A short introduction of Chinese medicine historyCody Dodo

Cody-Dodo

Another outcome of this growing Empire, was rapidly growing bureaucracies. For the first time, alongside the emperor ruled also government officials. The growing role of government in the affairs of the state alongside the imperial power reflected in medicine by the addition of the Pericardium channel as the twelfth channel. The Organs – the Zang Fu were likened to government official and the medicine shifted from channel focused to organ focused energetics.

Chinese medicine has a rich and complex history, largely shaped by the historical development of China itself. Each dynasty brought upon a new set of rules and ideas rendering the former dynastic traditions obsolete. As a result, many customs were lost or modified.  Chinese Medicine changed accordingly. As it evolved, parts of it either disappeared or were forgotten.

The most recent change in Chinese Medicine occurred during the Cultural Revolution in China. The medicine was banned from use, practitioners executed, and practices such as Qi Gong and traditional Martial arts were prohibited. It was only the desperate need for doctors that encouraged the Republic to standardize the medicine and create what is now known as TCM. The new standard was created in order to quickly train the “barefoot doctors” to treat people plagued by epidemics such as cholera and small pox during the first half of the 20th century.

Most books and material used in the standardization of TCM date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). The Ming Dynasty followed the foreign Mongol rule. In typical Confucius tradition, the philosophers of the Ming period questioned the demise of their rule. This questioning led to a revival of old principals and old traditions – one of which was the use of acupuncture as a medical modality. Confucianism also enjoyed a period of revival at that time. This revival of old ideas and the renewed interest in the ability of acupuncture was an attempt to restore a powerful medicine that was lost. But it was not lost because of the Mongols. Vast majority of the knowledge and practice was abandoned even prior to that. It was lost during the establishment of medicine as a profession – during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

The Song dynasty was a period of great growth for China. It was the most populous and rich country at the time in Asia. Bureaucracy grew to include government officials and local administrators in addition to, and alongside of the emperor. Inventions such as block printing and movable type were developed, which contributed to the spread of knowledge and literature. Rich cultural life developed as a result of cultural growth in philosophy, science and technologies. Making the civil service exam more prominent than ever before, led to the establishment of a bureaucratic elite with emphasis on the professions.

The changes that took place in China at the time of the Song dynasty had a direct impact on the medicine. So much so that almost every change from government structure to growing literacy had a mirroring effect on the practice of medicine.

One of the biggest impacts of the medicine was the rapid expansion of the empire during the Song dynasty. The northern and the southern parts of China were reunited under a strong dynasty for the first time. In medicine, this was reflected by the synthesis of Herbal medicine (originated in the lush South) and the theories of acupuncture (a northern modality). The synthesis of these two modalities became the first sign in the decline of the power of acupuncture.

As the Empire expanded, so did its metropolitan life and cities. Prior to the Song dynasty, medicine was taught from master/teacher to apprentice. The medicine itself was practiced in villages, by either a resident of the village or by bell doctors who roamed the countryside from village to village announcing their arrival with a ringing of a bell. As the population moved from countryside to cities, the time and space for acupuncture treatments became limited and was rapidly replaced by herbal formulas.

Another outcome of this growing Empire, was rapidly growing bureaucracies. For the first time, alongside the emperor ruled also government officials. The growing role of government in the affairs of the state alongside the imperial power reflected in medicine by the addition of the Pericardium channel as the twelfth channel. The Organs – the Zang Fu were likened to government official and the medicine shifted from channel focused to organ focused energetics.

As bureaucracies were established, so did the standardization of professions and the enforcement of public service exams began. The Imperial Medical Academy was established (1076 CE) to supervise and standardize the practice of medicine. For the first time, one had to pass a test in order to practice medicine. Bell doctors and the like were banned from the practice of medicine. Physicians that did not agree with the politics and the conclusions of the centralized Medical Academy ended up in the outskirts of the Empire in areas that today are South-East Asia. These physicians helped preserve styles of treatment that never survived Chinese “main stream” medicine at the time.

Lastly, with the invention of block printing came the ability to produce books. Movable type (1045 CE)  allowed for mass production of books. Now, knowledge that was only the share of a few, was printed for all to learn. Libraries and schools ensued. In medicine- traditions originally kept by one Master and taught to one student, now became available to teach in large forums. Specialties and doctrines developed. The Imperial Medical Academy publications enabled standardization of point locations, point prescriptions and treatment protocols.

Although the Imperial Academy conducted extensive research and exhaustive investigation into point function, and was instrumental for the creation of specialties within the field of medicine, it had the power to favour some practices over others. All but one of the classical nine needles of acupuncture was abandoned from use. The Divergent channels were not practiced or studied. The Luo and the Primary channels were also declining in use. With time, herbal medicine was the preferred modality of healing whereas acupuncture was considered barbaric and obsolete. By the late Song Dynasty it was rarely practiced, until its relative revival during the Ming dynasty - almost 200 years later.

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