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History of Qigong

© Roger Jahnke OMD

The following translation is from Helmut Wilhelm, the son of Richard Wilhelm who translated the "I-Ching" and "Secret of the Golden Flower".

"With breathing proceed as follows: The breath should be held and it will be gathered. If it is gathered, it becomes magic. If it becomes magic, it descends. If it descends, it quiets down. If it quiets down, it solidifies. If it is solidified, then it germinates. If it germinates, it grows. If it grows, it is attracted upward. If it is attracted upward, it reaches toward the heaven. In heaven, it ascends upward still. At the lower end, it descends still. Those who follow this will live, those who act contrary will die."(22)

The great Taoist poet/philosopher Chuang Tzu stated, in 300 BC, "the ancients breathed down to their heels". This suggests that the breath, in the form of the Qi, is projected and circulated throughout the body. In 1973 an archeological excavation of a Han dynasty (220 BC-220 AD) tomb in Hunan Province revealed a series of over 40 figures painted onto a silk scroll doing various Qigong movements.(22) It is reported that while many of the inscriptions have become unreadable one is clear which says "look skyward and exhale".(22) In this same period one of the first great acupuncture and herbal medicine practitioners, Bien Chieuh, taught breath practice to enhance the circulation of the Qi.(15)

It is a strong tradition in oriental medicine to teach a person to maintain health and many famous physicians developed systems of exercise. In the third century AD, Hua To, whose place in the history of oriental medicine is so illustrious that a series of important acupuncture points bear his name, developed a series of Qigong exercises called the "five animal forms". In the sixth century, Da Mo, a monk in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism, also known as Bodhidarma, came from India and found the monks of Shaolin Temple weakly and undisciplined. He introduced a combination of movement forms with Buddhist meditation that invigorated the monks and increased their power. This was the beginning of the tradition of the superior martial artists of the Shaolin Temple.

Many lineages of Qigong have developed over the centuries. The martial Gong enhances the the strength, endurance and spirit of the warrior. The medical Gong can be used to heal diseases. Confucian Qigong is focused on self cultivation, ethical development and refinement of personal temperment. The Taoist Gong is aimed at alchemical transmutation, merging with nature, longevity and immortality. The Buddhist Gong seeks refinement of mind, transcending the world of illusion and salvation of all living things.

In the "New China" following the revolution in the 1940's Qigong briefly disappeared. One elder practitioner reported through a 1986 LA times article that "At that time it (Qigong) was witchcraft, so I chanted Maoist slogans like everyone else." The article continues "since then Qigong has qualified for official patronage and a national society has been formed to classify and describe the Qi". In the 1970's and 80's numerous institutes for the study of Qigong have sprung up in China. Many hospitals now have Qigong doctors on staff and Qigong classes as regular allied treatment with acupuncture, herbs and western medical modalities. There is a genuine renaissance of Qigong occuring in China. The western world, with its tremendous breakthrough of quantum physics, has taken up a sincere fascination with the bio-energetics of Qigong.(7,11)

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About The Author
Roger Jahnke has been in the health field since 1967 beginning with body therapies, herbal medicine, Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation. He turned his attention seriously to Oriental medicine in 1972 with study at the North American College of Acupuncture in Vancouver, B.C., under Dr. Kok Yeung Leung who now has his school in France. In 1975 Roger transferred to the Tai Hsuan School of......more
 
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