From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the artist, see
qi gong, chi
kung, or chi
literally: "Life Energy Cultivation") is a holistic
system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and
meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training.
With roots in Chinese medicine,
arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate
and balance qi (chi)
or what has been translated as "life energy".
philosophy, respectively, qigong allows access to higher realms of
awareness, awakens one's "true nature", and helps develop
Qigong practice typically involves moving
meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic
breathing, and calm meditative state of mind. Qigong is now
practiced throughout China and worldwide for recreation,
medicine and self-healing,
and self-cultivation, and training
for martial arts.
Over the centuries, a diverse spectrum of qigong
forms developed in different segments of Chinese society.
Traditionally, qigong training has been esoteric and secretive, with
knowledge passed from adept master to student in lineages that
maintain their own unique interpretations and methods. Although the
practice of qigong was prohibited during the Cultural
Revolution of the 1960s; it was once again allowed after 1976;
and disparate approaches were merged and popularized, with emphasis
shifted away from traditional philosophy, spiritual attainment, and
folklore, and increasingly to health benefits, traditional medicine
and martial arts applications, and a scientific perspective. Since a
1999 crackdown, practice of qigong in China has been restricted.
Over the same period, interest in qigong has spread, with millions
of practitioners worldwide.
concerning qigong has been conducted for a wide range of medical
conditions, including hypertension,
pain, and cancer
treatment. Most systematic reviews of clinical trials have not been
conclusive, and all have been based on poor quality clinical
studies, such that no firm conclusions about the health effects of
qigong can be drawn at this stage.
Main articles: Qi
ch'i kung (Wade-Giles),
and chi gung (Yale)
are English words for two Chinese characters: qì
and gōng (功).
Qi (or chi)
is often translated as life energy,
referring to energy circulating through the body; though a more
general definition is universal energy, including heat, light, and
and definitions often involve breath, air, gas, or relationship
between matter, energy, and spirit.
Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese
arts. Gong (or kung) is often translated as
cultivation or work, and definitions include practice, skill,
mastery, merit, achievement, service, result, or accomplishment, and
is often used to mean gongfu
(kung fu) in the traditional sense of achievement through great
The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and
balance life energy, especially for health.
Although the term qigong (氣功)
has been traced back to Daoist
literature of the early Tang
Dynasty (618-907 AD), the term qigong as currently used
was promoted in the late 1940s through the 1950s to refer to a broad
range of Chinese self-cultivation exercises, and to emphasize health
approaches, while de-emphasizing spiritual
and elite lineages.
Main article: Qigong
With roots in ancient Chinese culture dating back more than 4,000
years, a wide variety of qigong forms have developed within different
segments of Chinese society:
Chinese medicine for preventive and curative functions,
to promote longevity and improve moral character,
in Daoism and
Buddhism as part
of meditative practice,
and in Chinese
martial arts to enhance fighting abilities.
Contemporary qigong blends diverse and sometimes disparate
traditions, in particular the Daoist meditative practice of "internal
the ancient meditative practices of "circulating qi" (Xing
and "standing meditation" (Zhan
and the slow gymnastic breathing exercise of "guiding and
Traditionally, knowledge about qigong was passed from adept master to
student in elite unbroken lineages, typically with secretive and
esoteric traditions of training and oral
and with an emphasis on meditative practice by scholars and gymnastic
or dynamic practice by the working masses.
Starting in the late 1940s and the 1950s, the mainland Chinese
government tried to integrate disparate qigong approaches into one
coherent system, with the intention of establishing a firm scientific
basis for qigong practice. In 1949, Liu Guizhen established the name
"Qigong" to refer to the system of life preserving
practices that he and his associates developed based on Dao yin and
other philosophical traditions.
This attempt is considered by some sinologists
as the start of the modern or scientific interpretation of
During the Great
Leap Forward (1958–1963) and the Cultural
Revolution (1966–1976), qigong, along with other
traditional Chinese medicine, was under tight control with limited
access among the general public, but was encouraged in state-run
rehabilitation centers and spread to universities and hospitals.
