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Qigong
Hu Yue Xian.jpg
A woman performs a Qigong routine outdoors
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 氣功
Simplified Chinese 气功
Hanyu Pinyin qìgōng
Literal meaning Qi cultivation
Japanese name
Kanji 気功
Kana きこう

Qigong (or ch'i kung) is an internal Chinese meditative practice which often uses slow graceful movements and controlled breathing techniques to promote the circulation of qi within the human body, and enhance a practitioner's overall health. There are also many forms of Qigong that are done with little or no movement at all, in standing, sitting and supine positions; likewise, not all forms of Qigong use breath control techniques. Although not a martial art, qigong is often confused with the Chinese martial art of tai chi. This misunderstanding can be attributed to the fact that most Chinese martial arts practitioners will usually also practice some form of qigong and to the uninitiated, these arts may seem to be alike. There are more than 10,000 styles of qigong and 200 million people practicing these methods. There are three main reasons why people do qigong: 1) To gain strength, improve health or reverse a disease 2) To gain skill working with qi, so as to become a healer 3) To become more connected with the "Tao, God, True Source, Great Spirit", for a more meaningful connection with nature and the universe.

In its simplest form, the Chinese character for qi, in qigong, can mean air, breath, or "life force". Gong means work, so qigong is therefore the practice of "working" with ones "life force". The term was not widely known until the 1970s during a period some call the "Qigong Wave" where groups of 10,000-40,000 people regularly gathered inside Chinese stadiums to practice qigong together. Some in the Chinese government became concerned that one quasi religious/political group (see Falun Dafa or Falun Gong)who practiced a Qigong form of their own, might turn into a political weapon, and in 1999, banned all large qigong gatherings. Currently there is a movement underway in China, the United States, and Europe to preserve the valuable aspects of these traditional Chinese practices and to have them studied using Western scientific methods.

Attitudes toward a scientific basis for qigong vary markedly. Most Western medical practitioners and many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, as well as the Chinese government, view qigong as a set of breathing and movement exercises, with possible benefits to health through stress reduction and exercise. Other practitioners view qigong in more metaphysical terms, claiming that qi can be felt as a vibration or electrical current and physically circulated through channels called meridians. Many testify to a reduction or elimination of pain through the use of qigong.

Contents

History

Although the roots of qigong can be traced back millennia, Montréal scholar David Ownby understands qigong as a development of post-Mao China, contending that with the end of the Cultural Revolution came an implicit admission in China that Marxist ideology was useless, and that the 'totalitarian state' wherein the party leader was 'god' was all but defunct. A spiritual crisis thus ensued. Because the 'big religions' were desecrated and banned during the Cultural Revolution, to many Chinese they no longer held the attraction they once did.[1] Qigong is said to have evolved within this historical context, as a “spiritual, slightly mystical branch of Chinese medicine.” Ownby gives a similar account of the history of qigong in China. Qigong was promoted in post-Mao China for both practical and ideological reasons, and in this period it took on "unprecedented importance."[2] On a practical level, it was hoped that qigong would improve the general health of the populace and thus curtail government healthcare expenditure. Ideologically, Ownby contends that many within the Communist government were 'quite taken' with the idea of qigong being a specifically 'Chinese science', a part of the PRC's "new nationalism, a frequently chauvinistic claim to cultural greatness and superpower status."[2] Qigong was not considered religious either by the authorities or by qigong practitioners, which immensely helped its growth. Eventually the state-administered China Qigong Scientific Research Association was formed under the leadership of General Zhang Zhenhuan, supposed to register qigong groups and conduct scientific research.[1] By the time the association was established, there were already 2000 qigong organizations and between 60 and 200 million practitioners across China.[2] Palmer also notes the difficulty in estimating, and states perhaps more than 20 percent of the urban population practised qigong at one point or another during the 'boom'. Estimates of the number of practitioners of the various forms ranged from 10 million, to 100 million at peak popularity, including those who had once practised qigong.[3] Qigong quickly became a social phenomenon of 'considerable importance'; the topic was also explored by novelists and journalists, and qigong newspapers and magazines appeared in abundance to cater for the public's interest in the subject. The original small-group, master-disciple pattern was transformed into a mass experience, with qigong 'masters' organising 'mass rallies' to demonstrate to paying customers a range of qigong specific phenomena such as trance, possession, and a variety of otherworldly states.[2] Qigong was practised widely in public parks and on university campuses. Demographics included both the 'old and suffering' as well as the 'young and curious'.[2] Ownby suggests that the profile of qigong practitioners during this period fit that of the Chinese population in general, “men and women, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, powerful and powerless, urban and rural, Party and non-Party.”[2]

