Acupuncture needles arranged with flowers

Acupuncture is a traditional medicine which originated in China many years ago. Although the exact origins of acupuncture remain a mystery, many texts have survived the centuries allowing us to discover how doctors used acupuncture in ancient times.

Here are five amazing facts about ancient Chinese acupuncture and how it differs from acupuncture today.

5 Amazing Facts About Ancient Chinese Acupuncture

  1. Acupuncture is over 2000 years old

The oldest acupuncture text in existence is called the Huang Di Nei Jing, meaning the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic. The Yellow Emperor was a fictional character and much of the book consists of conversations between the emperor and his imperial physician Qi Bo.

The Huang Di Nei Jing was written around the 2nd century BCE, and so we know that acupuncture is at least 2200 years old. However, most people believe that it is much older and may have even been used in some form since Neolithic times.

  1. Acupuncture is one of five ‘pillars of Chinese medicine’

Acupuncture is not the only form of Chinese medicine. This ancient healing system also includes herbal medicine, massage (known as tui na), moxibustion, and qi gong. These are known as the five pillars of Chinese medicine, although other therapies such as cupping and guasha (scraping) are also used.

Dietary therapy is another essential part of Chinese medicine and many medicinal herbs are also eaten as food. Although some basic good eating habits are recommended to every patient, dietary changes are usually recommended based on each patient’s individual constitution. Eating the right diet for your constitution is thought to greatly enhance the effects of acupuncture and other treatments.

  1. Acupuncture is based on nature

One of the most well-known facts about ancient Chinese acupuncture is that it developed based on the laws of nature. This includes phenomena such as yin and yang which represent night and day, cold and warmth, female and male, and so on. It also includes the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.

Humans are seen as being connected to the natural world and need to live in harmony with it in order to remain healthy. Yin, yang, and the five elements are thought to be reflected in the human body and when they become imbalanced, this causes disease. Acupuncture can help to restore a state of balance and harmony, and therefore, promotes good health.

  1. Ancient Chinese acupuncture is very similar to modern acupuncture

Because so many texts about acupuncture have been passed down through the generations, modern acupuncture is practiced in much the same way as it has always been. The theories behind acupuncture and the major acupoints are still the same, although some new points have been discovered over the years. 

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One of the most significant differences between ancient and modern acupuncture is the type of needles that are used. Needle-like objects were originally made from stone or bone but later they were manufactured using silver and gold. These days, acupuncture needles are made from surgical steel and are sterile and disposable for your safety.

  1. Ancient Chinese acupuncture was almost lost

During the 18th century, China saw rapid developments in science and technology and acupuncture began to fall out of favor. It was deemed primitive and superstitious by many people and modern, western medicine began to take its place.

However, acupuncture was still practiced in rural communities which had limited access to these new treatments. This allowed it to stay alive in some capacity, although it was far less popular as it had been in the past.

All of that changed in the 1950s and 60s, when Chairman Mao Zedong reintroduced acupuncture into mainstream medicine. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was a disaster in many senses, but it did prevent acupuncture from being lost forever and banished to the history books.

We hope that you have enjoyed our five amazing facts about ancient Chinese acupuncture. To learn more, check out our related article The History and Origins of Acupuncture

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