The Day Acupuncture Died

By Dean Moyer
Author of Rebuild Your Back

Author update: Please note that I wrote this article about 20 years aga and at that time I sincerely felt that acupuncture was a scam.

However, since then I've heard from quite a few people who have had positive results from acupuncture and so I have to give it the benefit of the doubt. I suspect that the proceedure relies more on hypnotherapy than it does on the needles.

So how come it almost completely died out in China nearly 100 years ago?

Acupuncture Nearly Died?

Yes, it seems that acupuncture was easily replaced by science and modern Western medicine at the beginning of the 20th century. Here's what the historians among the acupuncture proponents themselves readily admit:

As early as the late 1890's the European germ theories of Koch, List, and Pasteur were starting to arrive in China, marking the beginning of Western medicine in the Far East. By 1912, acupuncture was in precipitous decline, barely able to counter this growth of biomedicine... [2]
... the increasing infiltration of Western thought brought about a severe decline in all traditional Chinese medicines... By 1912, the vast majority of China had given up altogether on the traditional medicinal methods of the past. [1]
... and by the beginning of the First World War, the art of acupuncture was close to cultural extinction in China. [2]
... by the 1930's acupuncturists in China were a dying breed: 'there was only one acupuncturist in all of Canton.' [1]

Acupuncture: No Match for Real Medicine

So you see, acupuncture and other ancient Chinese folk remedies all but disappeared from China once real scientific medical treatment became available.

Which is a very significant fact when you consider that, historically, Chinese culture has always placed a heavy emphasis on such things as honoring their ancestors and preserving ancient traditions. So it is no small thing when they abandon one of those ancient traditions in favor of modern methods. Especially, when those methods came from the West.

So, how could this be? What would cause the Chinese people to abandon something they had used for thousands of years? It's safe to say, they would not do so without a very good reason.

Acupuncture Just Didn't Work

There can be only one explaination for this abandonment of their own medical practitioners. There is only one thing that could get these fiercely traditional people to reject their own culture. And that reason had to be that acupuncture just wasn't working.

Given the choice between ancient tradition and a real doctor, the intelligent, educated Chinese citizen chose to go with real medical help. When their family members became sick, instead of bundling them off to the herbalist or the acupuncturist, they went to the local doctor. Not because they had to. Not because it was new. But because it was working. They were able to see results for the first time in their lives.

It's the old law of supply and demand. There was no longer a demand for the ancient traditional Chinese "medicine" because it just didn't work. And so the old con artists were slowly forced out of business by the competition.

Acupuncture As a Weapon

So what happened? How did this apparently ineffective, almost forgotten collection of folklore, myths and superstitious nonsense manage to make a comeback?

One historian gives us a possible clue when he tells us that the communist Chinese government saw acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine as, "a collection of empirical tricks, some of which might be useful." [1]

Useful how?

Okay, call me cynical but I have a hard time believing that a government that considers murdering its own citizens (including children) a valid means of population control is thinking "useful" in terms of benefiting mankind. But then I'm just funny that way.

Acupuncture: A Hoax Reborn

So there you have it. Acupuncture almost died out just as all witch doctors, shamans, voodoo doctors and other primitive fakers do in the face of real modern, scientific medicine. It was only through intervention by a government with dubious motives that it was resurrected.

Were it not for the communist government of China --- a government that went to great lengths to ruthlessly obliterate traditional Chinese culture --- acupuncture would have passed into history along with witch doctors and similar folk nonsense.

Is Acupuncture Right For You?

Now I don't expect you to substitute my judgment for your own, but I would be willing to someday experiment with acupuncture strictly for research purposes.

However, this is not a recommendation. I still think it is a scam.

What you decide to do is entirely up to you,

About the Author

Dean Moyer is the author of the books, Rebuild Your Back, Rebuild Your Neck and The Pain Relief Manual. Copies of his books are available exclusively through this website. Read more...

Rebuild Your Back
Rebuild Your Back
Second Edition
Rebuild Your Neck
Rebuild Your Neck
The Pain Relief Manual
The Pain Relief Manual


1. Birch, Stephen J., and Robert L. Felt. Understanding Acupuncture. Brookline, Massachusetts: Paradigm Publications, 1999. (p.37 & p.52)

2. Fishman, Jon. The History of Acupuncture. 17 December 2000