Qigong ( Chinese 氣功 / 气功 , Pinyin qìgōng , W.-G. ch'i-kung ), also known as Chigong , is a Chinese form of meditation , concentration and movement for the cultivation of body and mind. Even martial arts Exercises are understood below. The practice includes breathing exercises, physical and movement exercises, concentration exercises and meditation exercises. The exercises should serve to harmonize and regulate the flow of Qi in the body.
The origins of the exercises go back a long way, with Zhuangzi already suggesting certain forms, and silk images from the time of the Han dynasty . The name Qigong was used for the first time by the Daoist Xu Xun from the Jin period and has since referred to certain exercises in martial arts. In the history of China, this practice has always played a major role as health care, but it was also used for religious and spiritual purposes, especially in Daoism , Buddhism and Confucianism , and passed on in the monasteries. The name Qigong for these exercises has only been used since the 1950s and the different styles of Qigong are partly completely new developments, which are based on traditions that are thousands of years old.
In the 1950s the name Qigong was used for these health exercises by the doctor Liu Guizhen, who used traditional techniques in his work to promote and stabilize the body's energy balance and to treat illnesses .
"Qi" ( pronounced similarly to "tchi", in Japanese and Korean "ki" ) stands in Chinese philosophy and medicine for both the moving and the vital power of the body, but also of the entire world. In the Chinese language it means breath , energy and fluid . The term encompasses many forms and modes of action. "Gong" as a Chinese term means "work" on the one hand, but also "ability" or "ability". Thus, Qigong can be translated as “constant work on Qi”, or also as “the ability, ability to deal with Qi, to use it”.
The practice of Qigong should strengthen the life energy in order to achieve a healthy physical and mental state and thus to extend life.
The comprehensible historical development of Qigong shows changes in content and objectives. The most important influences came from Daoism , Buddhism , martial arts and traditional Chinese medicine . Here no strict dividing lines can be drawn, the different currents flowed into one another, branched out and were intertwined again.
The influences of Chinese medicine
The oldest traditional work of Chinese medicine, Huangdi Neijing So Wen ( Questions and Answers of the Yellow Emperor on the Interior ), is dated to around 200 BC. Dated. It contains the first written references to physical exercises for maintaining health.
In 1973, in the village of Mawangdui , near Changsha , several silk scarves were found in a grave from the early Han period, some of which were described with historical texts such as the Daodejing , and some were painted. Their age is dated to around 2500 years. One fragment shows 44 people doing exercises to guide their breath and stretch their bodies. They are named after animal positions or the diseases they are supposed to counteract. Although several references to qigong practices have come down to us from that early period of Chinese culture, it is not possible to derive a comprehensible method from it.
Even if the concepts of Chinese medicine paint a completely different idea of life functions than the natural sciences, they nonetheless created maps from which diagnostic and therapeutic methods were derived. How and why they work can so far only be described in the language of Chinese medicine.
Chinese medicine assumes that the flow of qi , its qualities and its changes are responsible for the well-being or the occurrence of diseases. From this idea the concepts of Yin and Yang and the five phases of change were developed.
Many people who believe in qi have the idea that it circulates in the body in different patterns. They believe that there is a Qi of the internal organs, which in the interconnects circles (meridians) and a protective effect on the body surface and has tightly around the body.
In medical Yangsheng Qigong, that is, health promoting and stabilizing, the harmonious interplay of the substances Qi , Jing = essence, Xue = blood and Jinye = body fluids should be guaranteed by the exercises. The most important role is played by increasing and directing Qi.
According to the motto that it is better to maintain health than to cure illness, there are a large number of series of exercises in medical qigong which are intended to give the system stability in order to prevent an imbalance. One example is the series of Dao Shi Qigong , exercises in harmony with the seasons. Here it becomes clear how much the inside and the outside are understood as influencing units.
The influences of Daoism
As the beginning of what is called Daoism , a script can be seen that is believed to be around 400 BC. Was created. This script is often ascribed to the Chinese philosopher Laozi . However, this one probably never lived. The book Daodejing is more likely a collection of older sayings that have been passed down orally for a long time and that have been mixed up with later commentaries. The text, which comprises almost 5000 characters, deals with the work of Dao and virtue in often puzzling and ambiguous formulations . In the first line, the author refuses to clearly state what Dao is: "The Dao that can be revealed is not an eternal Dao."
The civilization so highly valued by the Confucians is therefore merely an alienation from the natural order. Instead, the book recommends a life of simplicity. The best ruler is one who lets things take their natural course through non-intervention ( wu wei ). Even more radical are the ideals of the Zhuangzi , a Chinese philosopher of the fourth century BC who rejects any form of regulation, mocks public life and extols individual independence.
In the 3rd century BC The Huang-Lao-Daoism spread , which appealed to the medical teachings of the Huáng Dì in combination with the teachings of Laozi. In this form, Daoism acquired a strong political meaning and a certain scientific character in relation to the preservation of the body . On the other hand, the belief that certain qigong techniques could achieve physical immortality spread at that time . The ideal of immortality is directly related to the concept of the integrity of a postulated cosmic order. According to this, the body will function as consistently and intact as the entire universe if one knows how to organize it according to the rules of Dao.