Johnson writes that the early 1990s saw a 'qigong craze', with qigong being a widely accepted part of society.[1] During this upsurge in popularity, Qigong was able to adapt itself to a scientific discourse, which allowed it to survive the suspicions of the atheist state. It was heralded as a form of physical therapy, to be supervised by doctors. Experiments were conducted which purported to show that qigong could cure chronic health problems. Claims that qigong could have some role in developing latent 'supernatural powers' also emerged, such as the ability to levitate, heal illness, telekinesis through emissions of qi, the ability to 'read via the ear', and a “host of other remarkable talents, many of which would fall under our category of extrasensory perception.”[2]

Johnson opines that the Party was to some degree still distrustful of qigong. Qigong remained a private exercise, as opposed to formal religions which center on temples, churches and mosques. These can be run by government officials and are ensured to remain loyal to the state. Johnson's analysis here coincides with that of Chan. While qigong is focused inwardly, outside the state's control, it is performed publicly in groups: “To a government that is used to controlling all aspects of public life, this is perplexing: qigong practitioners are in public and doing something en masse, so by rights they should be formed in an organisation and this organisation should in some way be run by the government. But what they are doing together is meditating, an inner discipline that the party can't monitor.”[1] Ownby suspects that qigong's ostensible autonomy from the state is in fact partly what contributed to its great popularity.[2] Johnson writes that the 1990s saw an 'uneasy standoff'; the 'Three Nos' policy was adopted: No Promoting, No Criticizing, No Debating.

Ownby comments that the emergence of qigong coincided at a historic moment where technology and means of communication—such as books, tapes, television and Internet—were greatly advanced, allowing such groups to become aware of their size and geographical reach. Ownby suggests that this is a paradoxical situation of a deeply rooted Chinese tradition now adapting to a modern setting.

Uses

Today tens of millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise.[4] Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines practiced by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists, and their students. Once more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.

Alternative medical systems
Acupuncture • Anthroposophic medicine • Ayurveda • Chiropractic • Herbalism • Homeopathy • Naturopathy • Osteopathy • Traditional medicine (Chinese • Tibetan)
NCCAM classifications
Whole medical systems • Mind-body interventions • Biologically based therapies • Manipulative therapy • Energy therapies
See also
Alternative medicine • Glossary • People

Medical qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989.[5] It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China. After years of debate, the Chinese government decided to officially manage qigong through government regulation in 1996 and has also listed qigong as part of their National Health Plan.

Qigong can help practitioners to learn diaphragmatic breathing, which can be helpful in combatting stress. In contrast, Taoist qigong employs the inverse breath of inhaling to the back of the thoracic cavity rather than diaphragmatic breathing. Improper use of diaphragmatic breathing can lead to reproductive pathologies for women. ^ (Nan Huai-Chin, 南懷瑾(1918年——), Meditation and the cultivation of immortality, Gu lu press, Tawain 1991 p. 59)

Yan Xin (嚴新), a doctor of both Western and Chinese medicine as well as founder of the relatively popular Yan Xin Qigong school, suggests that in order for qigong to be accepted by the modern world it must pass the test of scientific study. Without such studies, Yan maintains, qigong will be dismissed as "superstition" (see "Criticism of Qigong" chapter below). In the mid-1980s he and others began systematic study of qigong in some research institutions in China and the United States, more than 20 papers have been published.[6]

While uncertainty persists regarding the spiritual aspects of qigong, Qigong may also be seen as a socially conducive warm-up to the day. Many practitioners choose the early morning to practice qigong and find it an easy way to stretch and warm up the metabolism.

