20080311-qi gong cfq qi gong foundation3.jpg Qi gong (pronounced chee-GONG) is an ancient Chinese healing art, philosophy and spiritual belief that combines gentle movements, deep breathing, self-massage, mediation and variety of other practices. Qi means "vital energy" (See Below) and gong means "cultivate."

Qi gong forms the basis of traditional Chinese medicine, several martial arts, and unexplained powers. The force behind qi gong is qi. Considered a “national treasure,”' qi gong is supported by the government. It is sometimes thought of as a kind of faith healing.

Qi gong has many supernatural associations. Qi gong masters perform healing massages without touching the body, ignite fires with forces generated by their hands and claim they can fill entire lecture halls with uplifting positive energy particles. There is a story of kung fu master in the early 1900s who was harassed by a foreigner on a horse and killed the horse by laying his hands on the animal and disrupting its internal organs with qi.

Qi gong has been credited with improving scores on university entrance exams and locating victims under collapsed buildings. Some qigong masters attribute their powers to black holes, gamma rays, and antimatter. In China, qi gong was nearly wiped out during the Cultural Revolution. Many skilled practitioners failed to pass their secrets on to the next generation before they died.

Websites and Resources

Good Websites and Sources on Qi Gong Literati Traditionliterati-tradition.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Classical text sources neigong.net ; Qi Gong Institute qigonginstitute.org ; Qi Gong association of America /www.qi.org ; Skeptic’s Dictionary on Qi Gong skepdic.com More Skepticism of Qi Gong quackwatch.org ; Book: The Way of Qigong by Kenneth Cohen (Ballantine Books) On Moxibustion : Acupuncture Treatment.com acupuncture-treatment.com ; Moxibustion Video YouTube ; Wikipedia article on Fire Cupping Wikipedia ; Article on Cupping itmonline.org ; Cupping Video YouTube On Acupuncture: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Mayo Clinic on Acupuncture mayoclinic.com ; National Institute of Health (NIH) on Acupuncture nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/acupuncture ; Holistic Online holisticonline.com ; American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicineaaaomonline.org ; Acupuncture Treatment.com acupuncture-treatment.com

On Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM): National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) /nccam.nih.gov/health ; National Center for Biotechnology Information resources on Chinese Medicine ncbi.nlm.nih.gov ; Skepticism of Chinese Medicine quackwatch.org ; Origins of Chinese Medicine logoi.com History of Chinese Medicine albion.edu/history ;Americam Journal for Chinese Medicine Chinese Text Project ; Wikipedia article on Traditional Chinese Medicine Wikipedia ; Oriental Style ourorient.com Americam Journal for Chinese Medicine ejournals.worldscientific.com Animals and Chinese Medicine: Tigers in Crisis tigersincrisis.com ; Bear Bile Farms Pictures all-creatures.org ; Animals Asia. Org animalsasia.org Starfish, Scorpions, Lizards and Chinese Medicinethingsasian.com Independent article about lizards and antlers and Chinese Medicine independent.co.uk

Links in this Website: HEALTH IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; HEALTH CARE IN CHINA?DOCTORS, INSURANCE AND COSTS Factsanddetails.com/China ; HEALTH CARE IN CHINA? TRANSPLANTS AND DRUGS Factsanddetails.com/China ; TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE Factsanddetails.com/China ; ACUPUNCTURE Factsanddetails.com/China ; QI GONG AND MOXIBUSTION Factsanddetails.com/China ; ANIMAL PARTS AND CHINESE MEDICINE Factsanddetails.com/China ; DISEASES IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; AIDS-HIV IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SARS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; INFLUENZA AND A/H1N1 FLU IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; BIRD FLU IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China


20080311-qi gong chikungradiants fighting arts 2.gifQi (or chi or ki) is a mystical material force described using terms like “cosmic energy,” “life force,” "vital energy," "the Breath of Heaven," and "the Breath of Nature." Said to be generated by yin and yang, it is regarded as the fundamental life force in the universe, and the force that gives life to living things. Sometimes associated with Confucianism and Taoism, it is harnessed by acupuncturists to cure patients, by monks to achieve oneness with nature and by businessmen to achieve success. It is a force possessed by every individual but some people take the time to master it and cultivate and use its special powers.

There are two kinds of qi: "hard" ki, which is associated with martial arts like kung fu and karate, and "soft" ki, which is associated with meditation, health and concentration. One qi gong instructor told the Korea Times, qi gong "is very systematic and even scientific. Step by step, you can learn how to absorb the ki scattered around, and you not only become healthy but also achieve a wholeness with the universe, the source of the unlimited energy or ki."

