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History of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Last updated by peggie at 2014/11/24

Important role of TCM

Throughout China history, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) played an important role in health.

It saved millions of lives in the country thanks to diagnostic, treatment of the current diseases and the accent put on prevention.

If you tried unsuccessfully the western medicine, acupuncture is maybe the solution to your health problems. The Chinese medicine is a cultural experience which besides the improvement of your healthiness will allow you to enrich your life.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine In History

Having made a big contribution to the wellbeing of the Chinese and to the prosperity of China, Traditional Chinese Medicine continues to develop as people fight against diseases and viruses.

During its 2 000 years of history, China went through epidemics nevertheless owing to the traditional medicine, the consequences were never as dramatic as in the western countries devastated 700 years ago by the plague.

The emergence and development of  Traditional Chinese theory

The theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine is mainly the result of clinical experiments of the doctors. It reached a certain maturity due to the development of the medical practices which origins go back as far as the Stone Age.

The prehistoric men discovered rapidly that several materials could reduce or dissipate some indispositions and that warm stones wrapped into animal skins or with tree woof relieved a number of troubles.

Different Therapies

This discovery marked the beginning of heat treatments and therapy using moxa, or mugwort herb. The human beings also discovered that a localized pain could be cured by acting on another part of the body, what gave its origin to acupuncture and to Jingluo therapy also called Meridian therapy.

Meridian therapy has been practised for thousands of years. It started long before the appearance of the master piece “The Yellow Emperor’s Classics of Internal Medicine” on paper since about 2,500 years ago.

Huangdi Neijing

The Huangdi Neijing is an ancient treatise on health and disease said to have been written by the famous Chinese emperor Huangdi around 2600 BC. However, Huangdi is a semi-mythical figure, and the book probably dates from later, around 300 BC and may be a compilation of the writings of several authors.

Huangdi Nei Jing

 Huangdi Nei Jing

Whatever its origin, the book has proved influential as a reference work for practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine well into the modern era. The book took the form of a discussion between Huangdi and his physician in which Huangdi inquires about the nature of health, disease, and treatment.

Theoretical foundation of the Chinese medicine and reference for the students and the Chinese experts in medicine, the Classic of The Yellow Emperor described in great details dissection, physiology,  pathologies, diagnostic, prevention and treatment.

Shennong Jing

Almost in the same period, the compilation of the Shennong herbal about 1,800 years ago called Shennong Jing (Classic of Shennong), the oldest Chinese volume of pharmacology appeared. Put into practice in the course of the centuries by the practitioners and used by the modern science, the work presents the descriptions of about 365 curative herbs.

Shang han za bing lun

At the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty, an epidemic spread to Nanyang, in the province of Henan. A young man called Zhang Zhongjing, who witnessed the death of more than 130 members of his family, dedicated himself to the study of the medicine.

In merit to the study of the former medical texts and experiencing the medical domain, Zhang  wrote in the early 3rd century CE a work titled Shang han za bing lun (Treatise on Febrile and Other Diseases), which greatly influenced the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Relax yourself with a Yangtze River Cruise

Canon of Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Under the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316), Huangfu Mi compiled the Canon of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, the oldest book on acupuncture found today in China; a collection of various texts on acupuncture written in earlier periods which had a big authority on the modern acupuncture. Huangfu gives the name to 349 points of acupuncture, their exact location, the indications and methods of manipulation.

The growth of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is vast and deep. Numerous shops sell medicinal food. A single dose of Chinese Medicine contains numerous varieties of herbs.

Under Sui (589–618 CE) and Tang dynasties (June 18, 618 – June 1, 907), the stability and the prosperity of China allowed Traditional Chinese Medicine to know a huge growth.

In 657, Emperor Gaozong of Tang dynasty (r. 649–683) commissioned the literary project of publishing an official materia medica, completed with text and illustrated drawings for 833 different medicinal substances taken from different stones, minerals, metals, plants, herbs, animals, vegetables, fruits, and cereal crops.

It was the first pharmacopoeia promulgated in the world.

Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine store in Modern times

Authors of medicine in the Tang dynasty included Zhen Qian (d. 643) and Sun Simiao (581–682), the former who first identified in writing that patients with diabetes had an excess of sugar in their urine, and the latter who was the first to recognize that diabetic patients should avoid consuming alcohol and starchy foods.

As written by Zhen Qian and others in the Tang dynasty, the thyroid glands of sheep and pigs were successfully used to treat goitres; thyroid extracts were not used to treat patients with goitre in the West until 1890.

three major turning points of three major turning points

three major turning pointshinges on three major turning points: the formation of canonical theory in the Han dynasty; the transformation of medicine via the integration of earlier medical theories and practices in the Song dynasty; and the impact of Western medicine from the nineteenth century onwards.

Under the Song Dynasty, the Imperial Court valued the learning of the Traditional Chinese Medicine and established the imperial medical Office concentrating all the great talents of this period.

During the Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1206-1368) dynasties, numerous schools of traditional medicine appeared.

Under the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Li Shizhen, was one of the greatest Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists in history. His major contribution was his 27-year work the Compendium of Materia Medica (Pen-tsao Kang-mu or Bencao Gangmu; 本草綱目).

This medical text includes 1 892 different herbs and more than 10 000 prescriptions.

From the 11th century, the Traditional Chinese Medicine began to employ inoculation against the smallpox and immunology.

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the various schools led a battle against the infectious diseases, bringing essential information on the transmission of the pathogenic genes in particular for the diseases without gravity.

Wu Yu-hsing (1582-1652 A.D.) developed the concept that some diseases were caused by transmissible agents, which he called liqi (pestilential factors). His book Wenyi Lun (Treatise on Acute Epidemic Febrile Diseases) can be regarded as the main etiological work that brought forward the concept, ultimately attributed to Westerners, of germs as a cause of epidemic diseases.

His theory played an important role in the evolution of the treatment of the diseases if underlined that in the middle of the 18th century, nobody knew the existence of bacteria.

Under the Qing dynasty (1616-1911), the school of Wu Youxing knew a prodigious expansion and largely contributed to the treatment of epidemic diseases.

With 2 000 years of improvement, the Traditional Chinese Medicine shaped its own methodological system today.

From the foundation of the People's Republic of China onwards, the country knew how to make fast progress with the support of the government and managed in particular to become more scientific.

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