Part 2: Introduction of Chinese Massage History


The Eastern and Western Jin and Northern and Southern Dynasties saw great development in gaomo therapy. A doctor of Western-Jin Time, Wang Shuhe introduced a wind-ointment method to treat numbness and pain in his book The Pulse Classic. Ge Hong, a Taoist of Eastern-Jin Time, systematically summarized for the first time in his Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies the prescriptions, drugs, indications and therapeutic principles of gaomo massage and the methods of making ointment, with introduction of eight medical formulas applicable to various diseases with the indications such as internal and external diseases, diseases of gynecology and diseases of the eye, ear, nose and the throat. He also mentioned in Bao Puzi's Inner Treatise the publication of Ten Volumes of Classics on Massage and Physical and Breathing Exercise (lost). Tao Hongjing, a famous medical scientist, Taoist and alchemist of the Northern and Southern Dynasties, also wrote special volumes titled “Physical and Breathing Exercises and Massage” included in the book Record on Preserving Health and Prolonging Life, which is very rich in content, with many pages elaborating on a series of physical and breathing exercise and massage, such as teeth-pecking, eye hot-compressing, eye pressing, ear guiding, hair raising, face massaging, dry bathing, etc. That helped to form the “self-massage” technique for the purpose of health-preservation and self-treatment.

Sui and Tang Dynasties were a flourishing age for Chinese massage development. In the Court Office of Imperial Physicians of the Sui Dynasty, a massage doctor was authorized to be in charge of daily medical treatment and teaching affairs. A massage specialization department was set up in the Court Office of Imperial Physicians of the Tang Dynasty and the massagists were classified as massage doctors (massagists with doctorate degree), massagists and massage workers.

Helped by the massagists and massage workers, the massage doctors taught the massage students “to master the physical and breathing exercise to treat diseases and rectify injuries. Thus massage treatment and teaching became prosperous in Tang Dynasty. Self-massage and gaomo therapy were extensively used and reached a very high level. General Treatise on the Causes and Symptoms of Diseases written by Chao Yuanfang of Sui Dynasty included physica1 and breathing exercise and massage contents in the last part of each volume of the book. In his Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold, Sun Simiao of the Tang Dynasty further developed gaomo therapy and extended its application scope. This book had a systematic description of the treatment of infantile diseases with gaomo therapy. It listed a dozen infantile diseases which could be treated with this therapy such as "convulsion seizure due to fright" and "dying due to stiffness of nape”, "nose blocked with discharge"”, "night crying", "abdominal distension and fullness" and "being unable to suck." It was also recorded in the book that ointment can often be applied to the top of the head, on the palms and soles of the infants in the early morning to protect them from getting cold wind, even though they are not sick."

This is the first report of the application of ointment massage to infantile health-preservation. Sun also introduced some other methods of massage and physical and breathing exercise, e.g., over ten manipulations described in The Massage Therapy of Lao Zi: pressing, rubbing, scrubbing, holding and twisting, embracing, pushing, dabbing, hitting, turning, and right falling stroke. Six Classics in the Tang Dynasty, one of the other medical classics written in this period, recorded that massage could treat the diseases caused by eight factors: wind, cold, heat, dampness, hunger, overeating, fatigue and leisure, which greatly broadened the application range of massage. Another book is Wang Tao's Medical Secrets of an Official. In it there listed clinical experience in massage treatment and recorded a number of’ ointment prescriptions with their sources indicated. These historical facts certify that, by the time of Sui and Tang Dynasties, massage as a TCM branch had reached a relatively high level in terms of its basic theory, diagnostic technique and treatment application. It is believed that the embryonic form of modern massage took shape in that very period.

Thanks to the rapid development of China's politics, economy, culture and transportation and the escalating cultural exchange with foreign countries during that period, Chinese massage was also introduced into Korea, Japan, Arabian countries, etc., together with the traditional Chinese medicine as a whole. "Laws and Decrees of Tai Bao" issued during the Tai Hao years (701-703) of Japan's Civil and Military Dynasty, stipulated that massage was one of the compulsory courses for medical students. This laid a solid foundation for the “the three manipulation skills" that remain popular now in Japan.

There was no medical massage department in the government in the Song, yet in Jin and Yuan Dynasties, the title of massage doctor remained unchanged. The massage treatment affairs came under the supervision of carbuncle department and war-wound department of the Bureau of the Imperial Physicians in the Song Dynasty, and under the administration of the bone-setting department of the Institute of the Imperial Physicians in the Yuan Dynasty. Meanwhile, the department of pediatrics was opened in this period, with doctors in charge of the infants massage.

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