There is ample proof that indicates that man has been using marijuana since the pre-historic times. Normally, the use of marijuana by man is estimated to date back to about 10,000 years ago, but findings at a pre-historic village unearthed in Taiwan in 1972 indicates that the herb has been in use since time immemorial.
Ruins of earthenware found in this pre-historic Taiwanese village sustained marks of hemp (a narcotic drug made from plant found in Asia that is smoked, chewed, eaten or drunk to produce a mild euphoric reaction) twines providing proof that marijuana has been used by men in this part of the world since the Stone Age.
It is interesting to note that excavations in the ruins of the Nile civilization in Egypt have revealed that the people there used marijuana for its medicinal properties since as early as the 16th century.
Similarly, diggings at the primeval Hebrew civilization sites also prove that they used marijuana as a therapy during childbirth since long before the birth of Jesus Christ. Therefore, there is little doubt that the multifaceted properties and uses of marijuana have demonstrated to be a priceless reserve for the continued existence of the Chinese culture since days immemorial to the present.
Significantly, the most primitive substance that was recognized as fabric from the hemp was discovered in a primeval burial site said to belong to the Chou Dynasty (1122-1249 B.C.) in China. This discovery of this hemp fabric corroborated the numerous mentions in history regarding the significance of help in ancient China.
According to the instructions in the Book of Rites (compiled in 200 B.C.), the mourners in China were required to wear clothes made from hemp fabric as this was considered to be a way to show respect to the departed soul. Incidentally, this ancient tradition is still followed in several parts of China even today.
However, what is of greater significance is the innovation of the hemp paper by the Chinese as early as 200 B.C. This invention not only helped the early Chinese to maintain all their records, but also enabled them to perform an elementary task - run the government in a methodical manner.
The Chinese were successful in keeping in secret the invention as well as the process of making paper from hemp fiber for as long as 900 years, eventually paper manufactured from hemp became crucial for the speedy progress of all the civilizations across the world.
Significantly, several thousand years before paper made from hemp became a crucial aspect of the European civilizations, China - a nation historically known to the world as the land of hemp and mulberry - had advanced by leaps and bounds in utilizing the therapeutic and industrialized use of 'Ma' or the marijuana.
Medicine practitioners in early China carved the hemp stems into decorative snake-like figures and believed that they acted as good luck charm and helped in getting rid of devils or evil spirits which were considered to be the basis of all corporal ailments. The healing process of these medicine men too was peculiar.
They tried to cure all types of diseases by thumping the headboards of the patients' beds with the flamboyant mysterious hemp stalks while narrating magic charms and invocations to drive away the demons. In Japan, the Shinto priests also performed a comparable ritual by using a small baton conjoined with hemp fibers that are not dyed.
This was done with the belief that the serenity of the white hemp stalks would be more effectual in getting rid of the evil spirits and hence the diseases. While modern day science as well as progressive-thinking masses may reject these rituals as mere superstitions, considering the origins of such ceremonies, there may still be reasons for some observers to give such long-standing traditions a thought.
According to myth as well as history, Chinese emperor Shen-Nung, who ruled the Himalayan nation around 2800 B.C. is said to have introduced different medicines to his people. His name is often mentioned in myths as well as in historical references.
According to a myth, emperor Shen-Nung reportedly had a transparent abdomen and he deliberately consumed at least 70 special herbs and plants daily. He practiced this to observe the consequences of these herbs and identify their different properties and usefulness.
This way, Shen-Nung is believed to have discovered hundreds of various kinds of medicines for different ailments. His findings are recorded in the world's oldest manuscript on medicines - 'Pen Ts'ao'. For his unique efforts, people considered emperor Shen-Nung as sacred and till date the Chinese consider him as the father of their traditional medicine.
Pen Ts'ao says that 'ma-fen' or the flowers of the female marijuana plant comprise maximum amount of yin (the principle of darkness, negativity, and femininity in Chinese philosophy that is the counterpart of yang) force. According to the Chinese philosophy, yin is the accessible female trait and in their traditional philosophy and medicine it is vigorously related to yang - the ingenious male constituent.
In ancient China, medicine men recommended the use of ma-fen to reinstate the loss of yin in people. For instance, the herbal element is administered to women suffering from exhaustion during menstruation, to cure rheumatism (firmness in joints and muscles), malaria, beri-beri (a degenerative disease of the nerves caused by vitamin deficiency), constipation and even absent-mindedness or forgetfulness.
However, it has been warned in Pen Ts'ao that consuming marijuana seeds in excess and over a long period may lead an individual to see the demons. It also says that ingesting the Ma seeds for prolonged periods may also help one to communicate with the spirits.
Apart from telling his people about the different therapeutic uses of the marijuana or Ma, the Chinese emperor Shen-Nung also offered advice and lessons on cultivating hemp for clothing and other textile utilities. Incidentally, in many rural regions of China, people still follow his training in cultivating the hemp.
Bizarrely enough, alchemists (early chemists who sought to transform base metals into gold and discover a life-prolonging elixir) of the Tao era in the first century A.D. breathed in smokes of the burning hemp seeds with a view to get visions that were treasured as an approach to achieve immortality.
In fact, in ancient China people believed that marijuana was a better quality elixir (a substance which was once thought to extend life indefinitely) that could refresh the mind as well as the body.
Conventional Chinese medical practitioners have used Ma or marijuana pragmatically to cure different kinds of ailments. In the second century A.D., a famous Chinese surgeon called Hua T'o undertook difficult operations using ma-yo, an anesthetic prepared by blending marijuana resin and wine.
It has been stated that when application of acupuncture and medications failed to cure certain problems, Ho performed complicated surgeries like amputation and even organ grafting fastened with sutures (a thread or wire used to close a wound or connect tissues).
It is reported that the use of ma-yo as an anesthesia made even such crucial and difficult operations painless for the patients. In the 10 the century A.D., a group of Chinese medical practitioners found that ma-yo proved to be effectual in healing waste diseases and injuries.
On the other hand, physicians used Ma to absolve the blood of impurities and bring down temperatures during fevers. Medicines prepared from the herb were also said to be effective in healing rheumatism and for trouble-free childbirths.