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. I always have similar questions from my patients as to how old acupuncture was and who invented it, etc. There is no simple answer to these questions. Let me put it in the simplest way I could here.
Unlike most other complementary therapies, it’s not the invention by just one or a 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. Much of 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 being written.
Since 6th century AD, acupuncture knowledge had spread to Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam and other neighbouring Eastern countries. With the development of maritime trade and diplomatic liaisons, acupuncture began to spread to the Western countries such as The Netherlands, France, England, Italy and Germany from the 16th century. 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. 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.
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. I 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.