Historical Survey of Chinese Qigong

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There are four major divisions or schools of Qigong practice and theory that have been developed by four groups: the Confucians, the Physicians, the Buddhist and Daoist monks, and the Chinese martial artists. These groups are not mutually exclusive. For example, a physician studying the workings of Qi might also be a Confucian or Daoist. However, the works we have are usually identifiable as belonging to one particular group.

The Confucians were primarily interested in the workings of human society rather than in withdrawal and self perfection. For them, the purpose of Qigong was to make people more fit to fulfill their function. This group includes many famous artists and scholars, and they frequently expressed their views on Qigong in poetry. The most famous of these poets are Li Bai ( £ Su, Dong-Po (IfcjfcJjfc), and Bai, Ju-Yi ( 6 & % ). Su, Dong-Po was the co-author with Shen, Cun-Zhong (it 4 t) of Su Shen Lian Fang (Good Prescriptions of Su and Shen, Kit ).

The physicians were not specifically aligned with any philosophical group, although their work often has recognizable Daoist influences. Their work is distinguished by its emphasis on the balance of Qi.

The Buddhist monks emphasized becoming free from the suffering of existence through awareness. Their primary method was still meditation with the use of breathing directed toward stilling the mind. Although considerable Qi circulation was developed, it was not the primary goal. The Daoists are associated with withdrawal from society to perfect the self and achieve immortality. To do this they used Qigong and alchemy, and these two methods are frequently discussed together. In fact two terms used in this book, Wai Dan and Nei

Dan (rtfl"), which describe methods of improving Qi circulation, originally meant the alchemical elixir of immortality.

The Chinese martial artists made many contributions to the field of Qigong. Generally, their use of Qigong focuses on strength and power development, body protection, health maintenance, and the treatment of injury. Martial Qigong will be explored in greater detail throughout this book.

Historical records from before the Han dynasty (4W ) are very fragmented and much of the history of the period is conjecture. Traditionally, the history of Qi theory begins with the birth of Chinese medicine in the reign of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di (2697-2597 B.C., * * ). The book that is the theoretical foundation for Chinese medicine to the present day, the Nei Jing Su Wen, (Classic on Internal Medicine, TfrW), is attributed to Huang Di, but modern scholars now believe it to be a work of the Han dynasty.

The Yi Jing, ( ft ft ), on the other hand, is a very old book, believed to date before 2400 B.C. It discusses all the variations of nature in a compact form. Natural forces are represented by the eight trigrams, and these are combined into sixty-four hexagrams. These figures have permeated every aspect of Chinese culture, so it is not surprising that the eight trigrams are used to describe the circulation of Qi in the body.

By the time of the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 B.C., ¡li JH) people used stone probes called Bian Shi (Figure 1-1) to stimulate cavities on the channels which affected the Qi circulation and relieved pain. They had already discovered that a sharp instrument was better than just fingers for stimulating pressure points.


In the sixth century B.C. the philosopher Lao Zi (£f-)(or Li Er, described breathing techniques for increasing the life span in his classic, the Dao De Jing (Classic on the Virtue of the Dao, 4t £ tt )(especially chapter 10). This was the first record of the use of breathing techniques to increase Qi circulation and thus increase the length of life.

The Shi Ji (Historical Record. £ fe) shows that by the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods (722-222 B.C., 4MA Hi 8 ) more complete methods of breath training had evolved.

Around 300 B.C., the Daoist philosopher Zhuang Zi (£f-) described the relationship between breathing and health in his book Nan Hua Jing (fa * H ). It states: "The real person's (I.e., immortal's) breathing reaches down to their heels. The normal person's breathing in the throat."1 This confirms that a breathing method of Qi circulation was being used by some Daoists at that time.

During the Qin and Han dynasties (255 B.C. to 220 A.D., it) several books related to Qigong were written. The Nan Jing (Classic on Disorders, # «) by the famous doctor Bian Que ( A <*) describes the use of breathing to increase Qi circulation. The Han Shu Yi Wen Zhi (Han's Book of Arts and Scholarship, it t # X -i-) describes four methods of Qigong training. The Jin Kui Yao Lue (Prescriptions from the Golden Chamber, ± ft i- ^ ) by Zhang, Zhong-Jing ( H ft f) describes the use of breathing and acupuncture to maintain good Qi flow. The Zhou Yi Can Tong Qi (A Comparative Study of the Zhou (dynasty) Book of Changes, ffl ft Is! IS) by Wei, Bo-Yang (iMG ft) describes the relationship between humans and natural forces and with Qi. Also during this time, anatomical knowledge grew through the dissection of bodies. The structure of the human body in relation to the channel and nervous systems was better understood, and the existence of Qi circulation gained wider acceptance.

