The Origins of Acupuncture

It is commonly believed that the origins of acupuncture lie in ancient China alone.

Bian Shi, sharpened stones, have been excavated leading archaologists to presume that the practice of acupuncture may have been practiced in the Neolithic period. Hieroglyphs have been found from the Shang Dynasty 1600 B.C. that points to it’s use but is not specifically mentioned or illustrated.

The first metal needles were found in China in 113 B.C. but there use may have been for bloodletting or demonology.

The first Chinese written documentation is found in The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, which is believed to be written in 200 B.C. more or less. However it was written that meridian points were treated with moxibustion, not needles.

In Europe they pulled a frozen body out of a glacier and found that it was 5000 years old. This body was dubbed “Otzi the Iceman” due to the village near where it was found. Archaeologists found 15 groups of tattoos on his body which correlate to contemporary acupuncture points.

Recently evidence has been unearthed in India, which is adjacent to China, which points to several references to “the art of piercing with a needle”, within the context of Ayurvedic medicine.

After China, Korea was the next empire to develop the practice due to the patronage of the Dangun Emperor.

It is not well known that Ayurvedic medicine was already employing surgical anesthesia as early as 600 B.C. This particular instance is mentioned in the Indian text, Sushruta Samhita.

Bart Walton in his Japanese Healing Arts Blog writes about Robers Svodboda’s book on the cultural exchange between India and China before the 1st century A.D.,

“An important historical event occurred sometime during the third and fourth century B. C. that clearly establishes that these two societies were indeed in communication with each other. At that time, India already possessed a highly evolved literary society which had produced scores of texts on such topics as religion, astrology and medicine. The preeminent Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita was already many hundred years old, while the landmark Huang-ti Nei-ching was only then being compiled in China. During this period, reports started to circulate in China about Soma, the psychotropic plant which played a central role in the Rig Veda, a scripture that appeared prior to 1000 B. C. Soma was promoted in China as possessing power to bestow immortality, and the persistent and enticing reports eventually led Emperor Qin Shi (reigned 221 – 207 B. C.), the first Emperor of a unified China, to order the procurement of this wondrous plant. Other evidence suggests that there had been contact between these two ancient Asian cultures before the 4th century B. C. For example, there are some remarkable similarities between their ancient systems of astrology.”

Walton goes on to write,

In his book, The Lost Secrets of Ayurvedic Acupuncture, Dr. Frank Ros provides evidence that one particular volume of an ancient Ayurvedic text known as Suchi Veda is translated as “the art of piercing with a needle” and deals entirely with acupuncture. Likewise, Dr. Ros goes on to point out that the terms “needling” and “burning” (moxibustion) were utilized by Charaka, the ancient Ayurvedic physician, not only with reference to surgery but also to non-surgical medical modalities. Likewise, the ancient Ayurvedic text written by Charaka, Charaka Samhita outlines the location and medical use for Marma (vital points) many of which correspond exactly to traditional Chinese acupuncture points. This Ayurvedic text was written sometime around 1000 B. C. There is evidence that this text was taken to China with the Buddhist monks in the first century A. D. or even earlier by other travelers. The carefully guarded Tibetan medical text, 4th Shastra, indeed explains that Tibet received knowledge of Acupuncture and herbal medicine from India.

The theory behind the practice of acupuncture lies in a belief in life force or what the Chinese call “Chi”. Practitioners believe that disease and sickness is caused by blockages in the flow of energy in your body. By inserting needles in the checkpoints, or meridians, you unblock those areas allowing the energy to flow. In terms of muscle and joint injuries inserting needles into injured areas micro-traumatizes those areas allowing more blood to flow into those areas. More circulation means quicker healing.

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