The meridian theory is the theoretical foundation for external treatment in traditional Chinese medicine. It is also the clinical basis in diagnosis and treatment for acupuncture and moxibustion points and has been proven effective for over two thousand years of practice. Not only has the meridian theory contributed significantly to the life and prosperity of the Chinese people, but nowadays, it has spread all over the world and continues to play an important role in contributing to the health of humanity. In the process of development, Ashi Points and Yuan Shi Tong Dian, which differ from the line of thought of the meridian acupuncture points, emerged. Could they possibly complement the inadequacy of the meridian acupuncture points and even break through the old medical treatment model of traditional Chinese medicine toward perfecting the system of diagnosis and treatment in medicine?
The inadequacy of the meridian acupuncture points was noticed as early as the Tang Dynasty by Sun Simiao ( 孫思邈 ), who was titled as “King of Medicine” ( 藥王 ). Once, he used the acupuncture points of the fourteen meridians to treat a patient’s leg pain and was ineffective after treating for half a month. So he attempted to avoid the Affected Area, tested inch by inch on the afflicted leg looking for tender points outside the meridian. He then applied acupuncture on the tender points and only then was the treatment effective. However, the location of the tender points changed the following day. According to legend, the locations changed five times within seven days before the patient was finally cured.
“Ashi Point” was named after the tenderness of the point. Sun Simiao believed Ashi Point was more effective than the meridian acupuncture point. In view of this, the reason why the efficacy of Ashi Point is greater than meridian acupuncture point is that there must be differences between Ashi Point and meridian acupuncture point. Ashi Point is a tender point outside the Affected Area; further, it is not limited by a fixed location and is established through mutual interaction between both parties (the practitioner and the recipient). This is contrary to the meridian acupuncture point with its fixed location, unilateral inference, and without the requirement to confirm whether it is a tender point.
Inferring from the discovery of Ashi Point, the locations of meridian acupuncture points were derived and concluded by the ancients through practice. However, if one assumes that behind the meridian acupuncture points, there were some actual routes of lines crisscrossing all over the body, and then follows the meridian path to find the fixed location of the acupuncture point, that would be tantamount to “notching a moving boat in order to mark where your sword dropped into the river.” (This idiom satirizes those who stick to rigid rules instead of taking into account the change in circumstances). Ashi Point breaks through this kind of thinking. It has the same meaning as the tender point of Yuan Shi Dian medicine. Not only does Ashi Point represent the location of Tishang of disease and illness, but it is also an important switch in treating disease and illness. Thus its efficacy is greater than that of meridian acupuncture point. It can be considered both a development and a subversion of the meridian theory.
The innovative thinking of Ashi Point as a breakthrough from the meridian theory can also be verified in the application of Yuan Shi Dian. Take the arm, for example. In the meridian, it is run through and governed by six meridians (three Yin and three Yang). In Yuan Shi Dian, the Shoulder Yuan Shi Dian and Elbow Yuan Shi Dian cover the entire arm without the need to distinguish routes at all. In other words, the mode of application of Yuan Shi Dian differs from the single-line transmission of the meridian. It is three-dimensional transmission covering the entire area, like a stone cast in water and ripples diffused all around instead of a single line. So it is unnecessary for acupuncture points to follow the assumption of running lines and routes, and the problem of selecting them along the meridian does not exist.
So what is Yuan Shi Tong Dian’s contribution after Ashi Point’s discovery? The answer can be obtained by comparing Yuan Shi Tong Dian with meridian acupuncture point and Ashi Point in four ways. First, all three represent locations, but in terms of distribution, Yuan Shi Dian is comprised of the spine and seven regions only and is the most concise. The meridian network comprises the twelve principal meridians, the Conception and Governing Vessels, other collaterals, and such, with three to four hundred acupuncture points distributed along the path of these meridians. Ashi Point has no fixed distribution coverage.
Second, all three can resolve Symptoms from disease and illness caused by Remote Tishang. But in terms of process, Yuan Shi Tong
Dian is applied by Antui of the tender points at the Yuan Shi Dian locations. Yuan Shi Dian is simple and easy to learn because Yuan Shi Dian locations are from only one spine and seven regions. Meridian acupuncture points are based on the meridian theory to determine acupuncture points, but because there are a large number of acupuncture points distributed at different meridians, it is not easy to select acupuncture points and to have standards; therefore, it is complicated and difficult to learn. Ashi Point is practiced by applying acupuncture on tender points outside the Affected Area, but due to the uncertainty of the location of the tender points and lack of fixed distribution coverage to find them, it is difficult to apply.
Third, with the tender point of Yuan Shi Dian, the Affected Area must be avoided. The tender point can only be established through Antui and mutual interaction between both parties. However, because it is located at the Yuan Shi Dian, the curative effect is more significant. This is similar to Ashi Point but different from the meridian acupuncture point. Also, because it is located at the Yuan Shi Dian, it has fixed distribution coverage that can be found, similar to the meridian theory but different from Ashi Point. These characteristics of Yuan Shi Tong Dian not only have resolved the issue of numerous meridian acupuncture points, inconsistency in acupuncture point selection, and uncertain curative effects, but concurrently, Yuan Shi Tong Dian has broken through the dilemma of applying Ashi Point, which seems like “finding a needle in a haystack” that caused its inability to be used in clinical application over thousands of years.
Fourth, by finding Yuan Shi Tong Dian to Antui, not only can the medical treatment goal of treating pre-existing disease and illness or treating them before their onset be achieved, the diagnostic goal of identifying the location of Tishang for pre-existing disease and illness or pre-disease can also be achieved so that diagnosis and treatment can be integrated as one and accomplished in a single step. Such diagnosis and treatment have yet to be seen or heard. It is not comparable to Ashi Point and the meridian acupuncture point, which only can treat preexisting disease and illness. Therefore, the discovery of Yuan Shi Tong Dian has opened up, not only for traditional Chinese medicine but the development of global medicine, an unprecedented new frontier.
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