Teishin - A Brief History
Updated: Dec 13, 2022
The teishin is a gentle and effective tool for treating patients without inserting acupuncture needles. It is popular in Meridian Therapy and other styles of Traditional Japanese Medicine. Using a teishin causes no pain or discomfort, allowing practitioners to treat even the most sensitive of people. With guidance, patients can learn to use teishin at home as a self-care tool, prolonging the therapeutic benefits of their treatment between appointments. This aspect of teishin not only empowers patients to take charge of their health but improves treatment outcomes making acupuncture more effective and affordable.
History of the Teishin
The teishin can be traced back to the late neolithic period in China, where bian stones were used medicinally by pressing, rubbing, incising, and lancing specific areas of the body. However, bian stones were different in shape and constructed from different materials than the modern teishin. These tools were likely part of China's early shamanic traditions and had spiritual significance as well as being practical medical devices.
The first written documentation of the teishin can be found in the Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu (The Yellow Emperor's Classic Spiritual Pivot). This is the oldest technical manual on acupuncture and is attributed to Huang Di, the semi-mythical first emperor of China who reigned from 2697 BC–2597 BC. However, it is likely that the manuscript was actually written during the Warring States period (481 BC - 221 BC) and attributed to Huang Di to bolster credibility and emphasize its importance. At present, the true author and precise publication date remain unknown.
The Ling Shu emphasized the importance of the nine needles and the techniques that are associated with them. It should be noted that these are not what we think of as needles. The first three of the nine needles, the zanshin, enshin, and teishin, did not penetrate the skin and were more akin to massage tools. The second three of the nine needles were lancing tools used to drain blood, pus, and other body fluids. Only the last three needles most resemble what we currently think of as acupuncture needles.
The importance of the nine needles is repeated throughout the Ling Shu, starting with the very first words spoken by Qi Bo, the emperor's court physician. Huang Di asked Qi Bo what the best way to deliver healthcare to his people was, and Qi Bo replied, "You want to know about the nine needles and their ways.” The significance of the nine needles can not be under-emphasized as they were at the very heart of early Chinese medicine. The third of the nine needles, the teishin (di zhen in Chinese), is described as “...having a head like a grain of millet” and “...controlling the channels by touch, not penetration, to bring about the qi”.
In China, over the course of several centuries, the use of acupuncture needles consolidated to very few designs, and the seventh of the nine needles, the goshin (hao zhen in Chinese), became the dominant tool used in acupuncture. The goshin closely resembles the modern filiform needles currently used by most contemporary acupuncturists. The teishin and other needles seemed to be lost to history.
During Japan’s Edo period (1603 -1867), there was a shift in acupuncture. Japanese medicine, isolated from exterior influences, began to evolve in various ways. During this time, blind acupuncturists became common in Japan, making palpation and touch the primary modes of diagnosis and treatment; Waichi Sugiyama invented the guide tube influencing modern acupuncture in ways that could not be anticipated, and the nine needles of the Ling Shu began to re-emerge. The teishin was back and would continue to evolve in Japan to the present day.
These days, the use of the teishin has spread around the world. Renowned contemporary educators like Takahiro Funamizu in Japan and Jeffery Dann in the United States are teaching the art of the teishin as a primary treatment modality. The teishin, as well as the other nine needles, have been reborn, offering a gentle and effective alternative to needle insertion. These elegant tools are helping modern acupuncturists expand their patient base and reach a wider population that would normally not seek out acupuncture.
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Copyright 2021 Mark Parzynski