Bronze acupuncture figure, Chinese, 16th-18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This figure may show the acupuncture points for contracture. The medical technique of acupuncture has been practised in China for over 3000 years. It consists of the insertion into the skin of fine needles, at the points (meridians) relating to the tisue or organ believed to be disordered. Insertion of needles into the 'chi' or 'qi' paths, the life force which flows around the body, unblocks the paths and harmonious energy flow and health are restored. There are several acupuncture systems with between 360 and 600 points. Acupuncture became a popular form of alternative therapy in the West in the 1970s, at a time when there was considerable interest in Eastern philosophies and religion.