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Friday, 2 November 2018

World Acupuncture Day review acupuncture history

Tiejun Tang

World Acupuncture Day will be celebrated in Paris at the building of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) , on the 15th of November 2018. It was organized to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the inscription of acupuncture and moxibustion, in November 2010, into the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Acupuncture is getting popular worldwide over the last few decades.  Although most people know acupuncture originates from China, many are still curious about how and when acupuncture actually first started.  As an acupuncturist we often been asked by patients as to how old acupuncture was and who invented it, etc.  There is no simple answer to these questions.  Let’s review the acupuncture history before the World Acupuncture Day. 

Unlike most other complementary therapies, it’s not the invention by just one or few persons; it’s the work of many people over a long period of time.  The origin of acupuncture could date back to as far as over four thousand years to Neolithic Age.  During that period, the Chinese ancestors started using sharp stone to stimulate certain points on the body for pain relief.  This was called Pianshi therapy. Since then, improvements were made from using sharp stone for point stimulation to stone needles, and then to needles made from jade and bone.  According to written literature, the first bronze acupuncture needles were invented by Fuxi Emperor when he was in power during 2400 – 2370 BC. There were also other classical texts that recorded that the nine types of bronze needles were invented by the Yellow Emperor during 2337 – 2307 BC. Many acupuncture theories and treatment methods were recorded in the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), one of the most representative classical texts in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Acupuncture knowledge and experience were handed down from generation to generation with more and more literature and classical books were published.

Since 6th century AD, acupuncture knowledge had spread to Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam and other neighbouring Southeast Asia countries.  With the development of maritime trade, diplomatic and missionary liaisons, acupuncture began to spread to the Western countries such as The Netherlands, France, England, Italy and Germany from the 16th century. In the first half of the nineteenth century, there was a flurry of interest in both America and Britain, and a number of publications appeared in the scientific literature including a Lancet editorial article entitled ‘Acupuncturation’ [1]. However, acupuncture had only been practised at a small scale then, and not until 1970’s that such practice had been becoming more and more popular.

In 1971, an American journalist was given acupuncture treatment to help aid his recovery from an emergency appendectomy in China. After returning back to the US, he had written an article in the New York Times about his whole experience[2].  This had aroused an ‘acupuncture heat’ in both the US and other western countries.  Many people from different nationality came to China to learn acupuncture.  Since then, the popularity of acupuncture had grown worldwide.  At present, there are practitioners in 182 countries and districts practising acupuncture.  In 2003 World HealthOrganization (WHO) published a report about clinical trials research, 91 diseases and conditions were listed as indications of acupuncture. In 15th of November 2010 acupuncture was listed to Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO

The demand for acupuncture training had also been fast growing in Europe, North America and Australia. Since written records of acupuncture began in China, many great acupuncture masters had written and passed down their precious clinical experience to their successors.  Some Chinese acupuncture books had been translated into English and other foreign languages, but unfortunately only a small part acupuncture classical text has been translated into other languages. We hope more accurate translation acupuncture monographs will be published in the future. Review the acupuncture history, we always learned more about acupuncture from our ancestors.

To understanding acupuncture history and remember World Acupuncture Day.

Reference :
          1.     AnonAcupuncturationLancet1823.; November 9. : 200. –1
          2.     Reston J. Now about my operation in Peking. New York Times 1971;1:


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