Nawei's Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

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The ‘New’ Bronze Model for Teaching Acupuncture Points

Because of the confusion that had gone before him, Wei-yi collected and collated all the information that was available to him in the eleventh century. He redefined all the points and channels and compiled an authoritative text called Illustrated Manual on the Points for Acupuncture and Moxibustion on the New Bronze Model. This text dates from AD 1026 and details the use of 354 points on the body. A vast amount of information is given about the location of the points, the method of needle insertion into each point, and the clinical indications for the use of specific points. There are also illustrations in the text to assist teaching and to act as a method of swift reference for the acupuncturist.

The Chinese were so impressed by this book that a statue was erected with the whole text on it! Two huge stone tablets were carved, some two metros high and seven metros wide, containing all the characters in Wang Wei-yi’s book. These tablets stood in the capital of the Sung dynasty, now the city of Kaifeng in Honan province, where they could be read directly, or used like a brass-rubbing to make a permanent copy of the book.

Wang Wei-yi also directed foundry men to create two life sized bronze models for acupuncture. These hollow models had on them the exact locations and names of the acupuncture points, and were used for teaching. Chou Mi, of the southern Sung dynasty, records in the Historical Anecdotes the way in which these models were used to examine students. The model was coated with wax and then filled with water, the student being given the name of an acupuncture point and a needle. If the point was punctured correctly the student was soaked as a fountain erupted from the model; failure to achieve this result meant that the acupuncture point had been missed.

In the Yuan dynasty (AD 1280-1368) the capital of China was moved to Tatu, now better known as Peking. The stone tablets and the bronze model were moved to the Imperial Medical College in Peking, but they were very worn and overused. Reproductions were therefore made in the mid-thirteenth century. Until fairly recently, the original model and tablets were thought to have been lost, but in 1971 five fragments of the original stone tablets were found in Peking, with much of the information still legible.