After the Cultural Revolution, qigong, along with t'ai
chi, was popularized as daily morning exercise practiced en masse
Popularity of qigong grew rapidly during the Deng
eras after Mao
Zedong's death in 1976 through the 1990s, with estimates of
between 60 and 200 million practitioners throughout China. Along with
popularity and state sanction came controversy and problems: claims
of extraordinary abilities bordering on the supernatural,
explanations to build credibility,
a mental condition labeled qigong
formation of cults, and exaggeration of claims by masters for
In 1985, the state-run "National Qigong Science and Research
Organization" was established to regulate the nation's qigong
In 1999, in response to widespread revival of old traditions of
spirituality, morality, and mysticism, and perceived challenges to
State control, the Chinese government took measures to enforce
control of public qigong practice, including shutting down qigong
clinics and hospitals, and banning groups such as Zhong
Gong and Falun
Since the 1999 crackdown, qigong research and practice have only been
officially supported in the context of health and traditional Chinese
medicine. The Chinese Health Qigong Association, established in 2000,
strictly regulates public qigong practice, with limitation of public
gatherings, requirement of state approved training and certification
of instructors, and restriction of practice to state-approved
Through the forces of migration of the Chinese
in China, and globalization,
the practice of qigong spread from the Chinese community to the
world. Today, millions of people around the world practice qigong and
believe in the benefits of qigong to varying degrees. Similar to its
historical origin, those interested in qigong come from diverse
backgrounds and practice it for different reasons, including for
Qigong comprises a diverse set of practices that coordinate body
and mind (調心)
based on Chinese philosophy.
Practices include moving and still meditation, massage, chanting,
sound meditation, and non-contact treatments, performed in a broad
array of body postures. Qigong is commonly classified into two
foundational categories: 1) dynamic or active qigong (dong gong),
with slow flowing movement; and 2) meditative or passive qigong (jing
gong), with still positions and inner movement of the
From a therapeutic perspective, qigong can be classified into two
systems: 1) internal qigong, which focuses on self-care and
self-cultivation, and; 2) external qigong, which involves treatment
by a therapist who directs or transmits qi.:21777–21781
As moving meditation, qigong practice typically coordinates slow
stylized movement, deep diaphragmatic breathing, and calm mental
focus, with visualization of guiding qi through the body. While
implementation details vary, generally qigong forms can be
characterized as a mix of four types of practice: dynamic, static,
meditative, and activities requiring external aids.
involves fluid movement, usually carefully choreographed,
coordinated with breath and awareness. Examples include the slow
stylized movements of T'ai
chi ch'uan, Baguazhang,
and Xing yi.
Other examples include graceful movement that mimics the motion of
animals in Five Animals (Wu
Qin Xi qigong),
and Wild Goose (Dayan) Qigong.
As a form of gentle exercise, qigong is composed of movements that
are typically repeated, strengthening and stretching the body,
increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial, and lymph), enhancing
balance and proprioception,
and improving the awareness of how the body moves through space.
involves holding postures for sustained periods of time.
In some cases this bears resemblance to the practice of Yoga
and its continuation in the Buddhist tradition.
For example Yiquan,
a Chinese martial art derived from xingyiquan,
emphasizes static stance training.
In another example, the healing form Eight Pieces of Brocade
qigong) is based on a series of static postures.
utilizes breath awareness, visualization, mantra,
chanting, sound, and focus on philosophical concepts such as qi
circulation, aesthetics, or moral values.
In traditional Chinese medicine and Daoist practice, the meditative
focus is commonly on cultivating qi in dantian
energy centers and balancing qi flow in meridian
and other pathways. In various Buddhist traditions, the aim is to
still the mind, either through outward focus, for example on a
place, or through inward focus on the breath, a mantra, a koan,
emptiness, or the idea of the eternal. In the Confucius scholar
tradition, meditation is focused on humanity and virtue, with the
aim of self-enlightenment.
Many systems of qigong practice include the use of external agents
such as ingestion of herbs, massage, physical manipulation, or
interaction with other living organisms.
For example, specialized food and drinks are used in some medical
and Daoist forms, whereas massage and body manipulation are
sometimes used in martial arts forms. In some medical systems a
qigong master uses non-contact treatment, purportedly guiding qi
through his or her own body into the body of another person.
There are numerous qigong
forms. 75 ancient forms that can be found in ancient literature and
also 56 common or contemporary form have been described in a qigong
The list is by no means exhaustive. Many contemporary forms were
developed by people who had recovered from their illness after qigong
In 2003, the Chinese Health
Qigong Association officially recognized four health qigong
In 2010, the Chinese Health
Qigong Association officially recognized five additional health
Tai Chi Yang Sheng Zhang (太极养生杖):
a tai chi form from the stick tradition.