Qi gong practitioners are taught to control ki by controlling their breathing, their mind and their body and learn how to harmonize these three things to live long, healthy lives and heighten their mental and spiritual powers. They are also taught to perform exercises that focus qi to different parts of the body. In one series of movements called the Bear, intended to stimulate the kidneys and lower back, practitioners stand upright, hold their palms upwards near their ears and twist their bodies back and forth at the waist. In the old days, some people believed that belching and farting caused a person to lose qi and hastened their death. For this reason monks don't eat root food that make them fart and belch.

Qi Gong Masters at Work

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Monk using qi
Practitioners of Qi gong, who often don't touch anything directly, harness the power of ki to throw people against walls without lifting a finger, repel assaults by people attacking with all their strength, heal and cure patients, bend metal and lift objects without touching them, produce fires through spontaneous combustion, help people loose weight, and drive nails through boards without a hammer or any other tool.

Describing what happened to a man who was touched the hand of a ki master, Andrew Pollack of the New York Times wrote, "Almost instantly, as if propelled by some invisible force, the person reels backward and crashes into a padded wall." Other people who touch the master "then collapse to the ground, screaming and writhing until two...assistants jump on them to calm them down."

Qi Gong masters have chopped plastic chopsticks with paper bills and ignited fires with their bare hands. See Dr. Dynamo Jack, Indonesia.

Sima Nan, a self-appointed "cult buster," has made a living of exposing fraudulent claims by qi gong masters. In 1986, the Amazing Randi, a former magician who makes a living snuffing out quacks and fakes, made a visit to China. He found that psychic healers who purportedly made women go into convulsion were actually reacting to the patient not visa versa. He also discovered that children, who supposedly put together broken matches inside a sealed box, had actually opened the box and replaced with the broken match with an unbroken one.

Qi Gong and Health

20080311-qi gong cfq qi gong foundation6.jpgDisease is believed to be caused when a patient's qi is too weak, out of balance or blocked. The task of a Chinese doctor is make the qi strong by restoring its balance with he universe and harmonizing the internal rhythms of he patients with the rhythms of his or her environment.

Some people have claimed they were treated successfully for serious diseases by qi gong after Western medical techniques failed. There are also old stories of miraculous recoveries by mutilated warriors, presumed to be dead, who suddenly jump to life after being treated with qi gong.

Qi is manipulated by Chinese doctors with acupuncture and herbs. Individuals who treat themselves take qi classes to increase the circulation of their blood, cure disease and improve their respiratory systems.

There are 2,000 different variations of qi gong, most of which are concerned with individual realization. Fulan Dafa, a cult-like branch of qi gong also known as the Truth, Compassion and Tolerance Universal Law, practices faith healing and other forms of quackery. Members believe that they have a pod of energy in their stomachs that is powerful enough to move mountains and raise the dead. One member once said he didn't eat, drink or talk because he feared the energy source in his abdomen would leak. Falun Gong is another qi gong cult. See Falun Gong, Religion.

Qigong pyschotic reaction is a mental disorder defined in medical literature defined as mental symptoms that occur for a brief period after someone has undergone qi-gong.

Qi Gong Doctors and Treatments

20080311-qi gong michaelmoon lotus space.jpg Lee Kang-won, a Korean practitioner of Qi gong, told the Korean Herald, "Many of the illnesses people suffer today are the result of worsening environmental pollution, consumption of too much instant food, harmful electro-magnetic waves, stress and bad habits acquired in the course of living in this modern high-tech society that throw the yin and yang out of balance...Since most of the causes of ailments can be attributed to the breakdown of harmony between yin and yang, my treatment entails reestablishment of the equilibrium between the two primal forces that make up the vital energy of a person."

Lee treats various kinds of ailments by holding his hands above the hands of his patients to stimulate the flow off chi (qi), using a gold ring to reinforce positive energy and a silver ring to extract negative energy. The treatment also incorporates the concept that qi flows through the five finger to five organs in the body.

Qi has been claimed to help people lose weight, grow hair and lower high blood pressure. Doctors attribute the success of qi gong to something called the "Relaxation Response," which increases oxygen consumption, white blood cell dilation, blood circulation and decreases muscle tension by slowing the body down.

One study at Columbia University showed that one group of adults with hypertension were able to lower their blood pressure by an average of 10 percent by performing a series of qi gong exercises twice a week for eight weeks. A study performed a medical school in New Jersey involving 20 suffers of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy found that qi gong sessions helped relieve pain but didn't halt the progression of the disease. One 374-pound Chinese woman said she tried qi gong breathing exercises to help her loose weight but the treatment failed.

Qi and Business

Ki master and consultants have been hired by companies like Sony, Sega, Honda and NEC to help their employees relax, focus, relieve stress, remain calm, concentrate better, think positively and improve their golf swing. They teach their clients things like "breathing through the soles of your feet" and sell videos which are said to help viewers cure the sick.

