acupuncture?

People wonder about the history of Acupuncture and how old it is? Records for the practice of Acupuncture date back many years but it is still not known exactly how old Acupuncture is.

Old parchment with man with channels

One of the most important writings on Acupuncture; The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, dates back to the 2nd Century BC. However, there is evidence of Acupuncture being even older than this; bone acupuncture needles have been found which pre-date these writings by around 1000 years!1

There was also an interesting finding of an ice mummy in Switzerland. The mummy had tattoos on his legs in the same location as Acupuncture points used to treat arthritis of the lower back. Investigation with CT scan confirmed the mummy did in fact suffer from arthritis of the lower back! The mummy was carbon dated to 3200BC.2

Acupuncture point xiongxiang illustration

Traditional Acupuncture in Modern Times

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a system of medicine created in China at the time of Chairman Mao in the 1950s. The teachings and practices of five different branches of the Taoist healing arts were documented, systemized and refined into a ‘new’ system of medicine. These include –

  • Acupuncture
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Tui Na (Chinese massage)
  • Medical Qigong
  • Chinese Dietary & Lifestyle advice

The creators of TCM were predominantly Herbal scholars. Various lineages and older styles of Acupuncture were never documented and instead passed down verbally through generations of doctors within families. Therefore, the practices were not included in TCM theory.

By the 1950s these older Acupuncture lineages had travelled from China into other countries such as Japan, Taiwan and Korea. They developed into various styles of Acupuncture and the theories and techniques are now being taught and practiced throughout the world.

1. & 2 The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine, 20 Mar 2014, by Dr. Daniel Keown MBChB MCEM LicAc

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