History Of Acupuncture - part 5

Sometime during the middle of the 16th century, 500 years since Wang Wei-I made his first bronze model of a man, another acupuncturist Kao Wu improved upon the idea even further. While all the bronze models used by Wang Wei-I were of men, Kao Wu considered it imperative that the acupuncture points were located at different places on the patients' body depending on their sex and age. Hence, he ordered for bronze models of women as well as children, which he could use in the same manner as Wang Wei-I did with his bronze cast male models.

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As Kao Wu was of the view that several errors had crept into the practice of acupuncture since the time Wang Wei-I embarked on his grand research, he undertook the mission to set it right. Consequently, he wrote two very valuable books on acupuncture and its practice. The first book, titled Essentials of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, was actually a synopsis of several important works undertaken earlier and was meant to be a guidebook for students learning the techniques of acupuncture and also for those who had just beginning to be trained in the techniques of acupuncture and moxibustion. The second book by Kao Wu, titled Eminent Acupuncture, was meant for students who were undertaking further advanced studies as well as qualified acupuncture practitioners. This book provided comprehensive information regarding the acupuncture points and meridians and the manner in which one ought to use them when treating various ailments.

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Similar to Kao Wu's book titled Essentials of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, several other books on the subject were also written during this period. However, these books were just revised as well as summarised editions of books by earlier authors. Nevertheless, another prominent acupuncturist named Yang Jizhou brought out a new book in 1601 titled A Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. In his book, Yang Jizhou not only compiled the works of several earlier works, but also incorporated sufficient information he gathered from his personal experience and experiments or researches undertaken by him.

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Acupuncture and Buddhism

During this time, traditional Chinese medicine as well as acupuncture spread to different countries and were practised by people other than those in China. In a number of countries like Japan and Korea, these therapies had already become popular medical treatment forms. In fact, Chinese medicine was introduced for the first time in these two countries during the reign of the Chin dynasty (249 B.C. to 206 B.C.), but it actually started becoming popular with the expansion of Buddhism. Following its advent in India in the 6th century B.C., Buddhism reached China roughly in mid-first century A.D. In China, Buddhism developed into practice and tradition and it arrived in Korea during the latter half of 4th century B.C. Approximately two centuries later, Buddhism was introduced in Japan, which witnessed the development of the Zen school that now has followers across the globe. While Buddhism did not immediately become popular in Japan, it was only after the regent Shotoku Taishi (593 A.D. to 622 A.D.) converted to Buddhism, it gave confidence to the Buddhist monks in China to travel to Japan.

Chinese medicine in Japan

It was a practice among the Buddhist monks in China to study acupuncture and Chinese medicine. During the reign of the Sui (589 A.D. to 618 A.D.) as well as the Tang (618 A.D. to 907 A.D.) dynasties, many such physician-monks visited Japan. While these physician-monks were in Japan, they imparted knowledge to the Japanese on anything they desired to be trained in - not only Buddhism, but also the basics related to Chinese medicine.

The earliest Buddhist texts were all written in Pali. However, as the religion spread, scriptures were also written in other languages, such as Sanskrit and Chinese. Some texts written in Pali earlier were also translated into these languages. However, translating these texts in Japanese for the benefit of the country that had just converted to Buddhism took some time and, hence, all the scriptures that were carried by the monks to Japan were in Chinese. In case the Japanese who had converted to read the original texts and not only hear about them from the Chinese monks, who often appended their individual interpretations), they had no choice, but to read Chinese. In fact, many converted Japanese just did this - learn Chinese. Once they became fluent in Chinese, the Japanese were not only able to read the Buddhist scriptures, but also other books that the monks carried with them from China - including those on Chinese medicine as well as acupuncture. Later, during the 7th century, Japanese youths also began traveling to China with a view to master the Chinese language and many of them returned to Japan trained not only in Chinese, but also Chinese medicine.

When an adequate number of Japanese physicians became proficient in the Chinese language, it was possible to translate the main Chinese medical books into Japanese making them available for everyone. And as expected, the Nei Ching was among the first medical books that were translated into Japanese and by early 8th century, it ranked among the standard textbooks for Japanese students studying medicine. By the middle of the 8th century, many Chinese books were imported to Japan by a well-known medical doctor and philanthropist named Chien-Chen. He had also founded a charity health centre in Japan for treating poor patients. Even to this day, several centuries later, Chien-Chen is remembered as well as revered in Japanese temples for his work among the ailing and poor.

Influence of the west

Till the 16th century, Chinese medicine continued to be popular and finally the Western influences overshadowed it. During this period when major trading companies flourished. Ships arrived from Europe to develop markets as well as to find dealers of luxury items in distant places across the world. The Portuguese were enthusiastically believed in the supremacy of Roman Catholicism over the entire 'pagan' religions dispatched their ships to the Far East with intentions other than just trading. In the initial period, people were hostile towards them, as they found out that the Portuguese were only willing to trade with people whom they were unable to conquer. Communities that were comparatively weak were vulnerable of being swamped and slaughtered. Therefore, initially the Portuguese were only given accessibility to one town in entire China - this was the only town with which they could trade.

However, the subsequent surge of Portuguese offensive was rather gentle, as this time the ships also carried missionaries, who succeeded in acquiring some position in China as well as in Japan. Similar to the Buddhist monks who had arrived in Japan from China in the 6th century, the Roman Catholic missionaries also possessed a fair knowledge of medicine. However, this knowledge about medicine then practised in Europe was definitely primitive in comparison to Chinese medicine. However, it took over traditional Chinese medicine practised in Japan, as it was something novel and different and possibly also because of the fact that people who introduced it to the East was more powerful.

During the subsequent three centuries, people in Japan continued practising Chinese medicine and acupuncture, but they were only second in important to the newly introduced Western medicine. In 1884, there was an endeavour to completely wipe out both when a proclamation was issued banning the teaching of acupuncture as well as herbal medicine anywhere in Japan. This edict coincided with the establishment of the medical unit at the Tokyo University. However, even this was not enough to prevent people from practicing Chinese medicine and acupuncture, as they believed in these therapies. Till now, acupuncture and traditional medicine continue to be practised together with the Western therapeutic techniques.

It is surprising to note that in 1822 - 62 years before training people in Chinese medicine and acupuncture techniques was banned in Japan, Emperor Tao Kuang of the Ch'ing dynasty had prohibited use of these therapies in country of their origin. He had ordered the removal of these subjects from the Imperial Medical Academy's syllabus. However, as in the case of Japan, the imperial diktat was unable to prevent people from practising these therapies. As people were very much aware of the importance and value of acupuncture and herbal therapy, they were not prepared to renounce them.

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