The moxibustion : the art of moxa
The use of moxa (moxibustion) goes back a long way. Indeed, the Huangdi Nei Jing3, the oldest known book of Chinese medicine, refers to a method called Pienn Tsiou ( 砭灸 biānjiǔ) that George Soulié de Morant4 translates as “stone punches and moxas”. However, the use of stone punches predated the use of the metal needle. Excavations have verified that copper was used in the manufacture of ornamental objects thirty centuries BC.4 In Buddhism, moxa was the act of placing a cone of incense on the head during the initiation ceremony of monks and nuns in China and Japan.2
Moxibustion developed significantly during the Ming dynasty, when it was used in conjunction with acupuncture5.
At the end of the 18th century, moxibustion appeared in Europe, whose merits were praised by authors such as Hermann Busschof (de) and Willem ten Rhijne (en) for controlling gout6.
In the 19th century, moxa “was classified in the current cauteries, i.e. those that burn immediately. Widely used in France, its indications were mainly for chronic diseases to strongly excite the nervous system “7.
Balzac mentions them as a treatment given to Father Goriot and also uses their metaphor several times, notably in the Physiology of Marriage and in Le Cousin Pons: “no boredom, no spleen can resist the moxa that we put on the soul by giving ourselves a habit “8. Barbey d’Aurevilly mentions in her short story À un dîner d’atées, which is part of the collection Les Diaboliques, a moralizing use of moxas for a young man whose excess of women had led him to suffer from back tabs. Since the 1870s, this craze has been forgotten; the art of moxa is now associated only with Chinese medicine.
The moxibustion was inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on 16 November 2010.
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