Acupuncture - a unique system of therapy and pain relief - has been in constant use throughout the Chinese-culture area for some 2500 years. It developed during the Chou period (first millennium BC) and its theory and practice were already well systematized by the early Han period (second century BC). These are immortalized in the Huang Ti Nei Ching (The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic or Canon of Medicine), consisting of two parts, the Su Wen (second century BC) and the Ling Shu (first century BC).1 By approximately 300 AD, the development of the whole system was complete.
The Su Wen and the Ling Shu describe where the 12 regular acupuncture tracts (the main meridians) begin and end. It is striking that these limits have remained unchanged for two thousand years, while the anatomical courses of the meridians have undergone no serious alteration.1 A large proportion of the classical acupuncture point names still in current use can be found in these treatises.
1 Lu GWEI-DJIEN & NEEDHAM, J. Celestial lancets: a history and rationale of acupuncture and moxa. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1980.
In the history of acupuncture in China, Japan, the Korean peninsula and elsewhere in Asia, there have been periods when its practice fell into decline, or, with the advent of modern Western medicine, when it was banned or neglected. During the last four decades, however, great importance has been attached by the Chinese authorities to traditional Chinese medicine in general and to acupuncture in particular. Concurrently, in Europe and the Americas, there has been growing interest in the therapeutic applications of acupuncture and in the search for explanations of its modes of action, in terms of modern scientific knowledge. In the past 20 years many new acupuncture points have been recognized, notably in connection with auricular acupuncture.