An acupuncture chart is a chart which is designed to help a practitioner of acupuncture with his or her practice. Acupuncture charts are published as standalone items and in texts which deal with acupuncture. In texts, authors may take the time to create extremely detailed and precise acupuncture charts which cover a variety of different topics, while standalone charts tend to be more general in nature. It would be impossible to show all of the meridians and points used in acupuncture on a single chart without turning the chart into a mass of lines and dots.
Acupuncture is an aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to the principles of TCM, everyone's body is filled with a flow of energy known as qi or xi. When this flow is disturbed or out of balance, it results in health problems. This qi flows along major lines of the body known as meridians, with each meridian involving a particular organ system, area of the body, or family of conditions. Along the meridians can find a number of key points known as xuewei. These points can be manipulated by a practitioner of TCM to restore balance to a patient's qi, and in the case of acupuncture, this is accomplished with carefully placed needles which stimulate qi.
There are 12 major meridians on the body, along with the Eight Extraordinary Meridians, which practitioners of TCM believe form in utero and have a profound influence on someone's body and spirit. Acupuncture charts can provide general views of all the meridians, or they may focus on a particular area of the body, such as the ear or leg, showing all of the meridians and acupuncture points in the area. The acupuncture chart may also focus on a specific topic, such as diseases characterized by too much yin or yang, showing practitioners specific points which they could target in patient treatment. An acupuncture chart can also cover specific disciplines such as facial or ear acupuncture.
The Chinese have been publishing acupuncture charts since approximately the Ming Dynasty. One interesting thing to note, especially when compared to how much Western medicine has changed, is how similar early Ming charts are to modern ones; TCM practitioners have been using the same tools in medical treatment for centuries. An acupuncture chart used by an acupuncture practitioner or student today would be recognizable to practitioners who worked long ago.
In addition to using an acupuncture chart, a practitioner can also use an acupuncture model, a doll which shows meridians and points of interest. Modern charts and dolls may utilize numerous colors to mark out various meridians and xuewei to make them easier to visualize, and practitioners can also take advantage of interactive acupuncture charts run by software or embedded in websites.