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Eleanor Van Slyke

Dr. James Horton

Hist 38

May 11, 2000

Chinese Medicine and Religion

As with all things we know little about there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding acupuncture. The part people see the most is a person with needles sticking out of their flesh. Understandably being wary of sharp pointed objects being wielded by a complete stranger, this is often an obstacle that needs to be over come. The best way to do this is by becoming educated about how acupuncture is performed, where it came from, what it does, some of the benefits vs. the problems, and the different views about it. Though out the many different texts on acupuncture you find there is room for interpretation on how to perform it, what to use, and even where the pressure is placed. One thing you will find in common among these texts is this, acupuncture works to varying degrees.

The earliest recordings of the use of acupuncture go back 2,000 years. In China it is widely expressed that it has been in use for 4,000 years. The origins go back as early as the Stone Age where abscesses were punctured by sharp stones or bone fragments. ( History ) When you experience pain it is an instinctive reaction to apply pressure to that location. Such as when you get a toothache. Also the body may experience pain where the infection is not localized. Your body naturally sends you warning signals that something is wrong. The Ancient Chinese utilized these warnings, and developed an intricate system of these points over time through observation. It is easy to infer that applying pressure to relive pain with your hands evolved into the use of needles instead.

Tortoise shells have been found and dated back to 1500 B.C. - during the Shang Dynasty - recording the use of acupuncture. The first actual written text acclaiming acupuncture is called Nei Ching Su Wen. It is written into two basic sections. The Su Wen, or easy questions and the Lung Shu, or hard questions. This book basically lays out all the different points, but it is mostly a book on concept and theory. The Nei Ching Su Wen lays the basic rules of philosophy and treaties on health. These philosophies branched form two mainstream religions that abounded during the Warring States period in Chinese history. The first is Confucianism. The teachings of this " religion " stress that the body is scared and are against dissection or surgery. This makes acupuncture a perfect means of curing ales because by applying pressure to the external body, you can relieve internal disease. The other major train of thought is called Taoism. In this pool of thought comes the idea of Yin and Yang. Maintaining harmony is the stressed idea; you must have a balance between the forces at work. Interconnection of all things is also very important to the theory of how acupuncture works. The passive, nonviolent theme is promoted, thus supporting the external use of small needles. The unique way the diagnosis is made stems from an emphasis on detailed observation. Thus acupuncture is a process, which is not merely clinical. ( History )

The European definition for acupuncture means needle pressure. Acupuncture is really a Dutch term coined by William Ten Rhyne in the 17th century. ( history ) In china acupuncture is represented by the character ' Chen". Which means to "prick with a needle." ( History ) There are many different ways to apply the pressure. It is not necessary to use the needles, often is more effective to use your fingers. ( Leong 72 ) There is a method called Moxibustion, which is the use of heat by itself or in combination with needles. An acupuncturist will use the dried leaves of Artemisia vulgaris. This method used to leave scarring, now it is utilized by burning a small cone on specific points, or heating the needle before insertion. ( Leong 87 ) Friction, suction, or impulses of electromagnetic energy may also be used to stimulate acupuncture points. ( Alternative )

Of all the different techniques they all use the same points. The organs they help connect these points. All the points connected like a dot-to-dot pattern are called a meridian. There are fourteen main meridians, and these are connected by smaller meridians. ( Chaitow 21 ) There are also five main elements and organs that are connected by these meridians. These are fire ( heart ), earth ( spleen ) , metal ( lung ) , water ( kidney ) , wood ( liver). The two cycles of the elements are called Sheng ( creation ) and K'O ( control ). These cycles work much like paper, rock , and scissors. In the Sheng cycle wood feeds fire, fire makes ashes, earth makes metal, metal defined as slime, and water , so metal makes water. There is another cycle, but it is not the reverse of the first. It's meaning is opposing, not the order in which it flows. Water puts out fire, metal cuts wood, wood plows earth, earth dams water. The Sheng cycle is circle shaped, and the K'O cycle is star shaped. ( Leong 51 )

The traditional Chinese view of acupuncture is based on trial and error over hundreds of years, and a lot of symbolic representation. The meridians ( or channels ) run in regular patterns over the surface of the body. They irrigate and give nourishment to the body. Any obstruction of this flow of Yin and Yang must be unblocked by applying pressure to certain points. ( How ) Some of the different qualities given to Yang are : plus, hot, light, man, and the tendency to grow outward. Some of the symptoms of Yang are : pain, burning, spasms, over activity, excess. Some of the qualities of Yin are minus, cold, dark, women, tendency to shrink inward. The symptoms of Yin are : paralysis, cold, laxity, under activity, and deficiency. The sum of the Yin and Yang are equal to zero or Tao. ( Leong 19 )

The Yin and Yang go along with the traditional approach to acupuncture. One of unique ways to diagnoses people is that they use pulse. There are six veins I your wrist and depending on how fast or slow your heart beats in each vein determines what aliment you have. Acupuncturists also take into account how you look, your skin color - yellow or pale - and your bearing. They also listen very attentively to your heart, tone of voice, breathing pattern. They also ask many questions, they want to know who you are so they known who they're treating them. ( Leong 19 )

The skeptics are found in the west, because most western countries don't have the background and origin



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