August 31, 2011

What is Qigong?

What is Qigong? This is a very common question often asked by people who either haven’t heard of Qigong, or who are new to the practice.

The term Qi Gong/Qigong – or Chi Kung in some western writing – is a fairly recent one, coming to common use in 1950’s after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It serves as a umbrella term for the various ancient practices which the Chinese call ‘ inner cultivation’; cultivation of one’s energy, health, awareness, character and spirit (Liu, 2010). According to the handbook of Chinese Medical Qigong, the practices had developed into a skill that could be learned and trained by the New Stone Age (3000-2000BC) and they were recorded in writing in the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classics, one of the founding writings of traditional Chinese medicine (Liu, 2010). There are several acknowledged theories or schools of thought on Qigong, ranging from Confucian to Daoist Qigong and Buddhist Qigong to martial arts, all with their own emphasis within the practice.

According to the theories of Qigong, Yin essence and Yang Qi constitute the vital Qi, our life force. Practicing Qigong is seen to prevent diseases and prolong life by defending the vital Qi and regulating the balance between Yin and Yang. If one is of excess or lacking, the other will also suffer. They dynamically depend upon, oppose and transform each other to produce and maintain health.

The three main ‘pillars’ of the practice of Qigong are the focus on thought (mind), focus on breath and focus on form and movement (Chinese Qigong Therapy, 1985). During the practice, these three are closely linked. The intent (mind) and Qi follow each other and the body (form) and the spirit should reflect one another. With diligent practice these principles become integrated and create harmony and balance in the circulation of both Qi and blood (Liu, 2010).


The theories of Qigong are numerous and complex and not limited to the brief introduction presented above. A form of external Qigong (healing) exists, where a master will emit their Qi in order to support, guide or balance the patient’s Qi or help to clear obstructions in its flow. The Meridian Theory outlines the acupressure points useful for releasing or unblocking Qi and Zan-Xian theory deals with the correspondence of the organs and external limbs – “The outside mirrors the inside” (Liu 2010). But all methods and theories aim for one ideal that could be said to encapsulate health: the unrestricted flow of Qi and the dynamic balance of Yin and Yang.

Based on this idea it could be said that the very basis of Qigong is a concept of self-healing. The practice is developed to enhance and support one’s own work in defending oneself against illnesses of either body or mind, and to support ones adaptation to different climates or seasons.


Liu, T., (2010). Chinese medical Qigong. 1st edition. London: Singing Dragon / Jessica Kingsley publishing.

Zang, M. and Sun, X., (1985). Chinese Qigong Therapy. 1st ed. trans. Yang, E. & Yao, X.  Binquan, China: The Shangdong Science and Technology press.

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