Korean J Med Hist.  2017 Dec;26(3):339-378. 10.13081/kjmh.2017.26.339.

New Perspectives on the Origin of Korean Acupuncture: Based on Materials from Xiaoyingzi Tomb, Yanji and Neighbouring Region

  • 1Kyung Hee University, KOREA.
  • 2Kyung Hee University, KOREA. chawung@khu.ac.kr


This article discusses the development of early acupuncture needles as demonstrated by the artifacts excavated from the Northern part of the Yanji district, Jilin, China, during the Japanese colonial era (reported in 1941). Numerous bone needles, stone needles, and other medical devices were found in the Xiaoyingzi excavation. The stone needles from Xiaoyingzi can be categorized into three grades, based on length, of 8cm, 12-15cm, and 18cm. A set of round stones for massage were also discovered, along with obsidian blades. These relics were carefully stored in the middle of the body in the stone coffin. In addition to Xiaoyingzi, stone needles were also excavated along the lower valley region of the Tuman (Tumen, 豆滿) River. These facts indicate that the owner was involved in medical practice, and that medical procedures using stone needles were quite popular at the time. This article carefully investigates that the relics have nothing to do with weaving textile or military use. Current research on the origin of acupuncture has been confined either to stone needles from the prehistoric age or to bronze needles, as well as to literature from the Warring States period to the Han China, during which acupuncture technology was considerably expanded. However, substantial knowledge on the "gap" between stone needles and metal needles has been procured through the analysis of Xiaoyingzi, Yanji. The findings of Xiaoyingzi are also significant in providing a more detailed reconstruction of the development of acupuncture in East Asia and emergence of acupuncture throughout history. A large amount of medical items (stone and bone needles, cases for needles, massage stone type bianshi, and etc.), have been excavated from Xiaoyingzi and other neighbouring sites, Along with geographic and ecological factors, this archeological data strongly suggests the medical tradition of using acupuncture needles was practiced around Tumen River basin in the Bronze Age (10th century B.C.).


stone needle; Bronze age; Korean medicine; Korean acupuncture; stone tomb

MeSH Terms

Asian Continental Ancestry Group
Far East
Military Personnel
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