HISTORY OF ACUPUNCTURE AND TCM

« It is a mistake to see what is not there, and not to see what is. ».
CONFUCIUS

Acupuncture is a medical discipline in its own right, based on a specific philosophy, a specific concept of life and of Man. It is not known exactly how old acupuncture is, however, an estimate of 6000 years is the general consensus, that is to say since the Stone Age and the Neolithic period.

The patient approach method and the technique of almost painless puncture of points of the body using fine needles can relieve, heal patients for whom Western medicine provides no solutions.

It is therefore imperative that acupuncture and Western medicine are considered as complementary rather than parallel.

A technique must have specific virtues to have survived thousands of years of history and uninterrupted practice.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ACUPUNCTURE

Birth and Evolution in China

According to the Nei King, a work dated XXVIII century BC, Chinese Neolithic man had observed that functional disorders of internal organs are always accompanied by a painful sensation in some parts of the skin covering: very localised points which are always the same for a specific ailment. They then discovered that the excitement of these points brought relief to pre-existing pain. Hence the treatment of certain conditions by acupuncture emerged.

The Nei King also provides a record of medical knowledge dating before the Chin and Han dynasties. Many pages in the book discussed acupuncture and physiology and the pathology of the meridians, acupuncture points, and discussed cases of contra-indications. Aunit of measurement was also created for each patient to locate points precisely on each patient, called "tsun".

In this work, a passage shows us the extreme antiquity of the method itself and leaves no hypocritical doubts on the reasons for the then government to take an interest in public health, without electoral stuffing; this curious edict attributed to the Yellow Emperor Huang Ti said:

« ... I regret everything that my people, obstructed by disease, do not pay me in taxes and chores. I wish they would not get anymore medicines to poison them and to put an end to the use of ancient stone punches.

I wish for only the mysterious metal needles with which energy is directed to be used... »

In the early days of its development, stone knives, which were invented due to production requirements, were used to suppress some of the suffering of the human body. Then stone punches were replaced by needles made of bamboo and bone.

The number of acupuncture points increased over the ages and we finally find that these were located all over the human body. After centuries and centuries of primitive purely symptomatic acupuncture, a first progress was made when the meridians hypothesis was formulated. Points were related by abstract and intangible lines because it was noticed, among other phenomena, that for a given disorder, it was always the same points one after the other which became more sensitive either to pressure or spontaneously. This was the first progress milestone because when the excitation of a point does not give the desired result, this could often be obtained by pricking another point on the same line.

By dint of practice, Asian tribes of these remote ages noticed new facts: some subjects experienced not only a sense of bruising or numbness upon applying pressure to these points, but they also said they felt "something happen" at this level, like an electric current.

Moreover, this feeling of "something happening" always followed the same direction to another point. Thus gradually all fourteen meridians were discovered, described and codified.

Under the dynasty of Yin and Chang (sixteenth-eleventh century BC), the development of metallurgy made the manufacture of needles in large quantities possible..

From 265 to 1600 AD, acupuncture became widespread by the publication of numerous books on the subject and through the creation of an Imperial College of Medicine. Also, bronze statues were cast which were marked with the paths of the meridians and point locations. These statues were designed to teach and to test.

During the Ching Dynasty (1644 - 1911), the rulers despised acupuncture and sometimes even banned its practice. The development of this branch of Chinese medicine was therefore did not resume until the arrival of the Communists in China.

 

THE LABORIOUS WESTERN APPROACH TO ACUPUNCTURE

« It is a foolish presumption to disdain and condemn something that is not likely ».
MONTAIGNE

There are many reasons why acupuncture was unknown in the West: this science was not taught in a school or faculty. In practice, acupuncturists, like all doctors, transmitted their knowledge from father to son or from teacher to student secretly: it was necessary to find a teacher who was willing to share their knowledge. This was not easy for foreigners who did not speak the language. Interpreters who could have accompanied students are ignorant and do not translate well. Further, they delay the work and are not welcome.

In addition, European doctors sent to China to teach science, could hardly study under Chinese doctors, out of respect for the prestige of their art. It was therefore impossible for travelers - who observed unexpected healing - to learn the way one can learn a course taught by a teacher in the West. None of them could not give anything more than a vague and general idea of ??the method. Europe took no notice and derived no benefit from this information. Medical translations are difficult, terminology is often archaic, almost untranslatable. It is therefore understandable that centuries passed without bringing much light on this subject.

Jesuit scholars sent to Beijing by our Academy of Sciences in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were informed. They spoke with great admiration using the Latin name "acupunctura" or "puncture with a neelde."

Several documents were published in Europe even though acupuncture was not commonly practiced in the West as a therapy:

In 1671, one of the members of a Royal Jesuit mission, Father Harvieu, published in Grenoble: "The secrets of Chinese medicine consisting of the perfect knowledge of pulse sent from China by a French man of great merit".

In 1682 a book was published by the Polish Jesuit missionary Michel Boyn: "Sinical Medicinal sample, Sive Opuscula Medica ad Mentem Sinesium."

In 1683, the Dutch surgeon Then Rhyne published a book on the treatment of gout using needles: " Dissertation de Arthridide Mantissa Schematica de Acupunctura ".

In 1735, Du Halde mentioned the different pulse, the different meridians and even their coupling in "Geographical Description of the Chinese Empire".

In the early nineteenth century, some great doctors, including Laennec, became interested in oriental medicine. But they lacked scientific basis on the one hand, and the experience of Chinese doctors on the other; the doctors wanted to practice their own form of acupuncture, discrediting the method and thus explaining their failures. Some wanted to practice it like Dr. Berlioz (father of composer Hector Berlioz) - first pioneer of acupuncture in France - who in 1810 presented a brief to the Society of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. Then came Dr. Sarlandiere who in 1825 published his extraordinary "Memory on Electropuncture and the use of Japanese moxa in France", with fairly precise indications and anatomical drawings of Japanese medicine.

The first detailed study of acupuncture by Captain Dabry - Consul General of France in Hankow - was published as late as 1863 in a large book on Chinese medicine: "Medicine to the Chinese." There are no references in this work, the indications do not always agree with Chinese texts. Further, Dabry did not train any students, his study was unnoticed and did not allow the launch of acupuncture in Europe.

In 1908, Dr. I. Regnault devoted a specific chapter on Chinese medicines and a description of acupuncture in his book: " Chinese medicine ", but he did not give the location of points or their indications.

It was not until 1928 that George Soulie de Morant, a French diplomat stationed in China transmitted the actual method he had learned from Chinese masters while experimenting during longer stays in the Celestial Empire. He deserves credit for having drawn the attention of public health in France on treatment with needles and disclosing a truly rational acupuncture. Undeniably, that without it, the science of Energy would not be what it is today. We would have had to wait for someone else to do the tremendous work he has done. Thanks to him, acupuncture has now firmly taken root in France which became the European cradle of this millennial medicine.

« Things are true or false according to the perspective we consider them from. The truth remains forever. Whoever knows it does not talk about it, whoever talks about it does not know it ».

LAO TSEU

 

Text by Dr Didier VANDESRASIER

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