Chinese acupuncture figure, late Ming Dynasty, c 17th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This wooden figure of a man nearly a metre tall was used in acupuncture teaching in China. Acupuncture is a medical technique which has been practised in China for over 3000 years. It consists of the insertion into the skin of fine needles, at the points or meridians relating to the tisue or organ believed to be disordered. By inserting the needles into the paths taken by the 'chi' or 'qi', the life force which flows around the body, the paths become unblocked and harmonious energy flow and good health is restored. One striking feature of our current approach to health is that the more powerful the Western system of medicine becomes, the more do we seem to favour alternatives, such as acupuncture, that rely on entirely different conceptualisations of the body.