Some people learn qi from books and videos. Others learn it at special institutes. Describing the techniques of Yukio Funai, the head of a firm that gives advise to companies about mysticism, Pollack wrote, "Mr. Funai asked a visitor to touch his toes without bending his knees. After the visitor could not do it, Mr. Funai waved his hand in the air and snapped his hand toward the visitor, as if to shoot rays out of his fingers. After receiving this infusion of ki, the visitor was able to touch his toes."

Qi gong products are similar to New Age products. They include bracelets for men’s health, videos on how arrange furniture to harness qi gong energy, incense used for relaxing the mind, crystal balls (believed to focus pure energy) and miniature pyramids used to help in meditation.

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Fire cupping

Moxibustion, Cupping, Acupressure, Massage and Bee Stings

Chinese doctors using a technique called moxibustion mix dried and powdered herbs such as mugwort into a peanut-size cotton ball or cone and ignite them above an acupuncture point on the skin. The ignited herbs are removed when a warm sensation is felt. The procedure is repeated several times.

Doctors using the technique of cupping place bamboo jars or glass cups on a patients skin and light a taper (a piece of cotton or paper) and place it inside the cup long enough to suck out the air and create a vacuum. The sucking cup leaves behind a red circular mark that lasts for several days.

Acupressure, also known as "shiatsu," is similar to acupuncture except that the meridians and points are stimulated by pressing them with fingertips, elbows or knees instead of punctures with needles.

The Chinese also use massage to treat a number of ailments such as back pain and sore muscles. Most massages are performed by acupuncturists who sometimes use unorthodox techniques such as bloodletting and scraping the skin the skin with coins or porcelain spoons.

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Fire cupping result
on Gwenyth Partlow
Bee stings have been used on people with gangrene to prevent amputation. Reuters described the procedure on a 56-year-old diabetes suffer with gangrene that had begin spreading from his toes up his feet and legs. The bees were placed on the man’s foot and provoked to sting him to stimulate the flow of blood to the rotting, blackened flesh. Bee stings have been used in China for 3,000 years to treat back pain and rheumatism.. Now they are being used to ease inflammation and fight bacteria infection and are being investigated as a cure for liver ailments, diabetes and cancer.


Moxibustion utilizes mugwort ground to a powder and processed into a stick that resembles a cigar. Practitioners burn the fluff, or stick, near or on a patients skin to stimulate the flow of qi. They say it replenishes yang energy in the body and helps alleviate conditions caused by a deficiency of yang. These include indigestion, shortness of breath, fatigue, menstruation pain, and problems with the neck, shoulders, waist and legs.

According to tradition moxibustion appeared around the time that Chinese learned to use fire. Early healers believed that disease-causing yin energy and spirits could be repelled by fire. Moxa was said to have a pure yang nature that allowed it, when burned, to carry away “bad spirits” with the smoke. Moxibustion is said to have been widely practiced in the Tang and Song dynasties but went into decline in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when the Emperor’s doctors insisted it was indecent for the Emperor to expose his body to acupuncture or moxibustion and therefore was banned among the upper classes.

Moxibustion is not widely practiced in China. Li Weiheng, director of the China Association of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, told the China Daily that there are two reasons for this: 1) smoke is generally not tolerated in hospitals and clinics and 2) there is little money in it. The sticks don’t cost very much and the practitioner spend a lot of time holding the moxa stick,

On the benefits of moxibustion over acupuncture, Li said, “While acupuncture serves to direct and divert the energy patients already have, the problems with most people nowadays is that they don’t have enough qi and blood. Moxibustion can replenish this energy.”

Moxibustion Treatment

Moxibustion sessions usually start with a consultation that helps the practitioner determine which acupuncture points to target. The point for the diaphragm for example is a couple finger widths from the naval. Indigestion is treated at a point four fingers above the naval and four finger to the right.

Describing a moxibustion session given to businessman named Cheng, Ye June wrote in the China Daily, “After slipping into the pajamas provided he lies down...The moxibustionist burns a stick of moxa, or dried mugwort herb, 15 centimeters long and four centimeters thick. He holds the stick about an inch above Cheng’s skin, focusing the heat on three different acupuncture points for about 10-15 minutes each....The entire session takes about 80 minutes, including 20 minutes of massage.”

Cheng sought the treatment for the stress and wear and tear of a busy day, “It is an intensely warming and relaxing experience.” he said. The experience also helps his general wellness he said: “I used to catch a cold often. But in the past five months, I have had a cold only once.”

Image Sources: Wellington Physiotherapy; Wedgeweeod Acupuncture; Acupuncture Products; Qi Gong Foundation; Micheal Moon at Lotus Space; Wikipedia; BBC

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2010

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