In ancient times most of the population of China consisted of peasants. The people would work in the fields all day until sunset, and then return to their homes to rest. Some would gather together and listen to the stories of their elders, while others would go and enjoy the cool night air after the heat of the day. Since the people enjoyed the refreshing nights more than the stifling days, they preferred the moon to the sun; that is why the Chinese calendar follows the moon -it is a lunar calendar, as opposed to the West's solar calendar.
Out in the moonlight, the weary peasants could wind down and relax. And it was then that they became aware of something moving around inside their bodies -something that felt a little like steam. This steam could move up or down, and in different places such as the legs or arms; it also seemed to be related to their breathing and to the mind. The people noted all these various feelings and eventually discovered that each person had a centre, just below the navel, which made the rest of the body warm and strong. They called this centre 'Dantien'.
With continued observation they found that the flow of the steam could make the body warm and was related to the spirit -spirit in the sense of a feeling of wellbeing rather than in the religious sense of the word. Gradually they discovered a network of channels crossing the body, linking the internal organs. Distributed along these channels were certain points which affected the way the steam flowed through the body. Thus energy (Qi) and the system of acupuncture points and channels were discovered, and people found that touching and massaging the points could heal a variety of problems.
Movement and breathing of various kinds to create heat were thus perceived as ways of healing physical ailments from very early times, long before the formulation of medicines. Throughout the centuries Chinese sages and philosophers have written of the beneficial effects of this treatment.
The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine, an ancient text of 722-721 BC which is known in Chinese as the Huangdi Neijing, contains the following passage:
"People live in the centre [of China, along the Yellow River]. The area is damp, therefore suffering from tiredness, depression and hot and cold illness [similar to today's ME -myalgic encephalomyelitis or post-viral syndrome] is common. The curing method is Daoyin [breathing techniques] and Angiao [stretching]."
Even earlier than this, about four thousand years ago, the people of this region are known to have danced to rid themselves of damp and arthritis. Dancing made them hot, and the heat expelled the damp and poison from their veins and joints.
The movements and breathing patterns of animals were also regarded as valuable examples to follow. In his book Chunway Chu, written around 600 BC and dealing with the subject of breathing, Zhuang Zi said: 'Breathing techniques can improve metabolism; moving like a bear and a bird will result in longevity.'
During the Three Kingdoms Period (from 280-220 BC), a famous Chinese doctor, Hwa Tou, created 'Five Animal Play'. He understood how wild animals lived and how they moved to maintain their bodies' balance and he saw how people, living under the system of society, had lost this natural ability. 'Five Animal Play' was designed to help people relearn this skill in order to cure illness and strengthen the body. Hwa Tou explained that when you raised your arms above your head, as if they were the horns of a deer, it stimulated the Qi circulation of the liver; when you stretched your arms out like a bird spreading its wings, it was good for the heart and relieving tension; rubbing and slapping yourself and moving like a monkey was good for the spleen; stretching your arms out in front of you while exhaling, like a tiger, was good for releasing the tension in the lungs; and bending forwards like the bear was good for the back and the kidneys. Hwa T ou used the names of animals because it made the exercises easier to remember and by using wild animals, instead of domestic ones, he made the exercises sound exhilarating.
The famous seventh-century BC philosopher Lao Zi advised people to relax their hearts (meaning their chests) and to firm their stomachs, by which he meant that they should concentrate their minds on the centre (Dantien, as mentioned above).
And so these techniques continued to be used, with great effect, for hundreds of years. In the twentieth century, while Western medicine was relying heavily on new drugs, improved surgical techniques and so on, this ancient and proven method of healing was still highly valued in the East. During the revolution of 1911, when China ceased to be ruled by emperors, Jiang Weigiao's Yin Shi Zi Sitting Still Exercises became very popular in Shanghai. Nor, to begin with, did .advent of Communism in 1949 affect the high regard in which Qigong was held. The first Qigong therapy clinic was established at Tangshan in Heibei Province in 1955, and another was set up two years later in Shanghai. That Qigong was taken seriously even in official quarters is evidenced by the fact that in 1959 the Ministry for PubIic Health held the First National Meeting for the Exchange of Qigong Experiences at Beidihe in Heibei Province; it was attended by some sixty-four groups from seventeen provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions from within a country as large as the USA.
The development and appreciation of Qigong continued unabated until 1966, when the Cultural Revolution began and most of China's traditional culture was outlawed. All study of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, for instance, was prohibited; some monks and nuns were forced to abandon the religious life and were only allowed to study Marxism. Anything relating to the old way of life in China, including Qigong, was condemned or 'sent to hell', as the Chinese would say.
But Qigong survived these terrible years: it is a diamond -even after it has been attacked it lets the light shine through it into the darkness. In 1978, when the Cultural Revolution came to an end, I was living in Hong Kong. I remember seeing the 'heat' spreading throughout China. Qigong was still being practised and within three years at least five magazines devoted to Qigong were being published there.