Shi Er Duan Jin (十二段锦):
seated exercises to strengthen the neck, shoulders, waist, and legs.
Daoyin Yang Sheng Gong Shi Er Fa
12 routines from Daoyin tradition of guiding and pulling qi.
Mawangdui Daoyin (马王堆导引术):
guiding qi along the meridians with synchronous movement and
Da Wu (大舞):
choreographed exercises to lubricate joints and guide qi.
Other commonly practiced qigong styles and forms include:
Whether viewed from the perspective of exercise, health, philosophy,
or martial arts training, several main principles emerge concerning
the practice of qigong:
careful, flowing balanced style
Rhythmic breathing: slow,
deep, coordinated with fluid movement
Awareness: calm, focused
Visualization: of qi flow,
philosophical tenets, aesthetics
Chanting/Sound: use of sound as a focal point
Softness: soft gaze,
Solid Stance: firm footing,
muscles, slightly bent joints
Balance and Counterbalance: motion over the center of
Equanimity: more fluid,
Tranquility: empty mind,
Stillness: smaller and smaller movements, eventually
to complete stillness
The most advanced practice is generally considered to be with
little or no motion.
and classical theory
Main article: Qi
Qigong practitioners in Brazil
Over time, five distinct traditions or schools of qigong developed in
China, each with its own theories and characteristics: Chinese
Medical Qigong, Daoist Qigong, Buddhist Qigong, Confucian Qigong, and
Martial Arts Qigong.:30–80
All of these qigong traditions include practices intended to
cultivate and balance qi.
Main article: Traditional
The theories of ancient Chinese Medical Qigong include the Yin-Yang
and Five Phases
Theory, Zang-Xiang Theory, and Meridians and Qi-Blood Theory, which
have been synthesized as part of Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM).:45–57
TCM focuses on tracing and correcting underlying disharmony, in terms
of deficiency and excess, using the complementary and opposing forces
of yin and yang
to create a balanced flow of qi. Qi is believed to be cultivated and
stored in three main dantian
energy centers and to travel through the body along twelve main
(Jīng Luò 經絡),
with numerous smaller branches and tributaries. The main meridians
correspond to twelve
main organs (Zàng fǔ 臟腑)).
Qi is balanced in terms of yin
and yang in the context of the traditional system of Five
Phases (Wu xing 五行).
A person is believed to become ill or die when qi becomes diminished
or unbalanced. Health is believed to be returned by rebuilding qi,
eliminating qi blockages, and correcting qi imbalances. These TCM
concepts do not translate readily to modern science and medicine.
various practices now known as Daoist Qigong provide a way to achieve
as well as a closer connection to the natural world.
meditative practices now known as Buddhist Qigong are part of a
spiritual path that leads to spiritual
enlightenment or Buddhahood.
practices now known as Confucian Qigong provide a means to become a
through awareness of morality.
In contemporary China, the emphasis of qigong practice has shifted
away from traditional philosophy, spiritual attainment, and folklore,
and increasingly to health benefits, traditional medicine and martial
arts applications, and a scientific perspective.
Qigong is now practiced by millions worldwide, primarily for its
health benefits, though many practitioners have also adopted
arts perspectives, and even use the long history
of qigong as evidence of its effectiveness.
Contemporary Chinese medical qigong
Qigong has been recognized as a "standard medical technique"
in China since 1989, and is sometimes included in the medical
curriculum of major universities in China.:34
The 2013 English translation of the official Chinese Medical Qigong
textbook used in China:iv,385
defines CMQ as "the skill of body-mind exercise that integrates
body, breath, and mind adjustments into one" and emphasizes that
qigong is based on "adjustment" (tiao 調,
also translated as “regulation”, “tuning”, or
“alignment.”) of body, breath, and mind.:16–18
As such, qigong is viewed by practitioners as being more than common
physical exercise, because qigong combines postural, breathing, and
mental training in one to produce a particular psychophysiological
state of being.:15
While CMQ is still based on traditional and classical theory, modern
practitioners also emphasize the importance of a strong scientific
According to the 2013 CMQ textbook, physiological effects of qigong
are numerous, and include improvement of respiratory and
cardiovascular function, as well as possible beneficial effects on
Conventional or mainstream medicine includes specific practices and
techniques based on the best
available evidence demonstrating effectiveness and safety.
