“Qigong” (literally “breath exercise”), an invaluable component of traditional Chinese medicine, has its origin in ancient times. Its primarystimulus was the search for longevity with the ultimate aim of immortality,which has much entranced the Chinese mind from ancient times. Therecords shows the exercises to help the qi (the human body’s vital energy)circulating freely and to nourish the internal organs dated to the ShangDynasty (16th -11th century AD). The actual practice of qigong began inthe fourth century AD. Since then the search by physician and patient forgreater health, techniques of religious cultivation and the martial artist’squest for better training methods all contributed greatly to its developmentand enrichment over the following centuries. The Taoist, Buddhist,Confucian, Medical and Martial schools of practice developed. Qigonghas been passed down from generation to generation.
Generally, qigong is divided into two types. One is the quiescent type(jinggong 静功)，which is meant to be performed standing, sitting, orlying down using special breathing techniques by which the practionerlearns to focus his mind. The other one is the mobile type (donggong 动功)，which practices a set of movements and massage while keeping aproper balance between mind and emotion, qi and strength. Internally,qigong can enhance the spirit, the qi and the mind. Externally, it canstrengthen the tendons, bones and skin. The structure and style of qigonghas close relations with the introspective observation that is typical of Chinese culture. For example qigong takes harmony as its guidingprinciple, classical Chinese philosophy as its theoretical base, the use of will power as its fundamental means, a combination of dong (motion) andjing (stillness) as its form of expression, man’s longevity as its goal.
Qigong has had various forms, and its name and emphasis may havevaried according to the form. However, its oldest and most diverse form isTaoyin (导引)，which holds an important position in the traditionalChinese art of preserving one’s health. Tao refers to the fact that physicalmovements are guided by the strength of the mind and in turn stimulatethe internal flow of qi within the body. Yin means that with the aid ofphysical movements, qi can reach the bodily extremities (for example, thefingers, feet and head). In this way the flow of “qi” links the zang 脏（solid organs） and fu (腑) (hollow organs) or qi being transmittedthrough the body. Sometimes this can be released from the body, and thenit is known as external qi.
The basic methods of Taoyin (导引)are kai (开)(opening), he (合)（closing）, xuan (旋) （rotating）, rou (揉) （rubbing）, tui (推) (pushing),an (按) （pressing）, and fen (分) （separating. There are many posturesand movements in Taoyin exercises, but the emphasis is on achieving astate of harmony between body and mind. This can be done with the helpof the movements, not solely because of the movements themselves, andwhen you reach a certain level in practice, you can even “forget what youare doing, and this is gaining the true essence of qigong and forgettingphysical movements.” This state of harmony culminates in the practice ofjinggong (静功) （static exercises.
Taoyin has many differences from gymnastics and other modern sports,as Taoyin exercises are based on mental activity and therefore it is possibleto accumulate and conserve one’s energy while practicing Taoyin exercises.However, the practice of modern sports requires showing off one’sstrength and skill, and therefore the consumption of energy.
Another form of “jinggong” exercises is tuna (吐纳) （exhaling andinhaling）, otherwise known as tiaoxi (调息) (regulating breath) or xiqi (吸气) (absorbing qi) . this is a synthesis of different breathing skills. The basic train of thinking for these exercises is that as far as possible oneshould expel the stale and stagnated air and inhale fresh air, thusimproving the functioning of the internal organs to resist senility andprolong life.
Tuna skills can be divided into three basic categories: Koubi huxi(breathing through the mouth or nose), Fushi huxi (abdominal breathing),other methods of breathing and regulation in conjunction with mentalactivity such as chongqi (filling the body with qi), dantian huxi (directingqi to dantian, a region two or three centimeters below the navel), zhongxi(directing qi to the heel), and guixi (breathing like a tortoise).
Unique to China only, Qigong exercise become an integral part of theChinese culture. Qigong exercise can produce a myriad of beneficialeffects, of which the most common are preventing and curing diseases,strengthening the constitution, avoiding premature aging, and prolonginglife. Qigong exercise requires one to relax, to be calm, natural and freefrom distraction, so that it can remove “stress”, and dispel tension. Qigongexercise helps to keep the main and collateral channels in good shape toestablish harmony between vital energy and blood, to balance between yinand yang, and improve coordination of the nervous system, so thatprotective inhibition of the cerebral cortex can be enhanced. Qigongexercise helps to reduce fundamental metabolism, increase the capacity ofstoring energy, apply massage to the abdomen and improve appetite andbring good digestion. Qigong exercise helps to tap the body potentialities,stimulate positive factors, and enhance one’s self-control. Therefore, itbecomes an effective measure to attain health and longevity. Qigongmasters and medical practitioners have developed a theory from a wealthof experience and practice of qigong over many centuries. The modernscientific research and evaluation of qigong exercise has attractedincreasing attention from all circles around the world. This may bring thebenefits of qigong intellectual to light, but it may leave mechanisticdogmatism to qigong phenomena.
Reference: A Brief Introduction of Chinese History & Culture by Liang Zhigang, QingTao Press Sept. 2001