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Acupuncture and moxibustion have long been an integral part of Far Eastern oriental medicine. Moxibustion and acupuncture cannot be discussed without each other since both use the same acupuncture point locations and nomenclatures. In the late 17th century, the famous travel diary of Basho, a Japanese master of haiku poetry, made reference to personal use of moxibustion on one of the well-known acupuncture points, stomach 36. Recently, the author found 2 paintings of a 17th century Kyoto geisha house and its surroundings in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, painted in realistic color by Moronobu, the originator of the Ukiyoe style and a contemporary of Basho. Part of the scene depicts some professional porters at work; on their legs are white scars at some of the well-known acupuncture points, including stomach 36 and spleen 6. The scars appear to be the result of moxibustion. This may indicate the common use of moxibustion on well-known acupuncture points of the lower extremities in late 17th century Japan for professional porters and for people making extensive journeys. Further support of the relatively widespread use of acupuncture and moxibustion is even found in the popular, nonmedical literature of late 17th century Japan. In one of the short stories about the life of average people, written by the novelist Saikaku, the details of a young woman giving moxibustion on the back of a young man is realistically described with illustrations. Reports written by some of the foriegn physicians who visited Japan during this period were published, describing these methods with illustrations. For example, De Acupunctura (1683), written by the Dutch physician Wilhelmi Ten Rhyme (who visited Japan between 1675–1676); and “History of Japan” (English translation - 1727), written by German physician Engelbert Kaempfer (who stayed in Japan between 1690–1692) are particularly well known, as their writings introduced acupuncture and moxibustion to the Western world.
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Keywords: Acupuncture points; Basho’s diary; Engelbert Kaempfer’s History of Japan; Moronobu’s Ukiyoe paintings; Saikaku’s 5 Amourous Women; Wilhelmi Ten Rhyme’s De Acupunctura; history of medicine; late 17th century Japan; lower extremities; moxibustion; scars; travel

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Director of Medical Research, Heart Disease Research Foundation, 50 Court Street, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11201

Publication date: January 1, 1984

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