Early Historical Era of Qigong
I term this period the Early Historical Era of Qigong as there are well known texts associated with it, unlike the Pre-historical period, which centers on the semi-mythical figure of the Yellow Emperor (Xuanyuan Shi),. The practice of Qigong is firmly imbedded within the ancient Taoist philosophy of life, flow, and wisdom. Thus, it is helpful for both the curious and the committed Qigong practitioner to understand the its philosophical underpinnings.
Known as the Book of Changes, the Classic of Changes, and Zhouyi, the I Ching (Yi King, Yi Jing) is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. Sometimes attributed to the mythical figure Fu Xi or Fu Hsi around the time of the Yellow Emperor, it is one of the foundations of all Taoist practices including Qigong and T’ai Chi. The I Ching was one of the first texts describing the flow of Chi (Qi). It introduced the concept of the three natural energies: Tian (Heaven), Di (Earth), and Ren (Man). Studying the relationship of these three powers was perhaps the first step in the development of what was eventually to become Qigong.
King Wen (1152 BC – 1056 BC) is often thought to be the historical figure who shaped the early practice of divination by “stacking” the eight trigrams (ba gua) into the sixty four hexagrams currently used for divination and philosophical meditation. Wen is also said to have written the analysis or judgements appended to each hexagram. The line analyses are attributed to his son, the Duke of Zhou. The commonly used sequence of the sixty four hexagrams devised by King Wen is usually referred to as the King Wen sequence. Confucius (K’ung-tzu, K’ung-fu-tzu, Kong Qiu, Zhong Ni, Kǒng Zi 551 BC – 479 BC) is traditionally said to have written the Shi Yi (Ten Wings), a group of commentaries or appendices to the I Ching some 500 years after King Wen. The I Ching did not appear in a scholarly form in the West until James Legge’s initial translation in 1854.
The hexagrams of the I Ching are visual focal devices to aid in meditation upon the philosophical concepts embodied within each of the hexagrams. The philosophy centers around the ideas of balance through the interplay and unification of opposites, and acceptance of change. It can be said that the core philosophy of the I Ching is embodied in the three concepts of Change, Ideal, and Discernment.
The Tao Te Ching and Lao Tzu
According to Chinese tradition, Lao Tzu (Lǎozǐ; Lao Tse, Lao Tze, Lao Tu, Lao-Tsu, Laotze, Laosi, Lao Zi, Laocius, Laozi) lived sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC and was possibly a contemporary of Confucius. Many people consider Lao Tzu to be the father of historical Taoism based on the many surviving ancient copies of his work, the Tao Te Ching (Daodejing). Tao Te Ching is sometimes translated as “The Classic of the Way and the Power (or Virtue)”. In 1993, the oldest known version of the text, written on bamboo tablets, was found in a tomb near the town of Guodian in Jingmen, Hubei, and was dated to be older than 300 BC.
A central precept of the Tao Te Ching is Wu Wei, literally “non-action”. The concept of wu wei can be confusing to the Western mind; it can mean “not doing”, “not forcing”, “not acting inauthentically”, “creating nothingness”, “acting spontaneously”, and “being in the flow.” “Action through non-action” is another term for Wu Wei, essentially meaning “to be in harmony with the Tao”.
The Tao Te Ching values direct experience of wisdom and the world gained through being present. Through this knowledge, one learns humility and one’s place in creation.
Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self requires strength;
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of will power.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be eternally present.
In the early 1970s, at the Mawangdui Tombs in Changsha, Hunan Province, Chinese archaeologists found a silk Dao Yin picture, the earliest known painting of Qigong movement. Dating to approximately 168 BC, the Daoyin tu consists of forty-four illustrations of figures practicing Qigong, with accompanying instructions. The exercises involve standing in specific stances to cure corresponding illnesses.
Characteristics of Qigong practice during the Early Historical Era were:
- Qigong for health maintenance
- Medical Qigong to cure illness
- Non-religious Qigong, i.e. there was little or no spiritual or religious overtones to its practice. (c) 2011 Keith E. Hall Inner-Tranquility.com . All rights reserved.
History of Qigong: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
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