The Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (jsam)

Japanese Acupuncture

HOME > Japanese Acupuncture

Introduction of Acupuncture and Moxibustion to Japan

Introduction of Acupuncture and Moxibustion to Japan

The introduction of continental medical culture to our country, as with the introduction of other continental culture until about the 6th century, was made mostly via the Korean peninsula. Slightly later than the introduction of Buddhism, the record of the first medical writings were pharmaceutical texts and Meidō-zu ʡƲޡɡbrought in 562 via the peninsula by a person named ZHI Chong() from Wu().  Meidō-zu is seemingly anatomical charts illustrating the location of acupoints on the human body.

From the 7th century, the start of official communication with China through ambassadors to the Sui and Tang dynasties, much medical culture was imported directly.  Enichi and Fukuin played an important role.  Soon the legislative system was also introduced and in 701 the Taihō-ritsuryō law was put into effect.  Chinese medical texts from Han through the Six dynasties known as Myaku-kyō (̮С), Kō-otsu-kyō (ȹòС), Honzō-kyō-shichū (н), Shō-hin-hō (Ⱦ), Shū-ken-hō (Ƚ), Somon (), Shin-gyō (ȿ˷С) were designated as medical texts in the medical law Ishitsu-rei for the medical system and studied. 

In this law, the laws of earlier Tang were adopted almost entirely unaltered and as a result reveal the Chinese policy practiced during that period. Shin-gyō was the old name for the Reisū () and Somon comprised Kōtei-daikei (ȲС). Kō-otsu-kyō (Western Jin era) is a medical text of acupuncture and moxibustion recompiling Meidō ʡƲɡ, the explanatory text of the acupuncture points, Somon and Reisū. Myaku-kyō (Western Jin era) is a text on pulse diagnosis recompiled of Kōtei-daikei, Shō-kan-ron (Ƚ) and the other classical texts. Honzō-kyō-shicchū (н) (about 500 A.D.) is a pharmaceutical text complementing the Shinnō-honzō-kyō (ȿС).  Shō-hin-hō (Ⱦ) (latter 5th century) and Shū-ken-hō (Ƚ) (latter 6th century) are medical texts focusing mainly on prescription medicine in the style of Shō-kan-ron (Ƚ).
During the Heian era the growing Japanese cultural awareness led to the compilation of original Japanese medical texts. It is said in 808 IZUMONO Hirosada and his followers compiled Daidō-ruijū-hō (Ʊ), and his son SUGAWARANO Minetsugu and others before 870 compiled Kinran-hō (ȶ), which were ordered by the emperor, however neither are known to exist.

The Japanese envoy to the Tang dynasty was discontinued in 838 and by that time almost all of the major Tang medical texts had been imported.  Nihonkoku-genzaisho-mokuroku (ܹ񸫺߽Ͽ) , circa 898, records 1309 volumes from 166 areas of Chinese medical and pharmaceutical texts, evidencing the zeal of the Japanese for absorbing Chinese medical culture.

Map of continent, Korea and Japan


Article recording medical writings and
pharmaceutical texts brought by ZHI Chong
from Shinsen-shōji-roku (ȿϿ)
(The collection of Kitasato University Oriental
Medicine Research Center)


Kōtei-daikei-taiso (Ȳǡ)
(The collection of Kyō-u-sho-oku library of Takeda Science Foundation)


(The Collection of The Archives and Mausolea
Department of The Imperial Household Agency)






KOSOTO Hiroshi
Director, Medical History Research Department,
Kitasato University Oriental Medicine Research Center

Page top

The Japan Society of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (JSAM) 3-44-14, Minami-otsuka, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-0005, Japan tel: +81-3-3985-6188, fax: +81-3-3985-6135