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Unraveling the Intriguing History of Acupuncture: From Ancient China to Modern Medicine

From China to modern medicine: The fascinating history of acupuncture

Acupuncture is a very important part of traditional Chinese medicine, and its history goes back thousands of years—modern-day integration into Western medicine. Find out about the important events, changing techniques, and well-known historical figures that have made acupuncture what it is today.

Origins and Early Development

  • Acupuncture is an essential aspect of traditional Chinese medicine with a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. Let’s dive into this ancient healing art’s origins and early development.

Ancient Beginnings

  • Acupuncture started in China at approximately 6000 BCE. Ancient evidence shows that Bian stones, pointed stones, and bones, were used to puncture the skin to relieve pain and treat various diseases.

Huangdi Neijing: The Foundational Text

  • Acupuncture beliefs and practices are based on the Huangdi Neijing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon), the oldest and most important literature on traditional Chinese medicine, from 305-204 BCE. This book covers acupuncture meridians, points, procedures, and therapeutic benefits.

Acupuncture in the Han Dynasty

  • Acupuncture flourished throughout the Han Period (206 BCE–220 CE). Scholars developed the original acupuncture point maps and meridians hypothesis.

The Discovery of the Mawangdui Texts

Acupuncture in the Tang, Song, and Ming Dynasties

  • During the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) Imperial Medical College elevated acupuncture to a respected medical practice. The Zhenjiu Jia Yi Jing (Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) by Wang Weiyi in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE) refined and standardized acupuncture practices and beliefs.

Yang Jizhou’s Zhenjiu Dacheng (The Grand Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion) during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) was another key acupuncture milestone. This long-term study gathered and organized information about acupuncture and moxibustion, which led to more people using and practicing them.

Acupuncture in Modern China

  • Acupuncture declined with China’s 19th and 20th century Westernization. Acupuncture was revived after 1949’s People’s Republic of China. Chairman Mao Zedong founded the Traditional Chinese Medicine Movement in 1950 to integrate traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, into modern healthcare.

World Health Organization’s Recognition

Acupuncture in the Western World

  • European missionaries and traders discovered acupuncture in China in the 16th century. Western countries didn’t embrace acupuncture until the 1970s..

The Nixon Visit and “Acupuncture Anesthesia”

Acupuncture Gains Traction in the United States

  • Acupuncture swiftly took off in the U.S. The first legal acupuncture center opened in Washington, D.C., in 1973, and the NIH conducted its inaugural Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture in 1982. The NIH approved acupuncture for chronic pain, nausea, and headaches in 1997. Acupuncture has grown in popularity in the US and other Western countries since then.

Key Historical Figures in Acupuncture

Various scholars and practitioners have influenced acupuncture’s progress. Key figures include:

Huang Fu Mi (215-282 CE)

  • A distinguished Jin Dynasty physician, Huang Fu Mi, wrote the Zhenjiu Jiayi Jing (A-B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), which systematized and standardized acupuncture ideas and procedures.

Wang Weiyi (11th century CE)

  • During the Song Dynasty, Wang Weiyi wrote the Zhenjiu Jia Yi Jing (Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion), improving and unifying acupuncture knowledge.


The Continuing Evolution of Acupuncture

Scientific Research and Evidence-Based Practice

  • Evidence-based research guides modern acupuncturists. Acupuncture has been shown to heal many illnesses, and current research is revealing its processes and prospective uses.

The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence Supporting the Effectiveness of Acupuncture for Various Conditions


The fact that acupuncture has been around for thousands of years shows its usefulness and flexibility. From its beginnings in ancient China to its use in modern healthcare systems around the world, acupuncture continues to change and help many people.

Experience the benefits of acupuncture firsthand with Brian Downum LAc, a renowned acupuncturist in Solana Beach, San Diego, CA. Schedule your appointment today by calling (858) 794-9644 and discover how acupuncture can enhance your overall health and well-being.