Beliefs

Qigong practitioners in Brazil

Qigong, and its intimate relation to the Chinese martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine, are often associated with spirituality. This link is much stronger than with other techniques in traditional Chinese medicine. Qigong was historically practiced in Taoist and Buddhist monasteries as an aid to concentration as well as martial arts training, and the health benefits of martial qigong practice have recently been confirmed in western medical studies. In addition, the traditional teaching methods of most qigong schools (at least in Asia) descend from the strict teacher-disciple relationship conventions inherited in Chinese culture from Confucianism.

In some styles of qigong, it is taught that humanity and nature are inseparable, and any belief otherwise is held to be an artificial discrimination based on a limited, two-dimensional view of human life. According to this philosophy, access to higher energy states and the subsequent health benefits said to be provided by these higher states is possible through the principle of cultivating virtue (de or te 德, see Tao Te Ching, chapters 16, 19, 28, 32, 37, and 57). Cultivating virtue could be described as a process by which one comes to realize that one was never separated from the primal, undifferentiated state of being free of artificial discrimination that is the true nature of the universe. Progress toward this goal can be made with the aid of deep relaxation (meditation), and deep relaxation is facilitated by the practice of qigong.

The debate between what can be called "naturalist" and "supernaturalist" schools of qigong theory has produced a considerable literature. Scholar Xu Jian analysed the intellectual debate, which involved both scientific research on qigong and the prevailing revival of nationalistic traditional beliefs and values.

Taking 'discourse' in its contemporary sense as referring to forms of representation that generate specific cultural and historical fields of meaning, we can describe one such discourse as rational and scientific and the other as psychosomatic and metaphysical. Each strives to establish its own order of power and knowledge, its own 'truth' about the 'reality' of qigong, although they differ drastically in their explanation of many of its phenomena.[7]

At the center of the debate is whether and how qigong can bring forth “supernormal abilities” (teyi gongneng 特異功能).

The psychosomatic discourse emphasizes the inexplicable power of qigong and relishes its occult workings, whereas the rational discourse strives to demystify many of its phenomena and to situate it strictly in the knowledge of modern science."[7]

The Chinese government has generally tried to encourage qigong as a science and discourage religious or supernatural elements. Chinese and Western science are not fully equivalent; for example, traditional Chinese medicine is only considered scientific by the former.

David Aikman wrote that unlike in America, where many may believe that qigong is a socially neutral, subjective, New Age-style concept incapable of scientific proof, much of China's scientific establishment believes in the existence of Qi.[8] Controlled experiments by the Chinese Academy of Sciences in the late 1970s and early 1980s concluded that qi, when emitted by a qigong expert, "actually constitutes measurable infrared electromagnetic waves and causes chemical changes in static water through mental concentration". Other emission studies have reported measurable influence on the ultraviolet absorption of nucleic acids, liposome phase behaviour and radioactive decay rates.[9]

The Hindu culture refers to qi as Prana, the Japanese culture uses the character ki, and the Hawaiian culture calls it mana.

Theories about the cultivation of elixir (dan), "placement of the mysterious pass" (xuanguan shewei), among others, are also found in ancient Chinese texts such as The Book of Elixir (Dan Jing), the Daoist Canon (Tao Zang) and Guide to Nature and Longevity (Xingming Guizhi).

Many proponents of qigong claim they can directly detect and manipulate qi, Robert Bruce being a western example. Others, including some traditional Chinese practitioners, believe that qi can be viewed as a metaphor for certain biological processes, and the effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms of concepts more familiar to Western medicine such as stress management or neurology.

