I am occasionally asked about the origins of Chinese Medicine. The following headlines are drawn from my CICM notes:
Shang 1766 – 1122 BC:
- Main cause of disease was displeasure of ancestors.
- Diagnosis by divination through burning bones and cracks in tortoise shells.
- Cured by appeasing ancestors.
- Hieroglyphs of acupuncture and moxibustion on inscriptions of some bones and tortoise shells.
Western Zhou 1122 – 770 BC:
- Disease caused by evil spirits, eliminated by shamen who threw spears and arrows up in the air.
Spring and Autumn period 770 – 475 BC:
- Needles made from stone, bones and bamboo.
Warring States period 475 – 221 BC:
- Transition from demonic to naturalistic medicine, recognising many different causes of disease and the importance of the seasons.
- The philosophical thinking of Yin and Yang and the 5 Elements was formed.
- Needles were made from bronze and iron.
- Moxa was made from mugwort.
- Many different schools of thought: Taoist, Confucian, School of Yin/Yang, Mohist, Legalist.
Han 206 BC – 220 AD:
- The Nei Jing approx. 200 bc comprising 2 main books: the Su Wen (Simple Questions) and the Ling Shu (Spiritual Axis), with theories of the 5 Elements, Yin/Yang, 5 Emotions, 5 Tastes, 5 Colours, pulse diagnosis, meridians, acupuncture points (160), functions of the Organs, different types of Qi, Blood, Body Fluids and Shen, and the basis of differentiation of Syndromes and the treatment of many diseases.
- The Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) approx. 200 ad, established theories of the meridian system and the Eight Extra Meridians, Mother-Son law, and feeling pulses at the radial artery. Shan Han Lun by 200 ad, the 1st clinical manual of Chinese medicine. Confucianism dominates the philosophy.
3 Kingdoms 220 – 265 AD:
- Hua Tuo, a famous doctor, paid great attention to the study of acupuncture and moxibustion.
- He selected only one or two points in treatments and took much notice of the propagation of needle sensation.
- He is also famous as a pioneer in applying herbal anaesthesia to surgical operations.
Jin 265 – 420 AD:
- Compendium of Acupuncture (Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing) by Huang Fu Mi which recognises 349 points and consolidates acupuncture point location, names and actions.
- It also describes therapeutic methods for different diseases, point prescriptions and needle manipulations.
- The Pulse Classic by Wang Shu (290 ad) locates the pulse positions and mentions 24 qualities.
Southern and Northern Dynasties 420 – 581 AD:
- Korea sends doctors to China to learn acupuncture in 541 AD.
- China presents acupuncture books and charts to Japan in 552 AD.
Sui 581 – 618 AD:
- Buddhism influences Chinese medicine.
- Chinese medicine schools are set up.
Tang 618 – 907 AD:
- 1000 Golden Prescriptions by Sun Si Miao which describes finger measurement to locate points, also Ahshi points.
- Highest point of Chinese society, prosperous and politically stable.
- At the Imperial Medical College students learned General Medicine, Acupuncture, Herbs and Incantations – the course lasted 7 years.
- In 702 ad the Japanese government issued an Imperial order to copy the medical educational system of China and set up a speciality of acupuncture and moxibustion.
5 Dynasties 907 – 960 AD:
- The application of printing techniques promoted and speeded up the dissemination and development of Chinese Medicine.
Song 960 – 1279 AD:
- In 1026 Wang Weiyi revised the locations of acupuncture points and the Channels and made the Bronze Man showing acupuncture points, and an Illustrated Manual of Acupuncture.
- The ‘School of Cooling’ and ‘School of Stomach and Spleen’ developed.
- Chinese Medicine is pulled together into a more coherent structure.
Yuan 1279 – 1368 AD:
- Stems and Branches, Open and Closed points begin.
- Ao Shi Shang Han Jin Jing Lun by Dr Ao is the first book which is entirely devoted to tongue diagnosis.
- In the 12th Century, Kou Zong Shi first devised the categories of the 8 Principles in a herbal book called The Extension of the Materia Medica.
- He devised them to help make the disease process more understandable and methods of treatment more practical.
Ming 1368 – 1644 AD:
- More development of herbs than acupuncture.
- Compendium of Acupuncture by Yang Zi Zhou, this book summarised works of previous medical schools and put it into rhymes, describes different needle techniques, elaborates on the Differentiation of Syndromes and deals with gynaecology and paediatrics.
- Pulse diagnosis and 8 Extra meridians are developed by Li Shi Zhen.
- ‘School of Tonifying Fire’ is developed.
- Acupuncture goes to Vietnam.
- Acupuncture and moxibustion first introduced to Europe in 16th century, mostly used in France.
Qing 1644 – 1911 AD:
- Decline of Chinese medicine particularly from 1840 onwards when Western Medicine is introduced to China.
Peoples Republic of China 1949 – present:
- Acupuncture is revived under Mao Ze Dong who encouraged Chinese and Western Medicine to unite and work together.
- Acupuncture anaesthesia and ear acupuncture are discovered.
Reference: CICM Handout Mis001v2001