Once the 'Gang of Four' was overthrown the ancient culture began to grow back, like grass sprouting up through the bare earth after spring rain. At first most people did their Qigong just for exercise, although some combined it with their Taiji Quan and other martial arts practice. Then doctors of traditional Chinese medicine started to join in, because their work is based on traditional medical principles like the flow of Qi, the Five Elements, and Yin and Yang (see Chapter 2). Their patients were introduced to Qigong to help them recover from their illnesses, and many improved more quickly than if they had been treated with Western medicine or even Chinese herbs. Old masters of the craft such as Yang Mei Jun, Gou Lin, Ma Li Tang and Que Ya Shui shared their families' skill to help unhealthy people, especially those who had suffered under the Cultural Revolution. At the same time, Taoist and Buddhist monks and nuns came forward to help and to perpetuate their knowledge.
Beyond healing: mind over matter
At the end of 1980, the famous Qigong Master Yan Xin held many lectures and healing sessions in which he successfully treated thousands of people. He conducted scientific research into Qigong and created a lot of enthusiasm for it. There was also a man called Chiang Bo Xing, commonly known as 'Chinese Number One Superman' who had extraordinary power. He could apparently look through people's bodies and see their skeletons, burn paper and clothes, move objects and even remove the contents from a sealed bottle. Everyone was quite nonplussed by this and it led to more people and scientists concentrating on the research and practice of Qigong to discover how it could develop human potential and abilities. A wealth- of information has been discovered. It has been found that many masters, like Yan Xin, can also transmit their Qi to heal people. Lin Hou Sheng in 1980 even transmitted his Qi to a patient who was undergoing an operation without anaesthetic. Master Yang Mei Jun, over one hundred years old, can see the colours of Qi yellow, red, brown, green, white and so on -and can transmit energy with a fragrance of flowers. Qigong practice has also been found to develop the potential of children -it is claimed that some can read what is written on a piece of paper by just putting the paper to their ear. Now the Chinese Government is focusing on this human potential or supernatural power to help develop 'Human Science'. In particular Chen Ken Xin, the Chinese National Research Chairman, has great faith in Qigong and is researching its relationship with human development. Government research has found that these extraordinary skills are connected with intensive Qigong practice, and are sometimes inherited. Chinese legend contains many tales about Buddha and the 'Immortals', the ancient Chinese Gods, who use magic to move things and to disappear -maybe there is some truth in these stories after all, and perhaps Qigong is the link between ancient legend and present reality.
Chapter 2 Chinese Philosophy and Medicine
If someone asked me, 'Do you believe in UFOs and life on other planets? Is there anyone out there?' I would say, 'Yes! I believe.' Why am I talking about UFOs and life on other planets? What have they got to do with Qigong? I will explain the connection, step by step.
When you learn about Qigong you will come to understand the basics of Chinese medicine, which uses natural methods to treat and heal and to balance the internal organs through herbs, massage, moxibustion, acupuncture and Qigong. The first four types of healing skill mainly depend on others giving you treatment, but Qigong is a way of self-healing. All five, however, are based on the principles of Yin and Yang -a question of balance.
In the West, people take medicines or drugs, vitamins and high nutrition foods in an attempt to make themselves healthy. Gradually the body becomes saturated with these substances -which are already present in a healthy body -and after a while the body becomes reliant on them. As a result, if people forget to take their pills or 'health food' or other props, they become weak and tired. The body starts to lose its normal functions and can no longer produce its own energy. The search for different or stronger medicines and specialist doctors continues until there is nothing and no one left who can offer any help. What a very depressing way to try to become healthy and to treat our ailments! Once when my mother came over to England, I took her to a fish and chip shop to try some English food. While eating she asked, 'Whydoesn't the fish have any bones?' A good question! Fish in their natural state obviously have bones, so why don't the fish served up in fish and chip shops have any? The reason is that Western people remove the bones to make it easy to eat. Everything in modern society is geared towards making life easy so we do not need to work hard to get what we want. Eventually we will lose the natural original way to live by becoming so distanced from nature, even in the way we eat fish. Did you know that fishbone shave all the essence of the nutrients? Chinese people like to suck the marrow from the bones.
The Chinese philosophy known as 'Dao' is the right way. It holds that everything has its own way, from a stone to a piece of paper to a human being. In other words, everything must be natural, and natural means balanced.The Scripture of Change (Yi ling or I-Ching), which is 'around five thousand years old, first laid down the concept of Yin and Yang. Since then it has played a very important part in Chinese culture. The Yi ling says: 'Wuji creates Taiji; Taiji creates Liang Yi, two forms; two forms create Si Xiang, four images; and four images create
Bagua, eight situations.' What this means is that from nothing comes something, something creates Yin and Yang, Yin and Yang create c four images, and four images create eight situations.
The universe started from nothing. From nothing it became something. When something is created there must be two forms, two faces or two different situations -for instance, if one is the front there must be an opposite, the back. If one side is right, there must be a left to balance. So if we know fire, there must also be water to balance it. Male and female balance, tall and short, dark and light and so on -there are two different situations to balance the whole universe. If there is only one of something it will become too strong Of too weak and will disappear by itself. For example, if there was only fire in the world, one day the world would become too hot and burn out.
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