Brief History of Qigong

What is Qigong?
Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is a traditional Chinese energy medicine practice combining breathing, movement, and meditation. In Qigong, the term “qi” (or “chi” ) means “vital energy of the body” and “gong” means the skill and achievement cultivated through regular and disciplined practice. It is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which works with the Qi as a key feature of human psychology, physiology, and biology for healing and improving health conditions. Qigong has been practiced with documented results in China for thousands of years and has many different styles and types.

In ancient times, one of the terms used to denote what we, today, call Qigong was “Tu Na,” which means “breathing”. The famous philosopher Zhuang Zi, ” in his book Nan Hua Jing (3rd century BC.), explained that “the immortal’s breathing reaches down to their heels and the normal person’s breathing to the throat.” To this day, one of the commonly accepted definitions of Qigong is breathing exercise.

Qigong has a long history in China as a type of traditional exercise for maintaining health and fitness. The Qigong exercises known as the “Six Healing Sounds” are an excellent traditional Qigong practice, involving the formation of sounds and their vibrations in order to cleanse, re-energize, balance and harmonize the internal organs, thereby creating optimum health.

Meditation is also an important part of Qigong practice. Da Mo, the first Buddhist Patriarch Bodhidharma, came from India to preach Buddhism in China during the Liang dynasty (502-557 A.D.). He is considered the ancestor of the Chinese Chan Zong sect of Buddhism. Later, the Chan Zong sect of Buddhism and its training was brought to Japan and became Zen meditation in Japan. Meditation is an important practice in Qigong training because it is a necessary process for training the mind to direct and regulate the energy flow in the body. Once the energy is activated it must be coordinated with the activities of the mind, so that mind and body can benefit from the synchronization and mutual influence. The mind, when trained by meditation, is able to perceive the subtle levels at which the Qi functions, both at the level of the mind and at the level of the body. As an example, in recent times, Yan Xin Qigong is known as a meditation-based form of Qigong practice.

Qigong has also been known as “Dao Yin,” which means “guiding and directing the Qi flow” by means of specific movements and breathing. For example, the “Five Animal Frolics”, the “Eight Pieces of Brocade”, are all well-known forms of Dao Yin styles of Qigong practice.

However, recently many forms of Qigong offered in the public and in the scientific Qigong research setting are designed for the purpose of maintaining general health, but not including specific connections between practice and specific health conditions. The various styles of Qigong differ in form, body movement, breathing, and meditation, but are not authentic Qi-energy centered internal cultivation practice. In addition, the training courses of many Qigong programs tend to focus on intellectual knowledge from textbook and traditional techniques/methods and lack the systematic internal Qi-energy activation, cultivation, development, refinement and management.