Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the few oldest forms of medical healing practices in the world. These traditional Chinese medical practices included various forms of healing therapy like herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, qigong, and dietary therapy. Traditional Chinese Medicine is presented as a system which is on par with, if not superior to the western medical practices. However, with the spread of TCM, there are misconceptions on the origin of TCM and acupuncture. Often time people confuse between the two and hence the misconceptions.
A Preface to Chinese Medicine
The earliest recordings of Chinese medicine were during the Shang dynasty which was around 17th- 11th century B.C. During that period, Chinese medicine was believed to have a link to their ancestors. It was believed that the spirits of deceased ancestors, demons and other supernatural beings were the cause of all diseases.
The next most influential period for Chinese medicine was during the Han dynasty which was roughly around 2nd century B.C to 2nd century A.D. It was during this period that Chinese medical scholars categorized the cause and effect of illness. Natural laws, doctrines like ‘Yin and Yang’ and ‘five elements’ were used to explain several illnesses and develop preventive and therapeutic strategies. Although the medical theories that during the Han dynasty were more rational, they did not completely avoid the earlier demonological notions affecting people’s health. However, the theories from the Han dynasty were not ubiquitous.
Another important factor of traditional Chinese medicine is the notion of Qi. Qi which is pronounced as “Chi” is considered to be an invisible life force present in all living things. This Qi was believed to be responsible for maintaining life and health. But this concept of Qi was not unique to Chinese medicine alone. Greek medicine also possessed a vital force like Qi which was known as ‘pneuma’. Greek and Chinese medicine shared several similarities. This led to the thought that Chinese medicine was just an adaptation of Greek medicine.
The concept of Qi and certain other basic concepts were adopted in Acupuncture.
Origin of Acupuncture – A Timeline
- It has been established that acupuncture is many thousands of years old through several historical evidence.
- Ötzi, the ‘Ice Man’ dating back to 3300 BCE was found when the alpine glacier melted. The Ice Man’s body had several tattoos representing the meridian system.
- The text of Huang Di Neijing introduced the theory and practice of today’s human acupuncture. The work is generally classified by scholars as belonging to the period between 475BC to 221 BC.
- The document from the Ma-Wang-Dui tomb in China which dates back to 198 B.C has references about the system of meridians. The Qi or life force in our body is known to flow through meridians or pathways. And there are 12 primary meridians and 8 extraordinary meridians. These meridians can be accessed through different acupuncture points.
- A recorded texts about needling therapy was found in the Shiji (Historic records) of Sima Qian written in about 90 B.C
- The earliest acupuncture practice in China dates back to mid-2nd century B.C. Archaeological findings from the 1970s found gold and silver needles from the Tomb of Han dynasty prince Liu Sheng.
- Since these artifacts were found along with other therapeutic instruments, it can be safely said that these needles could have been used for needling therapy.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture
The Traditional Chinese Medicinal practices and Acupuncture as a branch have evolved and come a long way since they all began. It can be safely concluded that though both are related to each other, they have now diverged and have evolved independently. The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as an alternative or complimentary therapy. Today the use of acupuncture has spread far and wide. Doctors nowadays do not discourage patients to seek acupuncture therapy as an alternate treatment option for certain ailments and pain management.