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Qigong (pronounced "chee-gung," also spelled chi kung) is translated from the Chinese to mean "energy cultivation" or "working with the life energy." Qigong is an ancient Chinese system of postures, exercises, breathing techniques, and meditations. Its techniques are designed to improve and enhance the body's qi. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, qi is the fundamental life energy responsible for health and vitality.
Qigong originated before recorded history. Scholars estimate qigong to be as old as 5,000–7,000 years. Tracing the exact historical development of qigong is difficult, because it was passed down in secrecy among monks and teachers for many generations. Qigong survived through many years before paper was invented, and it also survived the Cultural Revolutions in China of the 1960s and 1970s, which banned many traditional practices.
Qigong has influenced and been influenced by many of the major strands of Chinese philosophy. The Taoist philosophy states that the universe operates within laws of balance and harmony, and that people must live within the rhythms of nature—ideas that pervade qigong. When Buddhism was brought from India to China around the seventh century A.D., yoga techniques and concepts of mental and spiritual awareness were introduced to qigong masters. The Confucian school was concerned with how people should live their daily lives, a concern of qigong as well. The martial arts were highly influenced by qigong, and many of them, such as t'ai chi and kung fu, developed directly from it. Traditional Chinese medicine also shares many of the central concepts of qigong, such as the patterns of energy flow in the body. Acupuncture and acupressure use the same points on the body that qigong seeks to stimulate. In China, qigong masters have been renowned physicians and healers. Qigong is often prescribed by Chinese physicians as part of the treatment.
Due to the political isolation of China, many Chinese concepts have been shrouded from the Western world. Acupuncture was only "discovered" by American doctors in the 1970s, although it had been in use for thousands of years. With an increased exchange of information, more Americans have gained access to the once-secret teachings of qigong. In 1988, the First World Conference for Academic Exchange of Medical Qigong was held in Beijing, China, where many studies were presented to attendees from around the world. In 1990, Berkeley, California hosted the First International Congress of Qigong. In the past decade, more Americans have begun to discover the beneficial effects of qigong, which motivate an estimated 60 million Chinese to practice it every day.
Author Info: Douglas Dupler, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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