History of Tui na Chinese Massage

Archaeological studies have unearthed evidence of Tui na dating back to around 2700 BC, making it the forerunner of all other forms of massage and body work that exist today, from shiatsu to osteopathy. The most famous ancient text on Chinese medicine‚ Huang Di Nei Jing‚ (The Classic of Internal Medicine of the Yellow Emperor) completed between the first century BC and the first century AD includes records of the use of massage techniques and how they should be used in the treatment of certain diseases.

During the Sui (AD 581-618) and Tang (AD 618-906) dynasties a department of massage therapy was founded within the Office of Imperial Physicians and the practice and teaching of Chinese massage therapy continued to blossom. Dr Sun Si Miao introduced a further ten massage techniques and systemised the treatment of childhood diseases using massage therapy.

In the Song dynasty (AD 960-1279) and the Yuan dynasty (AD 1280-1368), an intensive analysis of Chinese massage techniques was undertaken and the therapy was further refined. It becomes the major form of treatment in the bone-setting and paediatric departments at the Institute of Imperial Physicians.

The Ming dynasty (AD 1368-1644) saw the next great flourish of massage therapy. It was during this time that it took the name Tui na. Many texts were written during this period, particularly on paediatric Tui na, which had become hugely popular.

In the early part of the twentieth century, traditional Chinese medicine began to suffer greatly. This was due to competition form the mainly symptomatic treatments of Western medicine. Between 1912-48, during the rule of Guo Min Dang, doctors trained in Western medicine, returned to China from Japan and recommended that traditional Chinese medicine be banned. Fortunately, this was rejected at the National Medical Assembly in Shanghai on 17 March 1929, thanks to massive lobbying. This day is remembered each year and celebrated as Chinese Doctors’ Day.


Mao Ze Dong was also against traditional Chinese medicine until the Long March of 1934-35. There were no drugs, anaesthetics or surgery available, and doctors of traditional Chinese medicine came to the rescue, achieving amazing results with vast numbers of wounded and sick soldiers.

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From this time on, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) had its feet planted firmly on the ground of modern medicine and, under the People’s Republic of China established in 1948, all the departments of TCM were nurtured and encouraged to grow. In 1956, the first official training course in Tui na was opened in Shanghai; other hospitals followed suit, opening their own Tui na departments. By 1974 there were Tui na hospital departments all over China.

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