CH'I KUNG (QIGONG) (Religious Movement)

Ch’i kung (translated as ‘energy work’) is the name given to a number of meditative breathing and stretching exercises originating in China. Often categorized as a Chinese form of Yoga, ch ‘i kung systems share with martial arts such as T’ai Chi Ch’uan the aim of developing the fundamental energy (ch’i) of humans for physical and spiritual enhancement, or generating ‘inner power’ (net kung). Exercises are based on the imitation of animal movements or natural processes and include simple standing postures and movement sequences, as well as particular breathing techniques.

The earliest archaeological evidence of ch ‘i kung practices dates to the fifth century BCE; a detailed manuscript from the second century BCE outlines various postures and designated therapeutic effects. Ch ‘i kung featured strongly in the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and was an integral element in the meditative rituals of religious Taoism. Five main schools of ch ‘i kung are recognized in China: Confucian, Taoist, Buddhist, medical, and martial.

Ch’i kung was driven underground during the Cultural Revolution (1966-69), but reappeared during the later twentieth century, for example as a meditative technique in the spiritual movement Falun Gong. However, it is chiefly influential as a health technique, and the late twentieth century saw the reintroduction of ch’i kung to many clinics and hospitals in China. In addition, the study of ch ‘i kung and the production of scientific evidence promoting its health effects became an ongoing project. A number of contested studies emerged during the 1990s, attesting to both the effects of personal ch’i kung practice, and instances of Healing produced by ch’i emitted from the hands of a master practitioner.

In the West, ch’i kung was little known until the 1980s, and experienced a surge of growth during the 1990s. A number of styles of ch’i kung are practised in Europe, with most practitioners adopting the art as a preventative holistic health tool (see Holistic Health Movement) and a remedy for a number of ailments. Its appeal is also as a meditative or spiritual technique, in line with the broader uptake of Asian meditative disciplines since the 1960s (see Easternization).

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