Pins and Nee­dles


Asian Geographic - - On Assignment -

– the in­ser­tion of metal nee­dles into the body as a form of ther­apy – is an an­cient Chi­nese med­i­cal pro­ce­dure that was in­vented thou­sands of years ago. An­cient Chi­nese lit­er­a­ture cred­its the in­ven­tion of acupunc­ture to two Taoist sages, Fu Xi and the Yel­low Em­peror.

Early acupunc­ture nee­dles were made of stone, called bian­shi – as there were no tech­niques for cast­ing iron in an­cient times. These nee­dles evolved from stone knives that early Chi­nese peo­ple used to in­cise ab­scesses, drain pus and con­duct blood­let­ting. Stone knives later evolved into stone nee­dles, relics of which have been found in Shan­dong Prov­ince and In­ner Mon­go­lia, dat­ing back to the Chi­nese stone age.

Records on the use of bian­shi were traced by re­searchers to around 300 BCE in Chi­nese texts such as the Yel­low Em­peror’s Clas­si­cofin­ter­nal Medicine. It claims that bian­shi orig­i­nated along China’s east coast. His­to­ri­ans the­o­rised that thorns, bam­boo or sharp­ened bone fol­lowed these stone nee­dles be­fore metal nee­dles were fi­nally in­tro­duced.

The Chi­nese be­lieve that energy, called qi, flows through the body. Dis­rup­tions to this flow cause dis­ease and ill health. By prick­ing the flow at spe­cific points, the nor­mal flow of energy is re­stored, thereby heal­ing and re­liev­ing pain. The nee­dles may be heated or elec­tri­cally stim­u­lated, and are left in for about 20 min­utes.


Re­searchers dis­cov­ered that acupunc­ture pro­motes the body’s nat­u­ral heal­ing re­sponse, cre­at­ing its fa­mous ther­a­peu­tic ef­fect. The nee­dles stim­u­late elec­tro­mag­netic sig­nals in the body, ac­ti­vat­ing en­dor­phins, im­mune cells and other sub­stances that act as nat­u­ral painkillers. They also pro­mote the re­lease of hor­mones and neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that boost the im­mune sys­tem and nor­malise blood pres­sure and tem­per­a­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, acupunc­ture has been shown to improve the con­di­tion of pa­tients for 28 med­i­cal con­di­tions such as stroke, hy­per­ten­sion and arthri­tis. It was shown to be at least some­what ef­fec­tive at heal­ing 63 other dis­eases.

It has been noted that acupunc­ture is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive for heal­ing ten­sion headaches, ten­nis el­bow and stress-re­lated ail­ments; it has also been proven as a means of re­duc­ing nau­sea caused by chemo­ther­apy.

How­ever ef­fec­tive, the treat­ment re­mains con­tro­ver­sial. Chi­nese med­i­cal the­ory claims that the body con­tains a merid­ian sys­tem where vi­tal energy runs, to which acupunc­ture points pro­vide ac­cess. How­ever, Western doc­tors ar­gue that no proof ex­ists of such merid­i­ans or points.

Today, acupunc­ture is prac­tised in many parts of the world, where treat­ments are some­times given in com­bi­na­tion with Western medicines. Celebri­ties such as Oprah Win­frey, Ce­line Dion, Mariah Carey and Kim Kar­dashian have re­ceived acupunc­ture treat­ments – and have praised its ben­e­fits widely on so­cial me­dia.

and bal­anced diet. Cau­tion­ing against overeat­ing meat (and get­ting drunk), Con­fu­cius be­lieved that cook­ing and eat­ing well was the way to good health. Food had to be stored prop­erly and pre­pared hy­gien­i­cally; if food was spoilt, smelled bad or looked off-colour, it should not be eaten.

Con­fu­cius also em­pha­sised that dishes should be well-cooked, and that in­gre­di­ents should be sea­sonal and sourced lo­cally. Some ac­counts even record that sauces had to be matched to meat dishes cor­rectly – or Con­fu­cius would not eat them. The fa­mous philoso­pher’s cook­ing reper­toire was re­port­edly cre­ated from en­ter­tain­ing of­fi­cials in his home­town of Qufu. The sage also ad­vised that peo­ple should eat only at fixed meal­times, and stop after they were 70 per­cent full. Por­tion sizes should be con­trolled. Peo­ple should not talk, slurp, or gulp as they ate, which would lead to poor di­ges­tion. Many di­eti­tians today still praise the wis­dom of Con­fu­cius’ ad­vice, find­ing it to be highly rel­e­vant even in mod­ern times.

In 2015, China be­gan prepa­ra­tions to bid for the in­clu­sion of “Con­fu­cius cui­sine” in the UNESCO In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage list, along­side tra­di­tional Ja­panese cui­sine and the Mediter­ranean diet. ag

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