Qigong is not generally considered to be part of mainstream medicine
because clinical research concerning effectiveness of qigong for
specific medical conditions is inconclusive at this stage,
and because at present there is no medical consensus concerning
effectiveness of qigong.[citation
Integrative, complementary, and alternative medicine
Integrative medicine (IM) refers to "the blending of
conventional and complementary medicines and therapies with the aim
of using the most appropriate of either or both modalities to care
for the patient as a whole",:455–456
whereas complementary generally refers to "using a
non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine",
and alternative refers to "using a non-mainstream approach in
place of conventional medicine".
Qigong is used by integrative medicine practitioners to complement
conventional medical treatment, based on complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) interpretations of the effectiveness and
safety of qigong.:22278–22306
Scientists interested in qigong have sought to describe or verify the
effects of qigong, to explore mechanisms of effects, to form
scientific theory with respect to Qigong, and to identify appropriate
research methodology for further study.:81–89
In terms of traditional theory, the existence of qi has not been
independently verified in an experimental setting,
and the scientific basis for much of TCM
has not been demonstrated.
and popular use
People practice qigong for many
different reasons, including for recreation,
medicine and self-healing,
for martial arts. In recent years a large number of books and
videos have been published that focus primarily on qigong as exercise
and associated health benefits. Practitioners range from athletes to
the physically challenged. Because it is low impact and can be done
lying, sitting, or standing, qigong is accessible for disabled
persons, seniors, and people recovering from injuries.
Therapeutic use of qigong is directed by TCM, CAM, integrative
medicine, and other health practitioners. In China, where it is
considered a "standard medical technique",:34
qigong is commonly prescribed to treat a wide variety of conditions,
and clinical applications include hypertension,
artery disease, peptic
liver diseases, diabetes
fatigue syndrome, insomnia,
tumors and cancer,
and leg pain, cervical
spondylosis, and myopia.:261–391
Outside China qigong is used in integrative
medicine to complement or supplement accepted medical treatments,
including for relaxation,
and treatment of specific conditions.
Based on systematic
reviews of clinical
research, it is not advisable to draw conclusions concerning
effectiveness of qigong for specific medical conditions at this
Safety and cost
Qigong is generally viewed as safe.
No adverse effects have been observed in clinical trials, such that
qigong is considered safe for use across diverse populations. Cost
for self-care is minimal, and cost efficiencies are high for group
Typically the cautions associated with qigong are the same as those
associated with any physical activity, including risk of muscle
strains or sprains, advisability of stretching to prevent injury,
general safety for use alongside conventional medical treatments, and
consulting with a physician when combining with conventional
of clinical research
Although clinical research examining health effects of qigong is
increasing, there is little financial or medical incentive to support
research, and still only a limited number of studies meet accepted
medical and scientific standards of randomized
controlled trials (RCTs).
Clinical research concerning qigong has been conducted for a wide
range of medical conditions, including bone
and related risk factors, quality
of life, immune
A 2011 overview of systematic
reviews of clinical trials concluded that "the effectiveness
of qigong is based mostly on poor quality research" and
"therefore, it would be unwise to draw firm conclusions at this
Although a 2010 comprehensive
literature review found 77 peer-reviewed RCTs;
reviews for particular health conditions show that most clinical
research is of poor quality, typically because of small sample size
and lack of proper control groups, with lack of blinding
associated with high risk of bias.
Systematic reviews of clinical research
A systematic review of the effect of qigong exercises on hypertension
found that the available studies were encouraging for the exercises
to lower systolic
blood pressure. However, an analysis of the studies that found
these results showed that they were of relatively poor quality, with
the lack of blinding
raising the possibility of bias in the results, so no definitive
conclusions could be reached.
Another systematic review found that qigong exercises improved blood
pressure compared to doing nothing, but was not superior to standard
treatment such as medications or conventional exercise.
A 2007 systematic review of the effect of qigong exercises on
mellitus management concluded that there may be beneficial
effects, but that no firm conclusions could be drawn due to the
methodological problems with the underlying clinical trials studies,
especially the lack of a control group.
