History of fine steel needle/wire manufacture

Could anyone on this list either tell me, or cite a published reference that might indicate when and where the technology required
to manufacture fine steel wire and/or needles was first developed? I'm working on a paper dealing with the history of acupuncture from a skeptical perspective, and one of my colleagues has stated that he doesn't believe the technology requisite to produce the fine needles used today existed anywhere in the world prior to the 17th or 16th century. I'd like to nail down the dates and history pertinent to said technology, if I can.
Robert Imrie, DVM snipped-for-privacy@seanet.com
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Robert Imrie, DVM wrote:

Are you SURE that the ancients who claim to have originated acupuncture actually used STEEL fine wires and/or needles?
And how FINE is fine enough to still accomplish what they claim is the theraputic equivalent in the distant past?
Project sounds interesting. Wish you the best of luck in getting a metallurgical historian to help you. Make it easy for the help, such as giving the goal and motivation as you have. Perhaps, however, in the past much more primitive tools (non-steel) still produced theraputic results.
Needles and thread were the basic tools needed for humans to live in cold climates, so they could make clothes to keep warm.
Whatever made someone curious about healing with needles ought to be a very interesting read.
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jbuch wrote:

ANCIENTS and the OLD ACUPUNCTURE
Maybe it began with stones.......
------------------------------------------------------------- Stolen from : http://www.ancientway.com/Pages/Acupuncture.html
The History of Acupuncture
The history of acupuncture is much longer than the needles are. Most scholars agree that stone probes, found in prehistoric Chinese caves and tombs, were the original acupuncture/acupressure instruments. Such stone probes date back to prehistory, over 5000 years ago. Acupuncture using needles and the systematized meridians is more traceable to the past 2000 years. The Yellow Emperor's Internal Medicine Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) sets down basic acupuncture theory, philosophy, and principles. It dates to approximately 200 B.C.E. Here are some Nei Jing passages I have translated, along with the original characters.
It is likely that acupuncture developed after massage and acupressure, as a means of getting a deeper effect with less effort. The treatment of injuries and wounds was more common thousands of years ago, where there were no OSHA regulations among the Chinese farmers, soldiers, and workers. This was probably always a specialty of acupuncturists. As still is the case today, the ability of a person to keep working is often their most valuable asset. Thus, it has always been important to be able to treat painful conditions which limit movement and the ability to do physical work.
My teachers told me some traditional stories about the origins of acupuncture techniques. One is the story of a woman whose husband died. In ancient China, pallbearers would have to carry the body around the house three times. On the third time, they bumped this poor fellow's foot on a sharp corner, and suddenly the corpse revived and sat up! Apparently, the blow to the point Bubbling Spring (Kidney-1, on the sole of the foot) had revived him from a coma. His health was pretty good until 3 years later when he died again. When the pallbearers came, his wife, who apparently had gone through her mourning the first time, was sure to tell the pallbearers, "And this time be very careful you don't hit his foot on any corners!"
Natural theory
Chinese Medicine is fundamentally a Daoist (Taoist) creation. The Daoists looked to the patterns of nature to gain understanding of the human body, mind, and spirit. The transformation of the seasons, the flow of water, and the growth of plants inspired the early Daoist philosophers, doctors, and sages. Daoists practicing meditation and Yoga-like exercises came to have a tremendous degree of body awareness. This awareness of the body's energy and hormonal systems combined with observations of the disease process led to the Chinese medical framework of body energy and organ systems.
The disease processes of the human body came to be seen as similar to external natural events--floods can ruin the crops, as drinking too much water with meals can impair digestion. Drought can lead to fires, as a dry cough can turn into the fire of a bloody cough and fever.
It is no coincidence that there are 12 meridians and about 365 main points. The Chinese calendar is still known for its astronomical accuracy. Chinese medicine is an incredible merging of theory and experience, a poem of nature and change. Of course there are more than 365 points on the body, but the 365 main points taught in acupuncture are the ones found most useful in treating diseases and pain.
Modern Understandings
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2) Exercise: It's Non-Negotiable..... Chapter 22 title, Atkins book
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jbuch wrote:

The First Acupuncture Needles were made of :
Stone Gold Silver Bronze
The stone ones were probably not small tiny things like the steel ones you are discussing.....
Stolen from the following website, which is not vouched for because it is, after all, an alternative medicine site.
http://www.coolnurse.com/acupuncture.htm
The Huang-ti Nei-Ching, one of the oldest Chinese medical books still in existence, is used today as one of the main reference books on acupuncture theory. Since the time of the Yellow Emperor, the practice of acupuncture has remained virtually unchanged.
Acupuncture needles dating from four thousand years ago have been found by archeologists in China. The first needles were made from stone; later, gold, silver, or bronze was used.
From the third century B.C. to the seventh century A.D., Chinese medicine was highly influenced by philosophy and example of Taoist sages, who believed in preventing disease through moderation.
Acupuncture spread into other Asian countries in about A.D. 1000 and was introduced into Europe about A.D. 1700.
At the turn of the century, Sir William Osler (1849-1919), a Canadian physician was using Acupuncture to treat low back pain. Dr. Osler felt that this was the best treatment available to deal with his condition.
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I dont know the answer to your question. The 16/17th century date I assume relates to the advent of wire drawing. Wire was produced at earlier times, but I am not sure how common steel wire was. I believe steel compass needles were used in China from about the sixth centaury. Does J Needham have any information in his "Science and Civilisation in China"? .
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Robert Imrie, DVM wrote:

