From the very beginning, the ancient China remained directly or closely sacrificial. It is unfortunate but ancient China was built upon sacrifice. Sacrificial elements were of utmost meaning in the ancient China. Very alike European cultures, ancient and medial China followed the evolution from blood sacrifice to non-blood, re-presented as it is believed “morally correct” sacrifice, and to the ethical systems, such as Taoism and Confucianism, that evolved from it.
The status of individuals in ancient China was determined by the perceived degree of his or her association with the supernatural. In ancient China, supernatural capabilities were common to virtually all Chinese medical doctors. They all had supernatural capabilities that were all documented in medical texts.
Shang dynasty (1766-1046 BCE), sacrifice consisted in humans and animals and, to a lesser extent, wine and food, and as practiced later in Japan, tools, weapons and clothing. There is clear evidence of a shamanic culture existing in early Asian civilization, and many shamanistic practices are believed to lie at the foundation of Chinese Medicine. By the sixth century B.C., the link between shamans and the medical practitioner was clear. Confucius is quoted as having said that “a man without persistence will never make a good shaman or a good physician”.
Shaman - wu 巫 is a person who can mediate within the powers of nature. Shamans are viewed as bridges between natural and the spiritual world. Shamanism dates back to 40-100 thousand years ago, and is considered to be the oldest spiritual and healing practice known to humankind. Virtually all cultures around the world evolved from shamanic cultures.
Most shamans begin their spiritual paths during a life-threatening illness, having started a spiritual journey and communication with the gods, spirits and ancestors which in return later become the source of their powers. After recovering from the illness, they go through a ceremonial practice of cleansing. Archaeological excavations have found records of the shamanistic use of divination dating back to Shang dynasty (c.1766 – c.1050 B.C.).
Invention of Acupuncture and moxibustion originated during clan commune period of the primitive society. The activities of human beings appeared in China about 1,700,000 years ago. It was about 100,000 years ago that China entered the clan commune period which lasted till 4,000 years ago.
In the ancient literature there were many legends about the origin of acupuncture and moxibustion such as Fu Xi's 伏羲 (god of humankind) creation of the medical therapy with stone needles, and Huang Di's黄帝 (Yellow Emperor) invention of acupuncture and moxibustion. Legends of Fu Xi and Huang Di actually represent the clan commune of primitive society. Originally shamans had two ways to communicate with divine ancestors: mystical practice, involving dances and trances; and the second is the method of the oracle bones, a rational way. It is clear that the origins of Chinese Medicine extend far into the past and lie firmly rooted somewhere in the midst of their shamanistic beliefs and practices.
Archaeological evidence testifies to the ancient use of acupuncture. Excavations from the Stone Age reveal that cattle bones – and, later, turtle shells – were used for medical practice as well. These “oracle bones” were drilled and heated, causing them to crack. It was the diviner’s role to interpret their meaning, or “read” these cracks. Medical advice was among the more prominent requests made of diviners. During the Shang dynasty the Chinese pictographic writing system is invented. Early character writing have developed out of the need to diagnose sickness and disease.
Oracle bones are pieces of bone and turtle shells that were used to divine the future for members of the royal household. It is known as scapulimancy, and it had purpose for the ruling class to seek spiritual guidance in affairs of house and the state. Shamans had following method of using of oracle bones: a question was carved into the oracle bone and then bone was heated via the insertion of hot metal rods into holes carved in the back of it. Result of this action produced a series of cracks on the bone. Finally cracks would be interpreted by the shaman in order to answer to the question at hand. The shaman’s interpretation of the cracks was believed to reveal the will of the ancestors.
These oracles were used as an attempt to determine the outcome of illnesses and the sacrifices necessary to bring about recovery. Sacrifice was believed to be a way of sharing divine powers and ensuring longevity. Many of the pictographs and ideographs represent disease names and symptoms. Other characters indicate early classifications of diseases by their location on the body. Analysis of the cracks allowed the shaman to diagnose and treat the disease.
The most important cause of the diseases by shamans were the ‘curse of the ancestor’. Toothache, headache, bloated abdomen and leg pains were only different symptoms of the same disease. It should be noted that poor harvest and misfortune of war were also considered symptoms of the same disease – ‘curse of the ancestor’. People believed that shamans hold magical powers and possess the ability to navigate along the “Ling Shu.- 灵枢”- Spiritual Pivot, and the connection between the lower (hell), middle (earth), and upper world (heaven).
The shaman was often called upon by the community to perform a psychodrama, make sacrifices to Shang Di上帝, "the Highest Lord”, or act as mediator between the populace and the spirits of the other worlds. Chinese Medicine and particularly acupuncture originated from the exorcist practices of the early shamans. Several important concepts related to Chinese Medicine also appear to have emerged and developed during the time of the Shang, such as a primitive understanding of the pulse, blood, and other body fluids. Additionally, the formation of the theoretical thinking of Yin Yang and the Five Elements can be traced back to this period, and the concept of the dual soul was also developed. Every living human has both the a Po魄 – white corporeal yin soul, or the animal part of the soul which remains with the body after death, while the Hun魂 - cloud soul is spiritual yang part of the soul, disappears into the afterlife.
Primary understanding of Shen 神, Jing 精 and Qi 氣 was held by the time of the Shang dynasty. Shen is the emotional, mental, supernatural and spiritual aspect of a human being, whereas Jing, translated as nutritive essence, sperm or seed is held to be responsible for growth, reproduction, development, sexual maturation, and pregnancy. Qi is a Chinese character which represents that unknowable aspect of the universe. It has function to make things grow and transform – inter-transforms into all things – and, its early meanings seem to have been something along the lines of vitality, vapor, mist, or clouds.
The meaning of Qi has changed in many ways since those early days of the Shang dynasty. When talking about acupuncture and moxibustion, meaning if Qi is ‘the relationship between the surface and the interior. When referring to herbs and diet, it means the flavor and function of the herb or food. In physical manipulation it means gait and posture, and in Qigong it refers to one’s relationship with the rest of existence.
From all having said earlier, we can clearly summarize that we can trace the origins of Chinese Medicine back to the past of shamanistic beliefs and practices, therefore having explained such long history, Chinese Medicine at present time evelops into verified clinical practice.