Modern Acupuncture – Recent Development (summary)

Paper originally delivered at the Second International Congress of Chinese Medicine October 2005 Paris
Redelivered at the 5th Tianjin International Symposium on TCM and
9th International Symposium on Acupuncture & Moxibustion October 2006 Tianjin
by Professor Man Fong Mei (梅万方教授)

Historical Background

Since the discovery of the early stone and bone needles, acupuncture as a healing art traces back several thousand years to ancient China when clinical records were found inscribed on Oracle Bones in Xia and Shang Dynasties (2000 BC -1600 BC). Since the yellow Emperor’s “Cannon of Acupuncture”, the discovery of meridians and the medical function of acupuncture points firmly established acupuncture as an integral part of traditional Chinese Medical system. The modernisation of Chinese medicine began with the establishment of the PRC in 1949, acupuncture became the most active component in the Integrative Medicine approach adopted by China over the past fifty years. Modern acupuncture also benefited from the development outside China since the 1960s especially propelled by the 1972 Nixon visit to China followed with a report on acupuncture anaesthesia by James Reston. Numerous published researches on the mechanism of acupuncture gave rise to scientific acupuncture and being late adapted a “Medical Acupuncture”. At the same time Chinese acupuncture being modernised systematically according to Dialectical Based Medicine (DBM) in contrast to Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), is now being categorised as “Syndrome Acupuncture”. The interaction between the two methodologies of acupuncture together with the modernisation of Chinese medicine will shape the future of modern acupuncture.

Modern Acupuncture Development

Theoretical content of modern acupuncture could be divided from the struggle between the two basic methodologies of medicine i.e. EBM and DBM. Evidence-based Medicine relies on repeatable objective clinical evidence of randomised control trials (RCT) as the basic of medicine, while as Dialectical Based Medicine uses a holistic analysis of disease manifestations and development arriving at a syndrome as the guiding principle for treatment.

Parallel with the modern scientific and technological advances, modern acupuncture develops along several major trends:

1) The Bio-Electric Model The emergence of Energy Medicine based on the quantification of body electricity and magnetic fields gave rise to Frequency Medicine. Acupuncture develops modern techniques such as Electric-acupuncture, laser acupuncture and TENS.

2) The Reflex Physiocology Model The inversed fetus representing organs & reflex zones of the ear according to Nogier discovery in auricular medicine is a good example of the development in acupuncture. Apart from Ear acupuncture, other examples are Segmental Acupuncture, Foot and Hand acupuncture.

3) The Neurophysiology Model The acceptance of the Gate Control Theory and Neurotransmitters Theories explains the two way effects of acupuncture according to the frequencies of stimulation, point to a neurophysiology development for modern acupuncture.

4) The Meridian Model Research in the existence and the basic structure of meridians are conducted by medical institutions throughout the world. This development will help acupuncture to link itself with modern physiology.

5) The Technological Model Modern medical physics can help acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to quantify its efficacy – pulsography, Tongue Tomography, MRI, PET will prove the effects of acupuncture points stimulation according to syndrome acupuncture comparing with IMS, Trigger Point acupuncture. Computer technology and internet will also promote global data collection and energetic measurement for modern acupuncture.


Since diseases have no frontiers, medicine globalisation is an evitable trend. Modern acupuncture as an integral part of modern Chinese Medicine will play an important role in the clinical medicine of the future. The mutual transformation of Evidence Based Medicine and Dialectical Based Medicine will give us a Synergy – a new paradigm for global medicine. As medical practitioners we await with excitements.