History Of Acupuncture - part 4

The third method that was practiced by Pien Chueh during diagnosing a patient involved questioning, which is a major part of diagnosis in all medicine forms, including Chinese, Western, Indian Ayurvedic as well as other harmonizing treatments. In the end, Pien Chueh diagnosed the pulse of the patient.

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During the sixth century A.D., the Chinese exported The Classic of the Pulse to Japan as well as Korea. As Chinese medicine had arrived in these two neighboring nations many centuries earlier their medical practice also incorporated the art of pulse diagnosis. A few years after publication of The Classic of the Pulse, another book titled The Chu Ping Yuan Hou Lun, which is known as 'A Discourse on the Causes as well as Symptoms of All Ailments' in English was published in A.D. 610 and it also had a very significant role in the advancement of Japanese as well as Korean medicine. Perhaps the ostentatious title of this book was validated, because it comprised as many as 50 volumes and virtually brought together the entire medical knowledge available at that time. Chao Yuan Fang, who edited this fabulous book, was a physician at emperor's court.

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Spread of acupuncture

With the advancement of Chinese medicine during the Tang dynasty, it became well-known to many in other parts of the globe and several physicians from different nations began to arrive in China to be trained in the latest techniques. Physicians from the Arab world came to China to study pulse diagnosis as well as the cause and treatment of various contagious ailments. Eventually, during the 11th century A.D., the Chinese exported The Classic of the Pulse to the Middle East and by the middle of the 14th century, this wonderful book was transformed into Turkish. Abu-Ali al-Husain ibn Abdullah ibn Sina, the renowned Persian physician who was more familiar as Avicenna (A.D. 980 to A.D. 1037), wrote down a great medical text titled AI-Qanun fi'l-Tibb (which when translated into English denotes The Canon of Medicine) wherein he talked about the accomplishments of the Greek physicians and also explained the different medical techniques, which had been written in other Arabic books. In addition, Avicenna also incorporated the different techniques he had developed himself during the course of his practice, information derived from what he learnt during his several travels as well as what he realized from reading various medical books into his massive work. The contents of his book also included pulse diagnosis. He was familiar with 24 different kinds of pulse and wrote about them in detail in his book.

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Both, acupuncture as well as moxibustion became very well accepted in China during the reign of the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960 to A.D. 1279), primarily owing to the patronage they received from the emperors and the nobility. Notwithstanding this and in spite of the fact that acupuncture as well as the diagnostic techniques related to Chinese medicine had become very familiar to people in several regions in Asia and the Middle East, the imperial court in China was of the view that over the years imprecision had taken place in the practice of Chinese medicine. In fact, several books written in the early periods were missing and several of the benchmark reference books were basically compilations of other works and it was possible that they might have included many errors. During the 11th century, a physician in the courts of two Northern Sung dynasty emperors - Chen-Tsung (A.D. 997 to A.D. 1022) as well as Jen-Tsung (A.D. 1022 to A.D. 1063), Wang Wei-I was told to undertake an investigation to determine the soundness of the acupuncture system that was being practised then as well as to undertake the earliest major modification of the theory related to acupuncture.

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Rectifying errors

Following this, Wang Wei-I engaged him in a massive investigation program. He probed into the entire acupuncture points, which were used by practitioners then and validated their positions. In addition, Wang Wei-I examined every point in succession and confirmed the length to which each point ought to be pierced with a view to create the most favourable effect. In the end, he detected the consequences that might be caused by inserting needles in each of the acupuncture points on the body. Based on his findings, Wang Wei-I brought out a book referred to as The New Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture.

The precise dates when Wang Wei-I lived are not known, but it is believed that he may possibly have died before 1034 - the year in which the emperor who patronized him, Emperor Jen-Tsung, a conformist Confucian as well as a benefactor of scholars, became ill. At that time, the emperor was just 24-years-old and was being attended by physicians of the imperial court, who despite using various acupuncture techniques, were not able to make him well. In the end, an extremely proficient acupuncturist called Xu Xi treated him with success.

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It is surprising to know that the courtiers who were close to the emperor, however, almost prevented Xu Xi from undertaking his treatment. This is because after examining the emperor, the master acupuncturist announced that he planned to introduce needles into points just lower than the level of the heart in the emperor's chest. Appalled at this, the courtiers said that they would not allow the treatment to take place under any circumstance, as they believed that this mode of treatment would kill the emperor, instead of curing him. However, Xu Xi promised the courtiers that the therapy was definitely safe and he even proposed that he would like to hold a demonstration of the treatment technique on an individual, whose death, even if it did happen, would be a lesser tragedy. The courtiers accepted this proposal and they suggested that Xu Xi perform the demonstration on the court eunuchs seemed to be not very important.

Accordingly, Xu Xi inserted the acupuncture needles into the chest of the eunuchs and at the specific points he had mentioned. When nothing detrimental happened and the eunuchs remained unscathed, the courtiers were astonished as well as relieved to see that the acupuncturist has told the truth. Eventually, the courtiers permitted Xu Xi to undertake the treatment on the emperor and he recovered rapidly. All those present in the court were impressed to such extent by Xu Xi's skills that he was immediately anointed the Imperial Medical Academy officer.

While it is apparent that a number of court physicians in Emperor Jen-Tsung's court were not mostly skilled in the techniques of acupuncture, people still remember Wang Wei-I, who served Jen-Tsung as well as Emperor Chen-Tsung, for his contribution to acupuncture as well as for spreading knowledge regarding the techniques of this therapy. It is interesting to note that Wang Wei-I used a human model made from bronze and whose surface was perforated with holes precisely made at all the points used in acupuncture. Obviously, this was founded on the entire investigations he had embarked on while compiling his book titled The New Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture. Later, the bronze models introduced by Wang Wei-I turned out to be important aids for teaching the techniques of acupuncture to medical students. In addition, these bronze models were also used to assess the knowledge of the students during examinations undertaken at the Imperial Medical Academy.

Prior to any examination, the models were swathed with a dense layer of molten wax and it was allowed to solidify in order to conceal the holes made at the acupuncture points from the examinees. Subsequently, the model's void inside was filled up with water. During the exam, a case would be narrated to the student and he would have to say what exactly he would do to cure the patient employing acupuncture. Once the student would have finished explaining the acupuncture points he would use and the reason for doing so, he would be asked to find the points on the model by inserting one needle in each of the points, which he had mentioned, passing across the wax. If the student was successful in locating the points, the needles would pass across the wax and well into the holes under the covering. The perforations would be made in such a manner that water would ebb after the needles were taken away.

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