onsdag 20 april 2011

The oldest acupuncture needles

From the Shang dynasty, almost 4000 years ago. There are needles the archeologist think predates this, maybe by as much as another 6000 years. The stone needles aren´t really needles as such, just sharpened, thin stones, probably used more to poke and activate points than actually put them deeper inside the body. The oldest characters for yisheng, doctor, combines doctor with the characters for a spear and arrows. This might have come from that the earliest acupuncturists were shamen who did exorcist practices of activating points to release bad energy, let in good, or clean out the effects of ill-tempered ancestors or bad spirits. It might also have the connotation of intent, as in the doctor and shaman having a clear intent into the point and into the effect the treatment was meant to have. Shamen in most cultures are associated with feathers, or feather shrouds, as a sign of their ability to leave their body ”and take flight” into this or other realms to protect the village or clan. This is seen in the character fangshi, which later became daoshi, Daoist priest. Maybe the arrows in the pictogram had connotations of wingpens, or of arrows used to guide rituals.

Bronze needles, crafted during the Zhou dynasty, 800 BC. These were made by smiths at the same time a lone Daoist looked at the last of the Oracle Bones, and with a shrug dipped his brush in ink and wrote the first character of the Zhouyi, the original version of the Yijing, the Book of Change.

Gold needles, made during the Han dynasty, 200 BC., the same time that Zhang Zhongjing wrote the Shang Han Lun, the Treatise on Cold Disorders, and saw so many villagers die from typhoid that he made specialized studies and treatments of the disease. Several dozen medical treatises from 200 AD have been lost over the millenia, but Zhang´s book was famous already from the next generation and onwards. 140 years before Zhang refused a post as Imperial physician so that he instead can treat more people freely, Bodicea, the Celtic queen, attacks and burns down London to punish the townsfolk who kidnapped her women and children to sell as slaves. There is still a layer of oxidized red iron, wood and ash from her fire, in the layers of that time under London today.

Gold and silver needles have been used in Daoist acupuncture for as long as they have existed. There are specific effects from them, and specific sequences they are used in. These skills are almost gone today.