Updated: Oct 30, 2022
Although it might seem new to Westerners, there is a long and respected history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Westerners tend to look for the newest and most high-tech forms of medicine and ignore anything considered “old-fashioned” (i.e. – useless). But ask yourself – just why is TCM still around if it has had such a long history? It is still being used today because, for many people, TCM works.
Truth In Legend
We are beginning to see that each myth, superstition or legend was founded on truth. There was a city of Troy, for example. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is true (as long as it’s a fresh apple and not candied or made into pie filling.) There is more legend than facts that can be proved in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but that doesn’t make the medical system any less effective.
Legends about the origins of the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine state it began over 5,000 years ago. The first written records we have only go back so far as 2,000 years ago, which is still a long time. It is called the Hung-De Nie-Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine). This written record refers to much older records about the origins of medical treatments, but those older works have yet to be found.
Some TCM Firsts
The history of Traditional Chinese Medicine is loaded with medical firsts. It is the first to recommend reading the the tongue in combination with the pulse as a key diagnostic tool. It is the first to map acupressure and acupuncture points in order to keep the body working harmoniously. It is one of the first medical systems to emphasise exercise. It provided one of the first detailed looks at human anatomy and the first recorded use of narcotic drugs for medicinal purposes.
The Cultural Revolution
The long, meticulously detailed history of Traditional Chinese Medicine reached a crucial point during China’s Cultural Revolution in 1966 – 1976. In that time, the government wanted China to forge a new identity and obliterate any “old-fashioned” ways – including TCM. Many TCM practitioners were jailed or killed outright.
Fortunately, many TCM practitioners fled China and were given sanctuary in other countries. They have kept the great history of Traditional Chinese Medicine from a needless end. China has since regretted the Cultural Revolution and now welcomes TCM. The World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed TCM as a valid healing system in 1980.