Qi in Qigong: The Theory
From the entry "Qigong" in the May 31, 2011 Wikipedia archives.
Qigong (or chi kung) is the Chinese philosophy and practice of aligning breath, physical activity and awareness for mental, spiritual and corporeal health, as well as the development of human potential. It includes aspects of Chinese martial arts and purportedly the spiritual awakening to one's true nature.
Qigong is an English form for two Chinese characters: Qi and Gong. Dictionary definitions of qi (or chi) - 气/氣 usually involve "breath," "air," "gas," and "vapor" but it can also be used when describing the relationship between matter, energy and spirit. Qi is also known as a focus point for energy in Chinese (and Chinese-influenced) martial arts, and often seen as an intrinsic life energy or vital force within living things. Definitions of the word gong (or kung - 功) usually involve "force" or "power," with implications of success such as "achievement" and "results."
The two words are combined to describe systems and methods of cultivation and manipulation of this life energy, especially for health.
The physical exercise chart; a painting on silk depicting the practice of Qigong Taiji; unearthed in 1973 in Hunan Province, China, from the 2nd-century BC Western Han burial site of Mawangdui Han tombs site, Tomb Number 3. Source: June 2017 Wikipedia entry.
The central idea in qigong practice is the control and manipulation of qi, a form of energy. Similar representations of this qi concept can be found in other cultures for example, Prana in Hindu philosophy, Lüng in Tibetan Buddhism and Vital energy in Western thoughts. Some elements of this idea can be understood in the term energy when used by writers and practitioners of various esoteric forms of spirituality and alternative medicine. Some elements of the qi concept can be found in popular culture. For example, The Force in Star Wars movies.
The concept of qi as a form of pervasive vital energy is a fundamental pillar of Chinese Traditional Thought. This energy is considered to exist in all things including the air, water, food, and sunlight. In the body, qi represents the unseen vital force that sustains life. Qigong practice involves the manipulation and balance of the qi within the practitioner's body and its interaction with the practitioner's surroundings. The method and ultimate objective for the practice is dependent on the practitioner.
Traditionally, qigong training has been thought of as being esoteric and secretive. Over the centuries, the exchange of ideas between various elements within Chinese society has created a unified overview of qigong practice even though each segment maintains its own detailed interpretations and methods.
A person is considered to have been born with original amounts of qi. A person acquires qi from the food by eating, from the air by breathing and from interacting with their environment. A person becomes ill or dies when the amount or type of qi is unbalanced within the body. The practice of qigong is to regulate and control the qi within the body.
In broad terms, according to Taoist and Buddhist philosophy, the regulation of qi is through three interconnected components: the Mind (xin - 心), the Body (shen - 身) and the Spirit (ling - 灵/靈). For Buddhists, the training of the mind is through meditation, contemplation and special exercises. For some Taoists, the training and regulation also include external agents such as the ingestion of herbs and interactions with others. For Confucius scholars the training involved the principle of cultivating virtue (de or te 德) with virtue being defined according to a Confucian ideal.
The development of traditional Chinese medicine added more details to the role of qi within the human body. In this system, qi travels through the body along twelve main meridians and numerous smaller branches and tributaries. Those main meridians also correspond to the twelve main organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine practices: the lung, large intestines, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, urinary bladder, kidney, liver, gallbladder, pericardium, and the ''triple warmer,'' which represents the entire torso region. The amount and flow of qi is affected by a person's emotional state which is ultimately related to the Mind, the Body and the Spirit. Most qigong practices use this concept of proper qi flow through those meridians as a basic premise.
All elements within Chinese society accept the importance of Yin and Yang or balance between complementary principles. This view suggest that two forces are always interacting, opposing, and influencing each other. As a result, it is not possible or desirable to eliminate one of those forces. The ideal situation is to seek a balance between those opposing forces. This concept is also applied in qigong theories. For example, the organs within the body are classified in terms of Yin organs "Water" or Yang organs "Fire." One of the goals in qigong practice is to balance the qi between those opposing organs. Other theories, such as the Five Elemental Energies (Wu Xing -五行) provide even more details to explain the role and effect of qi within the human body.
Historically, the effect of qigong practice has always been subjective. It ranges from a feeling of calmness and peacefulness to a sense of well being. Throughout history, remarkable claims have also been made as a result of qigong practice. The journey towards self-enlightenment can include descriptions of out of body experiences and miraculous powers for both the Buddhist and the Taoist.
For some individuals, qigong training is seen as providing a curative function after extensive training. For martial artists, qigong training is credited as the basis for developing extraordinary powers such as the ability to withstand blows and the ability to break hard objects.
In the early 1980s, the Chinese scientific community attempted to verify the principles of qi through external measurements. Initially, they reported great success suggesting that qi can be measured as a form of electrical magnetic radiation. Other reports indicates that qi can induce external effects such as changing the properties of a liquid, clairvoyance, and telekinesis.
Those reports created great excitement within the paranormal and para-psychological research communities. However, those reports were severely criticized by the conventional scientific community both within China and outside of China. The main criticism from the conventional scientific establishment about qigong research is the lack of application of the principles of the scientific method, notably the absence of scientific rigor, the small sample sizes, the uncontrolled testing environment and lack of reproducibility. In addition to those criticisms, the public acceptance of paranormal properties arising from qigong practice contributed to social unrest.
As a result of those controversies, the emphasis on qigong research within Mainland Chinas has changed from externally verifying the existence of qi to focus on effects on health and as a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine without any reference to other aspects of traditional qigong practice.
In contrast, Western society has accepted the spiritual elements of qigong practice and pays homage to its rich past. The Buddhist, Taoist, TCM or Martial Arts origins are recognized and used as justification for its effectiveness. Given this acceptance, qigong practice becomes an important tool for improving one's health.
Similar to the subject of efficacy of Traditional Chinese medicine, the chasm between the Eastern tradition of qi and the Western scientific viewpoints are not insurmountable if the analysis is limited to the effect on qigong practice on biological processes without demanding a material interpretation of qi. There is convincing argument to view as the concept of qi as a metaphor for certain biological processes. The effectiveness of qigong can also be explained in terms of concepts more familiar to Western medicine such as Stress Management, Biofeedback, and Neurology.
Editor's Comments: This entry was taken from sections of the article "Qigong" in the May 31, 2011 edition of Wikipedia. It is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Minor changes were made in accordance with style formats used in Qi-Encyclopedia.
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