Traditional Japanese Medicine


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Traditional Japanese Medicine

Chinese Medicine was introduced to the imperial court of Japan in the 5th century A.D. by Korean physicians. Monks and traveling physicians from Korea and China introduced Chinese ideas more generally during the 5th and 6th centuries. Medical works on acupuncture and Moxibustion, with detailed diagrams, were made known in Japan by the Chinese doctor Zhi Cong around A.D. 560, and from the early 7th century Chinese medicine began to be adopted systematically under the influence of two Buddhist monks who had spent many years in China.

A Japanese adaptation of Chinese medicine still exists today. However, there are several distinctive features in Japanese medical practice.

A strong tradition of blind practitioners has resulted in very well-developed palpation techniques of diagnosis and treatment, such as abdominal palpation; shiatsu, which is a specifically Japanese form of acupressure massage, has also developed.

Japan also has a strong herbal tradition, which has close links with Chinese herbal medicine but tends to use smaller amounts of more refined ingredients and also has different formulas of its own. There are also a number of specifically Japanese manipulative and bone-setting therapies. Folk remedies, spa baths, and spiritual medicine in the form of prayers and talismans from shrines and temples are also popular.

The Japanese adaptation of Chinese medicine is known as kanpo, and the main foundations of present practice date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Japan was also exposed to Western influence at this time, when Christian missionaries began to arrive. Just as Buddhist monks had once cared for the sick, now Jesuits, followed by Dominicans and Franciscans, did the same. This type of medicine came to be known as "cosmopolitan" medicine.

During the 18th century, when the Dutch and Chinese were the only nations allowed to trade with Japan, Western understanding of anatomy was introduced, and at the same time many Oriental notions were introduced from Japan to Europe.
Acupuncture and Moxibustion became known for the first time in the West in this way.

"Cosmopolitan" medicine now officially dominates in Japan, but kanpo is also popular. This term is now often used to denote herbalism, but the whole range of Chinese medicine is practiced.

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