Strange Finds: Acupuncture Training Dolls

Acupuncture Training Dolls

I came across this fine looking couple several years ago in the “Dirt Market” in Beijing. It gave me great solace to find out that before poking away at humans, doctors in training had these willing figures to work on. These models were used by instructors to assure that students clearly understood the channels of energy running through the body – referred to as meridians. The ultimate task came during the final Detail of Acupuncture Training Dollsexam, when the instructor required you to diagnose and treat several symptoms on a full size model. The statue, like these, was made of wood, with the holes running along the meridian lines, each covered in wax. You’d need to place an acupuncture needle into the correct part of a meridian to pass the exam. If successful, your needle would go into the hole, and water would pour out. If you picked the wrong spot, your needle would come up dry. Exams were set up like this around 1000CE as the Chinese Emperor wanted to make sure that all students were educated at the same level and used the same standard acupuncture points. The dolls came with a manual, written by a famous court physician, Wang Weiyi. When this particular model was made (mid 1800′s) medicine in China had already changed with acupuncture being mostly replaced by herbal medicine and massage. So the Emperor had small models like this one made and sent to important members of the medical profession, encouraging them to promote acupuncture again.

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