Modified and translated by CFJA
This is the sixth blog about acumoxa therapy. Since the content on acumoxa is heavy due to its long history and it played a central role in the medical field in Japan and China, we will be breaking it down into pieces and writing several blogs. What is Eastern Medicine? 01 was about acupuncture from the ancient times to the Asuka period (592 – 710); 02 was about acupuncture until the beginning of the Edo period (1603 – 1868); 03 was about moxibustion until the beginning of the Edo period; 04 was about acumoxa after the Edo period; 05 was about China from the ancient times to 1960s. This blog will be about the birth of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) in 1960.
In China, herbal and acumoxa therapy has been practiced as a national medicine from the Han dynasty, through Sui, Tang, Yuan, and Song Dynasties, to the Qing dynasty. In 1822, the court physician caused medical malpractice on the son of the Daoguang emperor of the Qing dynasty. The emperor raged with anger and edicted ‘Although acumoxa therapy holds a prolonged history, inserting a needle on one’s body or burning with moxa are unfavourable to practice on the emperor. Therefore, the department of acumoxa in the imperial medical hospital within the Qing dynasty shall be closed forever’ (鍼灸の一法、由來已に久し、然れども鍼を以って刺し火もて灸するは、究む所奉君の宜しき所にあらず、太医院鍼灸の一科は、永遠に停止と著す). Not only was acumoxa therapy prohibited for the emperor, but also it was prohibited for civilians as well. Since then, acumoxa therapy continued to decline; Chinese medicine in general, including herbal therapy, declined. In China, the research on acumoxa stopped, became difficult to transmit it as a medicine to the next generation and faced corruption in the early period of the Republic of China (ROC). The government of the ROC, established in 1911, did not acknowledge acumoxa and herbal therapy as national medicine, even after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949.
After 1868, to revive China’s traditional medicine, many Chinese traveled to Japan and translated loads of Japanese texts. It is thought that this is one of the reasons why Japanese medical researcher’s philosophies and research results from the attempt to merge modern medicine and eastern medicine were accepted. Also, the victory of Japan in the Sino-Japanese war may have led the Chinese to believe that Japan had more advanced technologies than the Qing dynasty.
There are four peak periods of dispersal of Japanese medical texts in China.
The first peak period was from 1881 to 1885. During this period, due to the Meiji government, in 1874 (the 7th year of the Meiji period), issuing a policy that kanpo doctor 漢方医 (Jp. kanpo i) can generally practice for only one generation, they were restricted from educating their disciples. This forced and led the researchers of traditional medicine to abandon their work. Their vast amount of medical classical documents lost its value and were stored privately or dispersed in the streets. Fortunately, their works (text, woodblock prints, etc.) were remarked upon by the Chinese researchers and government officials who were in Japan at that time. Eventually, they were brought back to China near the end of the Qing dynasty. The study conducted by Dr. Makoto Mayanagi (M.D., Ph.D.), a professor emeritus in the Department of Chinese Studies, showed that there are 751 Japanese medical texts transmitted to China and 296 Chinese Medical texts. During this period, the first medical practitioner’s licencing examination was held in January 1884 (the 17th year of the Meiji period) and Doctor 医師 (Jp. ishi) was officially born for new education – western medicine was starting to become the dominant medicine in Japan.
Japanese acumoxa and herbal therapy were thought to be at the highest level in the later Edo period. It has been 60 years since traditional medicine stopped being practiced in China and while medical texts were demanded in China, traditional medicine stopped being practiced in Japan. Historically, it was uncommon for medical texts to travel from Japan to China. However, since medical texts from Japan dispersed and some ended up in China, the Chinese were given the opportunity to learn about Japanese traditional medicine.