- PDF eBook: 37 pages
- Compiled by, Dr. Henry McCann, Aug. 2018
- Publisher: Institute for Classical Asian Medicine
While Qigong is a modern term in common use for less than 100 years, the practices now included under that heading are as old as Chinese civilization itself. It is possible that different dance-like movement arts used for personal cultivation had their earliest origins in very ancient shamanic practices. Pieces of Neolithic pottery dating over 7000 years of age have been discovered showing people in various Qigong-like postures. (Deadman 2014; Liu 2010) Other various references to using breathing and physical exercises for treating disease and achieving longevity are found throughout literature in early Chinese imperial times. For example, in the Daoist classic the Zhuang Zi, there is this description:
“Blowing and breathing with open mouth; inhaling and exhaling the breath; expelling the old breath and taking in new; passing their time like the bear, and stretching and twisting like a bird – all this simply shows the desire for longevity. This is what the scholars who manipulate their breath, and the men who nourish the body and wish to live as long as Peng Zu are fond of.”
Over the following centuries various breathing and movement arts were developed, some of which have survived to today. Additionally, schools of internal alchemy developed complex meditation and visualization techniques designed not only to increase health and longevity, but also allow the practitioner to experience mystical realization and transcendent states. All of these contributed to the Nourishing Life schools that have come down to us today.
The modern Qigong movement was born at the dawning of the People’s Republic of China (established 1949). One of the earliest promoters of taking older methods of self-cultivation and reformatting them for modern consumption was an unassuming person by the name of Liu Guizhen (刘贵珍; 1920 – 1983). Liu, a minor public servant, suffered from ongoing health issues including gastric ulcers and insomnia. He eventually regained his health in 1947 after practicing breathing and meditation exercises taught to him by his paternal uncle, Liu Duzhou. When Liu Guizhen returned to work a healthy man, his Communist party supervisors took notice. Liu was then tasked with secularizing and simplifying the methods he had learned so that the average person could learn from them and benefit their health. At that time in history the ratio of doctors to the general population in China was an appalling 1:26,000. Hence, Communist Party administrators were eager to promulgate an inexpensive method for people to care for their own health. This also fit into the idea of self-strengthening that was a goal of both individual Chinese as well as the nation as a whole.