Qi GongVincent Pratchett November 1, 2002
An Ancient Art for Modern Times
The ancient art of qi gong (literally translated: Breath Work), now a fundamental part of Chinese Medicine, was born from the Taoist quest for immortality. References to qi — vital energy — and its circulation for better organ function, date back to the Shang Dynasty. The documented practice ofqi gong began in earnest during the fourth century A.D. Naturally, the passing of these techniques from one generation to the next was not static. Doctors, martial artists, and priests all added to the direction and refinement of qi gong over the centuries.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the human body has meridians running through it in different directions, like a network. These meridians are the channels where the qi flows. The basic and most important conditions for a healthy body is that qi flows well in all the meridians. If qi is stagnant at a certain point, disease will arise from there. This is the reason we need to practice qi gong. We practice with the purpose of making qi flow smoothly and freely through the meridians. I believe this is how qi gong can cure and prevent disease and enhance health.
There have been many styles of qi cultivation, with the names and emphasis changing depending on the different forms. The oldest and most diverse form is Daoyin. In the Chinese science of health preservation, Dao refers to the body’s movement guided by the mind’s strength to generate the flow of qi internally. Yin is the concept of physical movement enabling qi to link solid and hollow organs, reach the extremities, and begin its health nurturing cycle again. Qi gong differs from sport exercise because of the mental activity and visualization behind the movement. It is intent on harnessing the mind’s energy. The result is that, when done correctly, energy is accumulated and collected, as opposed to being consumed and depleted.
The state of harmony between body and mind, the losing of self in qi gong practice, and the act of movement without thought are important factors for acquiring the essence and benefits of qi gong. Over a period of time the practitioner becomes aware of energy flow within the body and even its consciously directed release externally. Thus, the combination of physical movement and cerebral stillness result not only in personal health preservation, but eventually in the ability to heal others as well. The seven basic daoyin methods are: An (pressing); Fen (separating); Tai (pushing); He (closing); Kai (opening); Rou (rubbing); and Xuan (rotating).
Qi gong can be further divided into two modes, quiet and active. Quiet mode is done sitting, standing or lying down and uses breathing techniques to calm and focus the mind and facilitate qi circulation. The active mode concentrates on an exercise set and massage while seeking a balance between the mind and strength. So, internally qi gong can enhance spirit and vitality, while externally strengthening and revitalizing bones, tendons, muscle, and skin. Qi gong practice is the balanced combination of correct posture, breathing, and mental activity.
In retrospect, qi gong can be thought of as a journey through Chinese culture and philosophy. Harmony is its guiding principle, willpower its vehicle, the interaction of motion and stillness its expression, and the individual’s health, well-being, and longevity its final destination.
Dr. Wu Bin Jiang, president of the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. practices a set of movements called The Fifteen Qi gong Exercises, or the 15 Exercise Set. These movements are credited to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and a taoist priest Xu Xuan Ping. For almost 1,400 years they have been a reliable method of improving health and constitution, curing disease, and promoting longevity. The fact that in China today qi gong is widespread and popular is strong testimony to this style’s effect on health. The movements and imagery are clearly inspired by nature or forces of nature. This series was created based on ancient qigong training, imitating the movements of elephant, dragon, peacock, white cane, wild horse, holding the moon, pushing a mountain, ducking a floating ball, etc.
Dr. Wu Bin Jiang was introduced to qi gong at the age of eight. Upon graduating from high school he was caught up in the Cultural Revolution and sent to a small village in Hebai province to study Chinese Medicine with his uncle. In 1977, when the revolution ended and the universities re-opened, Dr. Wu was able to take advantage of the post-cultural revolutionary climate to study traditional healing formally. Having attained a B.Sc. in Medicine in Harbin, he continued his studies in Beijing. He graduated with a Masters of Acupuncture and qi gong, the first session of this kind of Masters Degree in China. As one of only 12 people to have attained this rank, he was able to study under many of China’s greatest masters, including the venerable Shi De Xing, abbot of Shaolin Temple, and renowned scholar Dr. Jiao Guo-Rui.