I think you are barking up the wrong tree in focusing on the tiny sharp needles of the relatively recent.
The proponents of Acupuncture cite literature thousands of years old, and talk about the early instruments "needles" being of stone and then the native metals gold, silver, copper and finally bronze. Steel was much later in the evolution of technical abilities so it may have little to do with the BASIC nature of Acupuncture.
Given the thousands of years of history, the steel thing seems to miss the very basics of the claims.
They made guns long before there was that much steel. But we make much more effective guns from steel, don't we. But modern steel is of secondary importance to the first wooden, bronze, iron, that form the working history of guns that kill. Steel makes them better, but steel is not essential for the working of guns that kill.
Steel needles are almost certanly not essential to Acupuncture as practiced in history, but maybe it makes the ancient practice better.
Jim
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Thanks David and Jim,
I am, indeed, looking for documentation regarding the first drawing of steel into fine wire/needles. If anyone can provide it, I'd be most appreciative.
On Wed, 14 Sep 2005 20:15:23 -0500, jbuch

Perhaps. My colleagues and I have barked up quite a few trees over the last eight years regarding the history of human and veterinary acupuncture, but I don't think this a "wrong one."

Indeed. You've hit on the crux of the problem. Modern "proponents of acupuncture" routinely make the claims you cite. My skeptical co-authors and I have been examining and evaluating such claims by means of actually accessing and carefully translating the earliest available classical Chinese human and veterinary medical texts alleged to describe human and animal acupuncture. In short, it turns out that these ancient and medieval sources describe mostly therapeutic bloodletting, scarification, branding, minor surgical interventions such as the lancing of abscesses and, especially, herbal interventions. They say absolutely nothing about what we, from a modern pespectiv, might reasonaby construe as "acupuncture." If therapeutic bloodletting or branding are verum "acupuncture," then the ancient Greeks were performing acupuncture at least two centuries earlier than the ancient Chinese.

I believe you have it backwards. The development of fine drawn steel "needles" was, indeed, a late development -- which was, of course, the point of my original post. "Fine needle twiddling," for which there is no evidence in the early and/or medieval Chinese medical or veterinary literature at all, demands such fine steel needles/wires. (The idea that patients/victims would allow brittle, iron, horn or bone, large diameter "needles" to be hammered into their tissues and then "twiddled" in the interest of "alleviating pain" or other maladies, seemed unlikely to me when I first set out to investigate this issue, and seems even moreso now.)

The problem is that the "thousands of years of history" for acupuncture seems to be a myth rather than a "given." You might enjoy reading the three pertinent "TCM and Historical Sholarship" articles I and my colleagues have recently published. I should point out that one of my co-authors, Paull Buell, PhD, is undesputedly one of the world's leading authorities on ancient Chinese and Mongol medicine -- human and veteriary -- by virtue of the fact that he's one of he few individuals in the world who can accurately read and translate the obscure ancient and medieval medical texts into English.

If any members of this group would like to read the aforementioned papers, I'd be happy to send them as e-mail attachments. Paul Buell and I will be making three presentations on the subject in London next January.
Robert Imrie, DVM
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Robert Imrie, DVM wrote:

One of the sites looked at claimed to be a character by character translation of one of the old treasured documents.
The character by character translation and the "inferred translation" seemed pretty different.
This may be akin to finding hidden messages in biblical (and fictional) texts by the character skipping algorithms -- with modern readers supplying vowels of choice to the consonant only ancient writings.
I'm up to looking for "marketing distortions" in most anything. They are so common. And sometimes quite revealing of the dark side of human nature.
I don't think that the modern acupuncturists are alone in "marketing distortion". Until Sulfonamides or sulfa drugs hit the doctors offices near 1940, you had less than a 50% chance of getting any effective healing from a visit for illness. There has been a myth of sorts about the family doctor in western countries.
Jim
So, please send your documents ....
* * * * snipped-for-privacy@revealed.net
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On Fri, 16 Sep 2005 13:08:48 -0500, jbuch

Which site was that? If the material isn't too lengthy, I may run it by Paul Beull later today. It's often quite humerous to learn how different what a given text ACTUALLY says is from what the acupuncture proponents CLAIM it says.

I think the red lights on one's bullshit detector should start flashing when one hears a TCM proponent distinguishing between the "translation" of a classical Chinese text and the "implied translation" of same. Implied by whom?

That's an interesting analogy. Mind if I borrow it in the future?
In any case, I'll forward the three articles to you in a couple of hours. (They're on another computer.) Do you have broadband? I ask because, though the text files themselves are pretty small, there are a few image files that go with the first paper that are fairly large. Please advise.
Best, Bob Imrie, DVM
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On Fri, 16 Sep 2005 13:08:48 -0500, jbuch
I've done so via private e-mail attachements. I refrained from including the rather large associated image fie attachments, and the huge (12+ meg) Powerpoint presentation that I gave on the subject in September of '03. If you, or other group members who have broadband Internet connections would like to see the "whole enchilada," please let me know. I believe Microsoft, via their Website, provides a free, downloadable, Powerpoint reader program for anyone who doesn't already have Powerpoint on their computers.
Best, Bob Imrie, DVM
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I'd like to see it if possible.
Martin
Martin Eastburn @ home at Lions' Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net NRA LOH, NRA Life NRA Second Amendment Task Force Charter Founder
Robert Imrie, DVM wrote:

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On Fri, 16 Sep 2005 21:12:17 -0500, "Martin H. Eastburn"

Done -- off-list.
Bob Imrie, DVM
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