Nawei's Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

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Printing and Language

China developed the art of printing in the Sui and Tang dynasties, although it was not widely used during these periods as most books were copied by hand. Early Chinese printing is rather like a lino-cut, the characters being carved on stone and hand-made prints taken from each block. During the Sung dynasty (AD 960-1280), printing techniques were improved and used extensively. This gave a great boost to acupuncture as far more books became available. Many of the pre-Sun, books suffered from repetition and confusion, especially over the location of various points and channels. . These books were copied by non-medical calligraphers and this led to a great deal of confusion over the exact meaning of some of the characters in the text.

Chinese characters can change their meaning completely with a slight change in the text, and therefore a transcription error can easily change the sense of the text. The ambiguity of Chinese characters still poses a great problem in the translation of classical Chinese; for instance the character ‘Ni’ can mean to disobey, or to be in accord with someone. Exact translations therefore require the translator to understand the sense of the text and translate in accordance with this. The advent of more efficient printing techniques led to a more exact and faithful copy of the author’s work, and therefore a clearer interpretation of the meaning of the characters. It is interesting to note that in Chinese philosophy all things have their natural opposites inherently within them (there is Yin in Yang, and Yang in Yin), and this is also displayed in the language as each of the characters may have a diametrically opposite translation.

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