Redwood: How widespread is Qigong in China, both as a self-care practice and in terms of its use by Qigong masters treating people in therapeutic settings like hospitals?
Chow: After the Cultural Revolution, there was an outburst of interest in Qigong, and the government was afraid that this movement might become an uprising. So they spent a lot of money to see whether it was just a superstition, or whether there was any medical validity to it. In the past 20 years, they have carried a lot of Western-type scientific research. They have established that it effects cellular changes and hormonal changes, rebalances the hormones, slows the aging process, and other things like affecting temperature, breath, blood pressure, pulse rate, relaxation state, the immune system, etc.
Hospitals and the universities in China now include Traditional Chinese Medicine and Qigong as a choice that people can select as part of their treatment program. They have schools for Traditional Chinese Medicine, so that each major city like Shanghai, Canton, Beijing, Xian and other major cities has institutions like the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Then there's an overall umbrella agency, the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has about eight hospitals affiliated with them. So it's very extensive in China. There are 80-100 million people who come out daily and practice Qigong in the early morning, at six in the morning. That's what I am aiming for in the West.
Redwood: What is your understanding of the recent, widely publicized crackdown in China on the Falun Gong group? Does this constitute an attack on all Qigong and taiji practitioners? Why does the Chinese government fear this?
Chow: You know, there's a lot of fear in the world. Lots of anxiety, fear, and insecurity. True Qigong fosters integration in our lives. We have spoken to a number of their students. It seems that Falun Gong operates on the fear principle. They say that you must practice Falun Gong only, and that's it. There are thousands of styles of Qigong, but they say you must not follow anything else, even including western medicine and politics. The government is afraid that it will become anti-government and will take over.
Falun Gong people are told that if they practice any other methods they will suffer bad consequences. Because it is such a new practice it has been questioned whether it is truly Qigong. Because it uses the name, it does create some problems with its identity to the classical beneficial styles of Qigong.
Redwood: If someone reading this interview wants to look into learning Qigong, how would you advise them to start? Particularly if they don't live in San Francisco or in another area where there is a Qigong master available?
Chow: That's why I developed this learning package of the book and tapes. I feel that people can learn from books, videos, and audiotapes, and thousands of people have done so. So that's a way to start if they do not have a teacher in their area. Then people can come to take a weekend course where they can be monitored. We also have a 100-hour course (Levels I, II, and III), along with more advanced courses at the East-West Academy of Healing Arts. There is also the American Qigong Association, part of the World Qigong Federation, which can help people find or develop classes close to their area.
Redwood: What research on Qigong is going on now in China and in the United States?