Acupuncture originated in China then spread into Asia, spawning a variety of needling techniques, treatment styles, and theoretical frameworks In China, the practice of acupuncture can perhaps be traced as far back as the 1st millennium BC, and archaeological evidence has been identified with the period of the Han dynasty (from 202 BC to 220 AD). Forms of it are also described in the literature of traditional Korean medicine where it is called chimsul. It is also important in Kampo, the traditional medicine system of Japan.
Recent examinations of Ötzi, a 5000-year-old mummy found in the Alps, have identified over fifty tattoos on his body, some of which are located on acupuncture points that would today be used to treat ailments Ötzi suffered from. Some scientists believe that this is evidence that practices similar to acupuncture were practiced elsewhere in Eurasia during the early bronze age.
Acupuncture’s origins in China are uncertain. The earliest Chinese medical texts (Ma-wang-tui graves 68 BC) do not mention acupuncture. The Chinese medical text that first describes acupuncture is The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (History of Acupuncture), which was compiled around 305-204 B.C. Some hieroglyphics have been found dating back to 1000 B.C. that may indicate an early use of acupuncture. Bian stones, sharp pointed stones used to treat diseases in ancient times, have also been discovered in ruins (History of Acupuncture in China); some scholars believe that the bloodletting for which these stones were likely used presages certain acupuncture techniques.
RC Crozier in the book Traditional medicine in modern China (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1968) says the early Chinese Communist Party expressed considerable antipathy towards TCM, ridiculing it as superstitious, irrational and backward, and claiming that it conflicted with the Party’s dedication to science as the way of progress. Acupuncture was included in this criticism. Reversing this position, Communist Party Chairman Mao later said that “Chinese medicine and pharmacology are a great treasure house and efforts should be made to explore them and raise them to a higher level”. Barefoot doctors were trained to provide inexpensive health care in rural Chinese communities. After the Cultural Revolution, TCM instruction was incorporated into university medical curricula under the “Three Roads” policy, wherein TCM, biomedicine and a synthesis of the two would all be encouraged and permitted to develope.