The doctor Hua Tuo wrote about “the art of the five animals”, also “the game of the five animals” ( Wu Qin Xi ), from around AD 200 : “... that is why the ancient wise men practiced the art of breathing. They stretched their loins and limbs and moved the muscles of the lower abdomen. In this way they tried to stop aging. I have a method called the art of the five animals, the tiger, the deer, the bear, the monkey and the bird. "
Chinese alchemy occupies a key position among the various techniques for extending life in Taoism . A distinction is made between two types: the outer ( waidan ) and the inner ( neidan ) alchemy. In external alchemy, an attempt is made to create an elixir from substances that are as pure as possible, which makes the body imperishable. Inner alchemy uses meditative techniques, combined with breathing and movement exercises, to bring about processes in the body which, in a figurative sense, should bring about spiritual immortality. The possibilities of extending life, rejuvenating and maintaining health are grouped under the term Yangsheng (“nourishing the body”), which is used today for medically oriented Qigong.
The name can easily be confused with Yangshen ( nourishing the mind ), which refers to the more meditative methods in which alchemy is understood as a transformation of consciousness.
One of the highest schools of this alchemical Qigong is Tai Yi Jin Hua Zong Zhi , The Secret of the Golden Blossom . The technique probably goes back to older Taoist sources and is described as the oldest tradition in a work by Wei Bo Yang (around 140 AD). In later explanations the Buddhist influence becomes obvious and the method became an important part of Chan Buddhism ( Zen ). This Qigong is purely meditative and begins with guiding and directing the breath. No physical exercises are performed. Around the middle of the 2nd century AD, a religious form of Daoism, the sky masters, split off .
The healing of illnesses through rituals and talismans played an important role in this. In addition, fortune telling was of great importance in the media. In contrast to philosophical Daoism, religious Daoism developed a pantheon of gods that defies systematic representation. While in the temples a more popular religiosity was practiced, from the 12th century Quanzhen Daoism cultivated the techniques of Yangshen Qigong in secluded monasteries .
Since the end of the 6th century, the influence of Buddhism on the spiritual life of China increased enormously. But Daoism was also valued and promoted, especially in the upper social classes. During this heyday, which lasted until the end of the Tang Dynasty (907 AD), the contents of both teachings mixed, a process that had an impact on the theories of classical medicine. Ritual practices, healing concepts and ideological ideas combined to form new concepts. Exercises that relate to the seasonal epochs of the Chinese calendar in order to bring the qi of the body into harmony with that of the atmosphere should date from this time. The work Yuanqi Lun ( text collection on the original Qi ), created around the turn of the millennium, repeatedly refers to the importance of the emptiness of the heart (a term that is already central to Zhuangzi ) as a basic requirement for access to the original Qi and thus the effectiveness of the breath - and physical exercises.
In addition to the heart, viewed as the palace of the mind , the three Dantians and the so-called Little Heavenly Cycle and the Great Heavenly Cycle also play a decisive role in Daoist Qigong . In instructions that are often very encrypted and difficult to understand, the adept is taught to purify and melt his Qi , to unite the three Dantians or to return to the original.
With the beginning of the Song Dynasty , Neo-Confucian theories took over the development of Chinese intellectual life. The Qi was now examined more scientifically, which was very beneficial for medical progress. Daoist practices were pushed back into the monasteries and temples. The most important centers of this culture are the Wudang Shan in Hu province, the Emei Shan in the south and Laoshan on the east coast.
The influences of Buddhism
In the 5th century BC Buddhism originated in India around the turn of the century and came to China. The translation of his texts, the sutras , into Chinese suffered in the initial phase mainly from the lack of terms in the target language. This is how Daoist terms were used. Dao alternately stood for Dharma , the teaching of the Buddha , or Bodhi , enlightenment . The term Wu wei , not acting, has now become synonymous with nirvana . Essentially, in the early days of Chinese Buddhism, the texts of the dhyana exercises, which included breathing, concentration and meditation techniques, were widely used. Here one can also find a greater proximity to the concepts of Prana and Qi . Like Qi , Prana means breath, breathing, life, vitality, wind, energy, power and is synonymous with the human soul. It unites both the ideas of a universal and an individual power. On the other hand, since many of the basic ideas of Indian Buddhism were opposed to the Chinese ideals from Confucian and Daoist thought, the process of assimilation took several centuries. Around 500 the Buddhist monk Da Mo ( Bodhidharma ) came to China from India. Since, according to legend, he was not heard at the imperial court, he retired to the Shaolin monastery. There he meditated continuously for nine years in a cave. He then taught the monks the Yi Jin Jing method ( transformation of the muscles ) in order to strengthen their weak constitution and at the same time to keep their minds awake. As well as the technique of washing bone marrow ( Xi Sui Jing ), Yi Jin Jing was integrated into the martial arts, which represent the foundations of the methods known today as Shaolin Quan (Gongfu) . Exercises are also known from Buddhist tradition that are intended to cleanse the body and were probably derived from Indian yoga . Mainly, however, Buddhism interested in attaining enlightenment cultivated more meditative techniques that often went back to Daoist roots. Even if the term Qi appears in Chinese Buddhist texts , it is connected with a completely different view than in Daoism. Then there are more parallels to be found with the medical view. Thus, ideas of channels are described that are similar to the channels, and the Dantian can be compared with the chakras of the Indian tradition.