Criticisms and controversies

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Skeptics

Much of the criticism of qigong involves its claimed method of operation. Both traditional Chinese and Western medicine practitioners have little argument with the notion that qigong can improve and in many cases maintain health by encouraging movement, increasing range of motion, and improving joint flexibility and resilience, and have mental benefits through the calm exercise, however there are some concerns about adverse effects that have been observed in users (Xu, 1994). When it is asserted that qigong derives its benefits from qi acting as a kind of "biological plasma" that cannot be detected by current scientific instruments, some practitioners react skeptically and declare qi as a pseudoscientific and vitalism concept, though others consider it as a philosophy rather than a physical force.

Association of qigong with practices involving spirit possession have added to establishment criticism. Some experts in China have warned against practices involving the claimed evocation of demons, and practices involving the worship of gods during qigong practice. The popularity of Qigong meant that qigong merchandising, lectures and therapy was lucrative: self-proclaimed masters who claimed "Extraordinary powers", including the ability to cure AIDS, would charge high fees for lectures and therapies. Some so-called masters would diagnose non-existent ailments only to propose cures.[10] Critics, who had been silenced in 1985 pursuant to the 'No criticisms' policy, reacted to the rise of claims of Extraordinary Powers once again brought out the sceptics starting in 1988; Science and Technology Daily invited the American Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and posted a reward to any who proved the existence of Extraordinary Powers.[10]

Psychosis

In the 1980s and 1990s, the increasing popularity of qigong and related practices led to the establishment of many groups and methods in China and elsewhere that have been viewed in a critical light by more traditional qigong practitioners as well as by skeptical outside observers. In their view, a large number of people started studying qigong under inadequate supervision, indeed, perhaps the majority of people today who study qigong work from books or video tapes and DVDs without supervision by a teacher. This laxness can lead to several problems, according to those who view themselves as representative of orthodox schools. Most traditional training takes many years of practice under the supervision of someone who has also learned over years, someone who can guide and prevent the student from taking an unbalanced approach to qigong practice. The orthodox practitioners warn that improperly supervised practice can cause unbalanced circulation of inner energies that can eventually lead to unbalanced effects on the various systems of the body, both mental and physical.

The number of reported cases of Zouhuo rumo (走火入魔), a condition with physiological and mental symptoms found to be linked to practicing Qigong, also began to rise with the popularity of Qigong in China.[11][10] The first case had manifested itself in the early 1980s when practitioners of 'Flying Crane Qigong' were unable to come out of a trance they had induced in themselves.[10] Also known as 'Qigong deviation' (氣功偏差) among psychiatrists, the condition could cause, in extremis, death through delusions of omnipotence. By the 1990s, the prevalence of the condition caused concern from the authorities and the public; a number of psychiatrists opened special clinics specifically treating the disorders. Palmer reported that Peking University psychiatrist Zhang Tongling treated more than 400 cases in the six years from 1989, and she found that Qigong could exacerbate those with pre-existing mental disorders, or trigger psychosis in some susceptible individuals.[10] In the West, the term "Qi Gong-Induced Psychosis" was coined, and included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association in the late 1990s.[10] Although opponents of Qigong also exploited this health concern,[11][10] Qigong was still regarded as a national treasure, and had supporters in the upper political echelons. The death of Zhang Zhenhuan in March 1994 deprived qigong of one of its key pillars of support. In October, the government ordered the dissolution of the International Federation of Qigong Sciences; the home of its secretary general was searched by police.[11]

Dr. Arthur Kleinman and Dr. Sing Lee from Harvard Medical School, researchers on various psychiatric topics in China, suggest that in international psychiatry this illness would be recognized as “…a specific type of brief reactive psychosis or as the precipitation of an underlying mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder.” They claim to have had experience with patients suffering from the condition. "Many kinds of qigong share certain similarities, such as the attainment of a trance state, patterned bodily posture or movement…, the practice of which could induce mental illnesses in some of its practitioners."[12]

