If you study the history of the human race, you will see that a large part of this history has been taken up with war, conquest, killing, and the struggle for power. We have tended to worship as heroes those who could conquer and rule other countries, and we have wrongly educated each new generation to glorify killing and slavery, and to worship power. There have been only relatively short periods when humankind has not been at war, when people could live their lives in peace and tranquillity; but it was during these times that people created art, wrote poems, and sought ways to live longer and happier lives.
In their seven thousand years of history, the Chinese people have experienced all possible human suffering and pain. Chinese culture is like a seven thousand year old man who has seen and experienced all of the pain of human life. Yet through his experience, he has also accumulated a great store of knowledge. China's long spiritual experience cannot be compared to the popular culture of the West, which is the result of centuries of emphasis on the material sciences, money, war, and conquest. If you research Chinese culture through its literature and painting, you will discover that it ranks among the greatest achievements of the human spirit. It reflects humankind's joy and grief, pleasure and suffering, peace and strife, vitality, sickness, and death.
Coming from this complex cultural and historical background, the Chinese people have long sought ways of living healthy and happy lives. However, while on the one hand the Chinese study themselves spiritually, they also tend to say that everything that happens is destiny, and is prearranged by heaven. While holding the fatalistic belief that everything is predetermined, the Chinese also looked for ways to resist the apparent inevitability of sickness and death.
It was with this seemingly contradictory and no-win point of view that the Chinese focused their attention on self-study and self-cultivation. This inward-feeling and looking, this spiritual searching, has become one of the major roots of Chinese culture and medical science. Once Qi, or the internal energy within the human body, was discovered, it was studied very carefully. When the link between the Qi in the human body and the Qi in nature was discovered, the hope soon grew that this Qi was the means whereby humans could escape from the trap of sickness and death. When viewed from this historical background, it is not hard to understand why the a major part of Chinese culture, other than warfare, was based on the religions of Daoism and Buddhism, and spiritual science.
So many people today are devoting all their efforts to striving for, and even achieving, material wealth, and yet they are suffering spiritually. They wander through their lives, listlessly or frantically, wondering what it is they are missing. Their lives have no meaning or purpose. Many seek temporary release from their pain through drugs. I deeply believe that if these people were to study the spiritual practices which have been developed over these several thousand years, they would find the mental balance which is especially necessary for today's society.
In this chapter we will first define Qi and Qigong, and then survey the history of Qigong. This will be followed by the story of the creator of the Eight Pieces of Brocade. Finally, Qigong theory and training principles will be discussed.
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