During the Western Jin dynasty (265-317 A.D., 6*), the famous physician Hua Tuo (*P€) used acupuncture for anesthesia in surgery. In addition, he spread the Daoist Jun Qing (£i#) method, which imitated the five animals— tiger, deer, monkey, bear, and bird—to generate local Qi circulation. This is a form of Wai Dan Qigong and is called Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Sport, JL fc ift ). The physician Ge Hong (iS &) mentions using the mind to guide and increase the flow of Qi in his book Bao Po Zi (Embrace the Simplicity, A tt -f-).

Sometime between 420 and 581 A.D. Tao, Hong-Jing ( NJ V- *) compiled the Yang Shen Yen Ming Lu (Records of Nourishing the Body and Extending Life, ♦ * a ♦ & ) which records many Qigong techniques for improving health.

During the Liang dynasty (502-557 A.D., **), Da Mo (**), a Buddhist monk from India, arrived at the Shaolin temple ('>'#■ *)(see chapter 2 for Da s

Mo's history). Da Mo saw that the monks were weak and could do very little, and he was so disturbed by this that he shut himself away to ponder the problem. He stayed in seclusion for nine years. When he emerged he had written two books: Yi Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic, w ft *) and Xi Sui Jing {Brain/Marrow Washing Classic, The Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic taught the priests how to regain their health and change their physical bodies from weak to strong. The Marrow/Brain Washing Classic taught the priests how to use Qi to clean the bone marrow and strengthen the blood and the immune system, as well as how to energize the brain and attain enlightenment. Because the Marrow/Brain Washing Classic was harder to understand and practice, the training methods were passed down in secret to only a very few disciples in each generation.

The exercises in the Muscle/Tendon Changing Classic are a form of Wai Dan (external-internal Qigong, ft ft ) using concentration to develop local Qi and increase Qi circulation. The monks practiced these methods and found that their physical strength and power greatly increased. This training was integrated into martial arts forms practiced at the temple, and became the first known application of Qigong to the martial arts.

The Shaolin priests continued developing these Qigong methods and combined them with five sets of fighting forms that imitate the movements of animals known for their fighting ability. These were the tiger, the leopard, the dragon, the snake, and the crane. These animal names are still found in Gongfu styles. Five animal martial training is called Shaolin Five Animal Fists (Shaolin Wu Xing Quan, *).

The development of Qigong methods and theory continued during the Sui and Tang dynasties (589-907 A.D., Wt * fk ). Chao, Yuan-Fang ( Jt /L #) compiled the Zhu Bing Yuan Hou Lun (Thesis on the Origins and Symptoms of Various Diseases, Ht& 9. tt ¿*), which is a veritable encyclopedia of methods. He lists 260 different ways of increasing the flow of Qi. The Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Gold Prescriptions, + -k ar) by Sun, Si-Miao (if ) describes a method of guiding Qi, introduces the use of the six sounds (see chapter 4) and their relationship with the internal organs, and also introduces a collection of massage techniques called Lao Zi's Forty-Nine Massage Techniques. Wai Tai Mi Yao (The Extra Important Secret, ft ts $*) by Wang Tao (¿*) discusses the use of breathing and herbal therapies for Qi circulation disorders.

Between 960 and 1368 A.D. (the Song, Jin, and Yuan dynasties, several works of interest were written. Yang Shen Jue (Life Nourishing Secrets, * * Ik ) by Zhang, An-Dao (fh 4fr it) discusses Qigong practice. Ru Men Shi Shi (The Confucian Point of View, 1t ri ft f ) by Zhang, Zi-He ( ft ■? *») discusses the use of Qigong to cure external injuries such as cuts and sprains. Lan Shi Mi Cang (Secret Library of the Orchid Room, by Li Guo describes Qigong and herbal remedies for internal disorders. Ge Zhi Yu Lun (A Further Thesis of Complete Study, fc St ft % ) by Zhu, Dan-Xi provides a theo retical explanation for the use of Qigong in curing sickness.