The condition is also known in China as 'Qigong deviation' (氣功偏差) among psychiatrists, and could cause, in extremis, death through delusions of omnipotence. By the 1990s, the prevalence of the condition caused concern from the authorities and the public; a number of psychiatrists opened special clinics specifically treating the disorders. Palmer reported that Peking University psychiatrist Zhang Tongling treated more than 400 cases in the six years from 1989, and she found that Qigong could exacerbate those with pre-existing mental disorders, or trigger psychosis in some susceptible individuals.[10]

In 2009, a randomized clinical trial of medical qigong on quality of life of cancer patients concluded that medical qigong with usual health care can improve overall QOL, fatigue, positive mood status and reduce the side effects of nausea, sleep disturbance and inflammation of cancer patients[13] In 2006, A randomised controlled cross-over trial of aerobic training versus Qigong in advanced Parkinson's disease resulted in conclusion that though aerobic training had certain effects, no significant changes were observed during Qigong[14]

The People's Republic of China

Some historians have suggested that in the early days of rule by the People's Republic of China there was a drive to promote the Traditional Chinese Medicine aspects of qigong to a quasi-religious status (and therefore deviate from standard communist government policy on religion).[15] In 1988 the Chinese government issued regulations on medical qigong, then in the mid 1990s began to review the many burgeoning styles of qigong in order to promote groups that were scientifically documented as effective and to prevent the spread of false medical claims. In 1996 and 2000, the Chinese government issued legislation on fitness qigong, including it in the national health and fitness plans and banning certain organizations. The PRC has most recently attempted to reposition the definition of qigong to a traditional Chinese sport involving "deep breathing exercises" rather than anything to do with qi as energy.[16] Xinhua News Agency articles have also attempted to explain the healing 'qi emissions' of qigong masters as a type of hypnotherapy or placebo effect.[16] However in cultural contexts, PRC sources do refer to qigong's roots in daoyin and qi circulation in ancient times as a method to regulate one's qi for the benefit of longevity.[17]

Health Qigong

In 2001 the Chinese government showed great interest in regulating the Qigong movement. The State Sport General Administration of China founded the Chinese Health Qigong Association, as a mass-organization to popularize, spread and research Health Qigong in cooperation with the Peking Sport University. In 2003 the organization presented the newly developed four Health Qigong Exercises on the base of excellent traditional Qigong, including

  • Yì Jīn Jīng (tendon-changing classic),
  • Wu Qin Xi (frolics of five animals 五禽戲),
  • Liu Zi Jue (the art of expiration in producing six different sounds),
  • Ba Duan Jin (eight excellent movements),

to fit the people's needs of promoting their health and body, and to develop traditional Chinese national culture further. The Chinese Health Qigong Association is a member of the All-China Sports Federation.

During the process of developing the exercises, strictly scientific research methods have been followed. Primary experiments took place under supervision of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Modern Medicine, Psychology, Athletic Science and other related subjects. The Four Health Qigong Exercises can be seen as the essences from the related Qigong in various schools, inherited and developed traditional Chinese national culture.

The new Health Qigong represented by the Chinese Health QiGong Association is breaking with the old tradition of family-styles and close teacher-student relation. It is hoped that the new standardisation is supporting the international spread of Qigong in the western hemisphere.

Starting in September 2004 the "Health Qigong Magazine" became the association magazine of the CHQA. It is the only national health qigong publication in China; edited through China Sports Press.

After the successful 1st International Health Qigong Demonstration and Exchange in 2005 the CHQA organized in August 2007 the 2nd International Health Qigong Demonstration and Exchange in Peking including an international competition and the first Duan examination on Health Qigong. At the same time, the 2007 International Symposium on Health Qigong Science was organized where important scientific studies were made public.

In October 2008 the first European Health Qigong Congress has been organized in Munich, Germany and presented the new forms to a wider public as there was no international exchange organized in China for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

The 3rd International Health Qigong Tournament and Exchange will be held in Shanghai during August 2009. At this occasion there will be founded the International Health Qigong Federation which will shelter the worldwide organisation of Health Qigong.