A more recent 2009 systematic review found that due to the underlying
methodological problems, "the evidence is insufficient to
suggest that qigong is an effective treatment for type 2
A systematic review on the effect of qigong exercises on reducing
pain concluded that "the existing trial evidence is not
convincing enough to suggest that internal qigong is an effective
modality for pain management."
Another systematic review, which focused on external qigong and its
effect on pain, concluded "that evidence for the effectiveness
of external qigong is encouraging, though further studies are
warranted" due to the small number of studies and participants
involved which precluded any firm conclusions about the specific
effects of qigong on pain.
A systematic review of the effect of qigong exercises on cancer
treatment concluded "the effectiveness of qigong in cancer care
is not yet supported by the evidence from rigorous clinical
A separate systematic review that looked at the effects of qigong
exercises on various physiological or psychological outcomes found
that the available studies were poorly designed, with a high of bias
in the results. Therefore, the authors concluded, "Due to
limited number of RCTs in the field and methodological problems and
high risk of bias in the included studies, it is still too early to
reach a conclusion about the efficacy and the effectiveness of qigong
exercise as a form of health practice adopted by the cancer patients
during their curative, palliative, and rehabilitative phases of the
A systematic review
of the effect of qigong exercises on movement disorders found that
the evidence was insufficient to recommend its use for this
Many claims have been made that qigong can benefit or ameliorate
mental health conditions,
including improved mood, decreased stress reaction, and decreased
anxiety and depression. Most medical studies have only examined
psychological factors as secondary goals, however various studies
have shown significant benefits such as decrease in cortisol
levels, a chemical hormone produced by the body in response to
Research in China
Basic and clinical research in China during the 1980s was mostly
descriptive, and few results were reported in peer-reviewed
A 1996 review of selected Chinese research concluded that there are
many potential medical applications of qigong.
Qigong became known outside China in the 1990s, and clinical
controlled trials (RTCs) investigating the effectiveness of
qigong on health and mental conditions began to be published
worldwide, along with systematic
The White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(CAM) Policy recognized challenges and complexities to rigorous
research concerning effectiveness and safety of CAM modalities such
as qigong; emphasized that research must adhere to the same standards
as conventional research, including statistically significant sample
sizes, adequate controls, definition of response specificity, and
reproducibility of results; and recommended substantial increases in
funding to address the lack of adequate funding for rigorous
Most existing clinical trials have small sample sizes and many have
inadequate controls. Of particular concern is the impracticality of
double blinding using appropriate sham treatments, and the difficulty
of placebo control, such that benefits often cannot be distinguished
from the placebo
Also of concern is the choice of which qigong form to use and how to
standardize the treatment or dose with respect to the skill of the
practitioner leading or administering treatment, the tradition of
individualization of treatments, and the treatment length, intensity,
Meditation and self-cultivation applications
Main article: Meditation
Qigong is practiced for meditation
and self-cultivation as part of various philosophical and spiritual
traditions. As meditation, qigong is a means to still the mind and
enter a state of consciousness that brings serenity, clarity, and
Many practitioners find qigong, with its gentle focused movement, to
be more accessible than seated meditation.
Qigong for self-cultivation can be classified in terms of
traditional Chinese philosophy: Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian.
The practice of qigong is an important component in both internal
and external style Chinese martial
Focus on qi is considered to be a source of power as well as the
foundation of the internal
style of martial arts (Neijia). T'ai
chi ch'uan, Xing
yi, and Baguazhang
are representative of the types of Chinese martial arts that rely on
the concept of qi as the foundation.
Extraordinary feats of martial arts prowess, such as the ability to
withstand heavy strikes (Iron
and the ability to break hard objects (Iron
are abilities attributed to qigong training.
chi ch'uan and qigong
Main article: T'ai
chi ch'uan (Taijiquan) is a widely practiced Chinese internal
style based on the theory of taiji
("grand ultimate"), closely associated with qigong, and
typically involving more complex choreographed movement coordinated
with breath, done slowly for health and training, or quickly for
self-defense. Many scholars consider t'ai chi ch'uan to be a type of
qigong, traced back to an origin in the 17th century. In modern
practice, qigong typically focuses more on health and meditation
rather than martial applications, and plays an important role in
training for t'ai chi ch'uan, in particular used to build strength,
develop breath control, and increase vitality ("life
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