It is during the Song dynasty (960-1280 A.D., £49) that Zhang, San-Feng ((U!) is reputed to have creatcd Taijiquan <£■) at Wudang Mountain Taijiquan is a martial form of Nei Dan Qigong (¡*lfl-*ii*) which builds the energy from the Dan Tian (fl- ®), a spot in the lower abdomen one and a half inches below the navel. Taijiquan makes use of Small Circulation (Xiao Zhou Tian, ffl * ) Qigong and Grand Figure 1-2. "Brass Man" by Wang, Wei-Yi

Circulation Qigong, and then applies this energy to martial uses. Small and Grand Circulation will be discussed in chapter 3 of this book.

In 1026 A.D. the famous Brass Man (a hollow brass dummy with the Qi channels and cavity locations marked on it, see Figure 1-2) was built by Wang, Wei-Yi (¿°ii —). This great accomplishment helped to organize acupuncture theory more systematically.

From then until the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 A.D., ft ) the existence of Qi, its benefits to health, and its usefulness to the martial arts continued to gain acceptance among the Chinese people. Many ways of increasing Qi circulation were developed and practiced. For example Marshal Yue Fei &) who lived in the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1280 A.D., ¡h £ ) is reputed to have been the

The Postures

creator of many Qigong styles. It is said that Marshal Yue Fei, seeing that his soldiers were weak, used the Da Mo's Yi Jin Jing exercises as a foundation and modified it into Shi Er Duan Jin (+ — & ) or Twelve Pieces of Brocade (later simplified into Ba Duan Jin, aftj( or Eight Pieces of Brocade) to train his soldiers.

Several other Qigong styles were created during this period that are still used today. The martial artists of the Emei division, located at Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province ( ® * ^ ), still use their Hu Bu Gong (Tiger Step Gong, and Shi Er Zhuang (Twelve Postures, + — B.). Another style rarely used today, but in use before the revolution is Jiao Fa Gong (Beggar Gong, to $ ) which was practiced by beggars to enable them to withstand a life filled with exposure to the elements and irregular meals. However, this style has nearly died out.

The publication of written works on Qigong continued during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912 A.D., SM * ifr ). Qi Jing Ba Mai Kao (The Verifications of the Strange Channels and the Eight Vessels, M a ^ ^) by Li, Shi-Zhen discusses the relationship of Qigong with the Qi channels. Bao Shen Bi Yao (The Secret Important Document of Body Protection, # X te ) by Cao, Yuan-Bai 6) examines moving and stationary Qigong. Yang Shen Fu Yu (Brief Introduction to Nourishing the Body, 4r % 1% ii ) by Chen, Ji-Ru (i*.« ft ) discusses the three treasures of the body: Jing (essence, ii ), Qi (internal energy, It) and Shen (spirit, # ) and how to protect and preserve these treasures. For example, both excessive retention of sperm and excessive dispersion are bad for health, so a man's sex life must be carefully regulated according to his constitution and age. Yi Fang Ji Jie (The Total Introduction to Medical Prescriptions, ## by Wang, Fan-An (>£i«,/fc) is a review and summary of previously published material. Wang, Zu-Yuan's (iiAift) Nei Gong Tu Shuo (Illustrated Explanation of Nei Gong, ^ *Ji B ft ) presents the Twelve Pieces of Brocade exercise, and explains the idea of using both moving and stationary Qigong.

The well known martial art Baguazhang (Eight Trigrams Palm, was created during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 A.D., and is still practiced today. Another popular style, called Huo Long Gong (Fire Dragon Gong, X. 11 $ ), was created toward the end of the Ming dynasty (c. 1640 A.D., by the Taiyang (¿C.F&) division, and is occasionally used for health purposes. Many other styles or methods have been used, but most have died out, or are known to only a few practitioners.

Since 1912 so many books have been written in China that your best resource is a good bookstore. The Qigong styles most widely known today are Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Xingyiquan, and Liu He Ba Fa, which are essentially martial arts, and Shi Er Duan Jin, Ba Duan Jin, Yi Jin Jing, and Wu Qin Xi, which are strictly health exercises.

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