Qigong authors

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c d Johnson, Ian (2004), Wild Grass: Three Stories of Change in Modern China, Pantheon Books, ISBN 9780375421860  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h p 233
  3. ^ Palmer, David A. (2007). 9. Falun Gong challenges the CCP. pp. 241–295. ISBN 0231140665. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RXeuibmD2dsC&pg=PA241&dq=%22Falun+Gong+challenges+the+CCP%22&lr=&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=&f=false.  
  4. ^ (see
    • [minghui.ca/gb/world_day/www...org/press.../WillBeijing.doc]
  5. ^ Douglas Wengell, Nathen Gabriel, Educational Opportunities in Integrative Medicine, p. 34, http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=BNR1KGJXX9cC&pg=PA34  
  6. ^ (see
  7. ^ a b Xu Jian, "Body, Discourse and the Cultural Politics of Contemporary Chinese Qigong", The Journal of Asian Studies 58 (4 November 1999
  8. ^ David Aikman, American Spectator, March 2000, Vol. 33, Issue 2
  9. ^ Research papers by Dr. Yan Xin
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h Palmer, David A. (2007). 6. Controversy and crisis. pp. 158-. ISBN 0231140665. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=RXeuibmD2dsC&pg=PA158&dq=%22second+world+qigong+congress%22&lr=&client=firefox-a#v=onepage&q=%22second%20world%20qigong%20congress%22&f=false.  
  11. ^ a b c Ownby (2008), p.166
  12. ^ Sing, Lee, & Kleinman, Arthur (2002). "Psychiatry in its Political and Professional Contexts: A Response to Robin Munro"". J Am Acad Psychiatry Law, 30:120–5: 122. http://www.jaapl.org/cgi/reprint/30/1/120.pdf.  
  13. ^ "RTC of MQ on quality of life, ... and inflammation of cancer patients.", American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), http://www.asco.org/ASCOv2/Meetings/Abstracts?&vmview=abst_detail_view&confID=65&abstractID=30347, retrieved 2009-08-05  .
  14. ^ Burini D, Farabollini B, Iacucci S, Rimatori C, Riccardi G, Capecci M, Provinciali L, Ceravolo MG (2006), "A randomised controlled cross-over trial of aerobic training versus Qigong in advanced Parkinson's disease.", Europa medicophysica 42 (3): 231–8, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17039221  .
  15. ^ Columbia University information
  16. ^ a b Xinhua News Agency article
  17. ^ Daoyin -An Ancient Way of Preserving Life. http://en.olympic.cn/china_oly/ancient_sports/2003-11-16/11199.html

References

  • Issacs, Nora Exercisers Slow it Down with Qigong New York Times April 5, 2007
  • Jin, Guanyuan: Scientific Essence of Qigong. Symp Proc. Intl. Conf. of Traditional Medicine, Beijing, PRC, p515, 2000.
  • Maciocia, Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists; Churchill Livingstone; ISBN 0-443-03980-1
  • Ni, Mao-Shing, The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine: A New Translation of the Neijing Suwen with Commentary; Shambhala, 1995; ISBN 1-57062-080-6
  • Holland, Alex Voices of Qi: An Introductory Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine; North Atlantic Books, 2000; ISBN 1-55643-326-3
  • Unschuld, Paul U., Medicine in China: A History of Ideas; University of California Press, 1985; ISBN 0-520-05023-1
  • Scheid, Volker, Chinese Medicine in Contemporary China: Plurality and Synthesis; Duke University Press, 2002; ISBN 0-8223-2872-0
  • Porkert, Manfred The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine MIT Press, 1974 ISBN 0-262-16058-7
  • Graham, A. C. (translator). (2001). Chuang-tzu: The Inner Chapters. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, inc. ISBN 0-87220-581-9
  • Lau, D. C. (1963). Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching. London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 0-14-044131-X
  • Graham, A.C., Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (Open Court 1993). ISBN 0-8126-9087-7
  • Blofeld, J. Taoism, The Quest for Immortality, Mandala-Unwin Paperbacks London, 1989. ISBN 0-04-299008-4

Further reading

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