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Chinese Healing Exercises

The Tradition of Daoyin

Livia Kohn

Publication Year: 2008

Daoyin, the traditional Chinese practice of guiding the qi and stretching the body is the forerunner of Qigong, the modern form of exercise that has swept through China and is making increasing inroads in the West. Like other Asian body practices, Daoyin focuses on the body as the main vehicle of attainment; sees health and spiritual transformation as one continuum leading to perfection or self-realization; and works intensely and consciously with the breath and with the conscious guiding of internal energies. This book explores the different forms of Daoyin in historical sequence, beginning with the early medical manuscripts of the Han dynasty, then moving into its religious adaptation in Highest Clarity Daoism. After examining the medieval Daoyin Scripture and ways of integrating the practice into Tang Daoist immortality, the work outlines late imperial forms and describes the transformation of the practice in the modern world. Presenting a rich crop of specific exercises together with historical context and comparative insights, Chinese Healing Exercises is valuable for both specialists and general readers. It provides historical depth and opens concrete details of an important but as yet little-known health practice.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

First, I would like to thank qigong masters Roger Jahnke, Michael Winn, Karin Sörvik, Frank Yurasek, and Paul Gallagher as well as taiji quan master Bede Bidlack for providing pertinent instruction in Chinese physical practices—both traditional and modern—in a large variety of media: in person, through video, on audiotapes and CDs. ...

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pp. 1-28

Human beings are by nature embodied creatures. The very foundation of our life is the concrete, material reality into which we are born and which we shape. As the basis of our existence, the body is a source of great pleasure and overwhelming pain, a giver of deep satisfaction and utter misery, the root of potential perfection and dismal failure. ...

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Chapter One Early Medical Manuscripts

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pp. 29-61

The earliest systematic and detailed information on Chinese healing exercises comes from ancient medical manuscripts that were excavated over the last twenty years and date for the most part from the early Han dynasty (late second century B.C.E.). The manuscripts include both technical medical texts and materials on longevity techniques. ...

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Chapter Two Officials, Hermits, and Ecstatics

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pp. 62-97

Moderation and elementary healing are also at the core of the next sources on healing exercises, from the fourth century C.E., written by literati aristocrats of southern China. Engaged in different social contexts and cultural pursuits, they include imperial officials striving to attain a more balanced and longer life, ...

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Chapter Three The Exercise Classic

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pp. 98-127

The first such systematization of healing exercises and routines appears in the Daoyin jing, the only text in the Daoist canon that deals exclusively with physical practices. Its full title is Taiqing daoyin yangsheng jing (Great Clarity Scripture on Healing Exercises and Nourishing Life, DZ 818; see Despeux 1989). ...

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Chapter Four Pathways to Immortality

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pp. 128-161

Bringing the integrative trend visible in the Daoyin jing to full fruition, Daoists and medical masters of the Tang dynasty (618–907) created a highly complex and intricate system whereby to attain immortality that made use of physical practices on various levels. Their work closely reflects the dominant cultural trends of the time. ...

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Chapter Five Modern Precursors

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pp. 162-197

A complete new chapter of developments in Chinese healing exercises, and one that would lead directly to their modern adaptation into qigong, commenced with the Song dynasty (960–1260). The religious and social environment of this time was very different from that of the Tang, whose political, religious, and cultural structures ...

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Chapter Six Daoyin Today

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pp. 198-232

The most obvious place to look for traditional Chinese healing exercises today is modern Chinese qigong 氣功, a Communist adaptation of ancient practices for public health that developed into a mass movement, supported the quest for supernatural powers, and eventually grew into religious cults ...

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pp. 233-236

Over six chapters and many pages we have now pursued the history and unfolding of Chinese healing exercises or Daoyin. The tradition is long and varied, ranging from the earliest traces in the late Zhou dynasty to the modern West. Its first documentation shows the centrality of slow, gentle movements in conjunction with deep, ...

Original Sources

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pp. 237-244


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pp. 245-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780824861858
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824832346

Publication Year: 2008