Qi Gong has a rich and ancient history. It comes out of ancient Chinese Medicine which goes back to 4000. QiGong was first documented in Taoist writings 600 AD.
Main article: Qi
Qi (or chi) is usually translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow, and definitions often involve breath, air, gas, or relationship between matter, energy, and spirit. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. Gong (or kung) is often translated as cultivation or work, and definitions include practice, skill, mastery, merit, achievement, service, result, or accomplishment, and is often used to mean gongfu (kung fu) in the traditional sense of achievement through great effort. (see MDBG dictionary entry) The two words are combined to describe systems to cultivate and balance life energy, especially for health.
Although the term qigong (氣功) has been traced back to Taoist literature of the early Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), the term qigong as currently used was promoted in the late 1940s through the 1950s to refer to a broad range of Chinese self-cultivation exercises, and to emphasize health and scientific approaches, while de-emphasizing spiritual practices, mysticism, and elite lineages.
Main article: Qigong history
With roots in ancient Chinese culture dating back more than 4,000 years, a wide variety of qigong forms have developed within different segments of Chinese society: in traditional Chinese medicine for preventive and curative functions, in Confucianism to promote longevity and improve moral character, in Taoism and Buddhism as part of meditative practice, and in Chinese martial arts to enhance fighting abilities. Contemporary qigong blends diverse and sometimes disparate traditions, in particular the Taoist meditative practice of “internal alchemy” (Neidan 內丹术), the ancient meditative practices of “circulating qi” (Xing qi 行氣) and “standing meditation” (Zhan zhuang 站桩), and the slow gymnastic breathing exercise of “guiding and pulling” (Tao yin 導引). Traditionally, knowledge about qigong was passed from adept master to student in elite unbroken lineages, typically with secretive and esoteric traditions of training and oral-mind transmission.
Starting in the late 1940s and the 1950s, the mainland Chinese government tried to integrate disparate qigong approaches into one coherent system, with the intention of establishing a firm scientific basis for qigong practice. This attempt is considered by some sinologists as the start of the modern or scientific interpretation of qigong. During the Great Leap Forward (1958–1963) and the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), qigong, along with other traditional Chinese medicine, was encouraged in state-run rehabilitation centers and spread to universities and hospitals, but was under tight control with limited access among the general public. After the Cultural Revolution, qigong, along with t’ai chi, was popularized as daily morning exercise practiced en masse throughout China.
Popularity of qigong grew rapidly during the Deng and Jiang eras of the 1970s through 1990s, with estimates of between 60 and 200 million practitioners throughout China. In 1985, the state-run “National Qigong Science and Research Organization” was established to regulate all of the nation’s qigong denominations. In 1999, in response to widespread revival of old traditions of spirituality, morality, and mysticism, the Chinese government took measures to enforce control of public qigong practice, including banning groups such as Zhong Gong and Falun Gong.
Through the forces of migration of the Chinese diaspora, tourism in China, and globalization, the practice of qigong spread from the Chinese community to the world. Today, millions of people around the world practice qigong and believe in the benefits of qigong to varying degrees. Similar to its historical origin, those interested in qigong come from diverse backgrounds and practice it for different reasons, including for exercise, recreation, preventive medicine, self-healing, self-cultivation, meditation, and martial arts training.
Qigong comprises breathing, physical, and mental training methods based on Chinese philosophy. While implementation details vary, all qigong forms can be characterized as a mix of four types of training: dynamic, static, meditative, and activities requiring external aids.
- Dynamic training
involves fluid movement, usually carefully choreographed, coordinated with breath and awareness. Examples include the slow stylized movements of T’ai chi ch’uan, Baguazhang, and Xing yi. Other examples include graceful movement that mimics the motion of animals in Five Animals, White Crane, and Wild Goose (Dayan) Qigong.
- Static training
involves holding postures for sustained periods of time. In some cases this bears resemblance to the practice of Yoga and its continuation in the Buddhist tradition. For example Yiquan, a Chinese martial art derived from xingyiquan, emphasizes static stance training. In another example, the healing form Eight Pieces of Brocade (Baduanjin qigong) is based on a series of static postures.
- Meditative training
utilizes breath awareness, visualization, mantra, and focus on philosophical concepts such as qi circulation. For example, in the Confucius scholar tradition meditation is focused on humanity and virtue, with the aim of self-enlightenment. In various Buddhist traditions, the aim is to still the mind, either through outward focus, for example on a place, or through inward focus on the breath, a mantra, a koan, emptiness, or the idea of the eternal. In Taoist and traditional Chinese medicine practice, the meditative focus is on cultivating qi in dantian energy centers and balancing qi flow in meridian and other pathways.
- Use of external agents
Many systems of qigong training include the use of external agents such as ingestion of herbs, massage, physical manipulation, or interaction with other living organisms. For example, specialized food and drinks are used in some medical and Taoist forms, whereas massage and body manipulation are sometimes used in martial arts forms. In some medical systems a qigong master uses non-contact treatment, purportedly guiding qi through his or her own body into the body of another person.
People practice qigong for many different reasons, including for exercise and recreation, prevention and self-healing, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.
(This information has been taken from wikipedia)