Documents sealed in 198 BCE within the Ma-Wang-Dui tomb in China have no references to acupuncture procedures but has references to system of meridians.
The tradition of acupuncture theory believes that energy flows within the human body and this energy can be channelized to create balance and health. This energy flow is called qi and pronounced “chee”.
Acupuncture theory believes that this qi moves throughout the body along 12 main channels known as meridians. These meridians represent the major organs and functions of the body. These meridians however do not follow the exact pathways of nerves or blood flow.
Further the tattoo marks seen on the ‘Ice Man’ who died in about 3300 BCE are similar to some form of stimulatory treatment that involves the meridians. The Ice Man was found when the Alpine glacier melted.
Earliest documentation that refers to acupuncture procedures is The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, dating from about 100 BCE. In this book the knowledge is in the form of questions made by the Emperor that his learned minister, Chhi-Po has replied to. The book includes the detailed knowledge regarding the concepts of channels (meridians or conduits in which the Qi flows. The details of precise sites of acupuncture points however were developed later.
Acupuncture developed over the next few centuries and gradually became one of the standard therapies used in China. It was complemented and supported by use of massage, diet, herbs and heat therapy or moxibustion.
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It was in the fifteenth century that Bronze statues with acupuncture points that are in use today were depicted. These were used for teaching and examination purposes.
Between the 14th and 16th centuries the Ming dynasty flourished (1368–1644). During this time The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was published with principles of acupuncture on which modern practices of this tradition rests. The book goes on to describe 365 points that represent openings to the channels through which needles could be inserted to modify the flow of Qi.