Influences from the martial arts
The techniques of the Shaolin monks already mentioned above found their way into other martial arts schools only slowly . The Yi Jin Jing method mainly consists of alternating tensing and relaxing of individual muscles. This will collect Qi and blood in the treated area and slowly distribute it. The entire training program can take up to 16 hours a day. But the battle monks also show excellent performances. Practices suitable for general health care, such as iron shirt qigong , were adopted in the Yangsheng tradition from the preparation techniques for a high level of combat readiness . It is a question of how broadly the term qi can be understood, whether all techniques from the martial arts can actually be called qigong . The so-called internal martial arts Taijiquan , Baguazhang and Xingyiquan , which use Qi instead of physical strength to defeat the opponent, certainly belong to the series of a thousand Qigong methods .
Influences of the modern age
After the so-called Cultural Revolution in the People's Republic of China, during which all traditions were frowned upon as revanchist and persecuted, the art of Qigong slowly experienced a renaissance. It is now considered a unique treasure of Chinese culture, and efforts are being made to scientifically research the effectiveness of Qi . Many new systems, especially in the therapeutic area, were developed; others, allegedly very old, appeared and often found spectacular distribution.
Much has happened in this area, especially in the last thirty years, since Qigong has been publicly disseminated and state sponsored again in China. Some amazing healing successes are reported. In this context, however, it should not be left unmentioned that in recent years there have been an increasing number of cases of illnesses caused by incorrectly applied Qigong, and special departments for such phenomena have been set up in some clinics.
In addition to the maintenance of traditional exercises, an era of experimentation seems to have dawned in which techniques from different origins are mixed up. In the West, too, Qigong exercises are combined with methods from their own therapeutic tradition, for example bioenergetic analysis (according to Alexander Lowen ), breathing therapy , autogenic training . Some practitioners criticize this development as a syncretism that aims for quick success and disrespectfully assimilates knowledge of profound energetic processes in the body and mind that has grown over thousands of years. The Chinese efforts to make the Qi phenomenon scientifically based on Western standards are also mentioned in this context. The sinological dissertation of the doctor Thomas Heise Qigong in the PR China: Development, Theory and Practice (1999) sheds light on the early origins in particular this phase of the second half of the 20th century.
In 2003, the Chinese Ministry of Sports, together with the Chinese Health QiGong Association (CHQA), presented the restructured Health Qigong , which has been widely used in China thanks to government support. The old forms
- Yi Jin Jing ( Book of Light Muscles )
- Wu Qin Xi ( Game of the Five Animals )
- Liu Zi Jing ( Six Healing Sounds )
- Ba Duan Jin ( Eight Noble Exercises , Eight Pieces of Brocade )
have been examined and standardized by Beijing Sports University and medical professionals. In August 2007, the CHQA organized the 2nd International Health Qigong Demonstration and Exchange , which included an international competition and the first Duan exams of the CHQA, as well as the International Symposium on Health Qigong Science , on the occasion of which the collected scientific studies and results on health Qigong were presented to the general public. In August 2009 the 3rd International Health Qigong Tournament and Exchange took place in Shanghai . The International Health Qigong Federation was also founded as an international association for health Qigong.
Qigong as a treatment method
In the inpatient treatment of mentally ill patients, Qigong exercises are increasingly used as a non-verbal, accompanying therapy method.
Qigong improved the quality of life of women who received radiation therapy for breast cancer in a randomized controlled study.
Qigong as an additional home exercise in a pulmonary rehabilitation program: The analysis identified improvement trends in all participants in the Qigong group, while lower improvements and deterioration trends were found in the control group.
Forms of qigong
There are a variety of different styles of qigong, including practices from the direction of Buddhism and practices from the direction of Daoism . In total, over a thousand different directions were registered with the Qigong Research Institute in Beijing , of which only about one hundred were recognized.
The different forms have different characteristics:
Neidan , the inner elixir , describes breathing exercises and inner (meditative and concentrative) Qigong exercises. Within Neidan there are still distinctions between exercises with movement or in certain postures, exercises of nourishing the 'Qi' , Qigong massage, medical Qigong and healing methods with Qi.
Lohan, this form of Qi Gong is named after the Lohan. These people were worshiped in China 1000 years ago for their special skills. Every Lohan has a very special attitude, in which he was also depicted. These postures are the basis for the forms of Lohan Qi Gong.
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- In contrast to Taijiquan and Qigong
- The eight brocades