Acupuncture Instrument Set


Acupuncture has gone in and out of fashion over the centuries in both China and the West. Part of a 2,000-year-old system of medicine that originated in China, acupuncture spread across Asia and the world with the migration of Asian peoples. In 2002, there were about 15,000 licensed acupuncturists in the United States.

Despite its continuous currency in Asian cultures, acupuncture did not gain a wide audience in the United States until the 1960s and 1970s. The revival of interest came on the heels of reports from several American physicians traveling in China, New York Times reporter James Reston's dramatic 1971 acupuncture treatment following an emergency appendectomy while in China, and Richard Nixon's historic 1972 visit.

Acupuncture involves the application of very small needles inserted at specific points on the skin. The needles work to balance the body's flow of qi (pronounced chee). According to Taoist religious teachings, qi encompasses the fundamental life force that flows throughout the universe.

As practiced today, acupuncture is an East-West hybrid. Its transnational character emerged in the early 20th century as Western influence became more pronounced in medical schools in mainland China in the decades before the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In those years of the Chinese Republic, traditional Chinese medicine was discouraged as intellectual elites pressed for modernization and practitioners felt imperialist pressures from the West and Japan. After 1949, the communist PRC regime encouraged traditional Chinese medicine, and the system developed as understood today through the establishment of several medical schools and training sites. Later, traditional practitioners cautiously welcomed Western, allopathic knowledge in the 1960s and 1970s as overseas Chinese, trained in the West, returned home with scientific ideas.

Date Made: 1988

Maker: Hwa To Brand

Location: Currently not on view

Place Made: China

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Medicine, Health & Medicine, Cultures & Communities


Exhibition Location:

Credit Line: Gift of Kiehl's Inc.

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1989.0196.082Catalog Number: 1989.0196.082Accession Number: 1989.0196

Object Name: acupuncture instrument setinstrument set, acupunctureOther Terms: acupuncture instrument set; Pharmaceuticals

Physical Description: metal (overall material)plastic (overall material)black (overall color)gold (overall color)white (overall color)Measurements: overall: 31.8 cm x 20.8 cm x 3.3 cm; 12 1/2 in x 8 3/16 in x 1 5/16 inoverall: 1 1/4 in x 12 1/4 in x 8 3/4 in; 3.175 cm x 31.115 cm x 22.225 cm


Record Id: nmah_1143716

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.