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Qigong you can believe in
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Chinese Health Qigong (4 volumes)
Reviewed by John Sexton

In Steven Chow's classic comedy Kung Fu Hustle, the kid/hero (played by Chow himself) is sold a dog-eared, badly printed martial arts pamphlet by a hairy tramp/Taoist. The purchase sets him on a road that leads through humiliation and frustration to final triumph and… well I'm sure you know the story.

This is the way it is supposed to be. I spent many years hanging around Chinese bookshops and martial arts suppliers in London buying up just such tatty instruction books. As time passed I managed to lay my hands on a number of grainy videos – the modern equivalent of the dog-eared pamphlet. Some showed extraordinary feats of qigong – teachers hurling their students against the wall with a wave of the hand without making contact. My favorite was a video of the old men from the Chen village, where Taijiquan originated (in at least one version of the story). Sitting around drinking beer they suddenly started breaking the bottles over each others’ heads and eating the glass fragments. (Don't try that at home).

The source of a seemingly endless list of Kung Fu titles was the China Foreign Languages Press (FLP). Their pamphlets were better produced than most, but had complicated instructions in dodgy English accompanied by black and white line drawings. I found them very difficult to follow and although I amassed quite a collection they never convinced me that Qigong, Taijiquan or Kung Fu of any sort could be learnt from a book. My teacher, of course, agreed.

But now it seems FLP are starting to get their act together. Their new set of Qigong pamphlets with exercises compiled by the Chinese Health Qigong Association is nicely bound, has color photographs and clear instructions written in good English. Each pamphlet also comes with a DVD which is well-produced, entertaining and not grainy at all. It looks like they are determined to make Qigong just too easy. What happened to standing in the horse position for four hours?

There are four titles in all Yi Jin Jing (Muscle Strengthening Exercises, 易筋经), Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Exercises, 五禽戏), Ba Duan Jin (Eight Section Exercise, 八段锦) and Liu Zi Jue (Six Sounds Exercise, 六字诀). [China.org.cn]

I still don't think you can learn martial arts or Qigong entirely from a book. At some point you really need to get a teacher. But these books will get you started, act as a good reference source, and after you have studied for a while in a class, will help you extend your repertoire of moves.

If I have one criticism, it is of the book titles. Wu Qin Xi may be perfectly understandable to a martial arts expert or a Chinese speaker, but for an English audience, surely the Five Animal Exercises makes perfectly good sense. Almost everyone who has a television has heard of Monkey and Crane style Kung Fu.

There are four titles in all Yi Jin Jing (Muscle Strengthening Exercises, 易筋经), Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Exercises, 五禽戏), Ba Duan Jin (Eight Section Exercise, 八段锦) and Liu Zi Jue (Six Sounds Exercise, 六字诀).

The Chinese Health Qigong series is published by China Foreign languages Press and can be ordered from Amazon here or from hairy Taoists anywhere.

How to buy it:

In Beijing, you can purchase the series at the following retail locations. Or you can place an order by sending emails to sales@flp.com.cn.

Free delivery anywhere within Beijing's Fourth Ring Road. Orders from other parts of China can be made with additional postal charges. Readers in North America can purchase online at www.chinabooks.com.

Foreign Languages Bookstore
No. 235 Wangfujing Street, Beijing
北京外文书店 - 北京市王府井大街235号 

The Bookworm
No.4 Building, South Sanlitun Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing
"书虫 - "北京朝阳区南三里屯路4"号楼


Xidan Bookstore
Third Floor, Xidan Book Building

First Floor, Unit 4, No. 3 Building, Tianshuiyuan Beili, Chaoyang District, Beijing
光合作用 - 北京市朝阳区甜水园北里3号附楼四门底层 

Baiwanzhuang Foreign Languages Bookstore
No. 24 Baiwanzhuang Road, Xicheng District
外文书苑 - 百万庄路24号 

Forbidden CityBookstore
Imperial Garden, Palace Museum, Beijing
北京故宫御花园书店 - 北京故宫御花园内 

BeijingPlanning Exhibition Hall
East of the Old Qianmen Train Station, Qianmen, Beijing
北京规划展览馆 - 北京前门(老前门火车站东侧) 

Beijing Guanzi Culture & Media Co. Ltd
D09-17, 798 Art District, No.2 Jiuxianqiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing
北京罐子文化传媒有限公司 - 北京市朝阳区酒仙桥路2号798艺术区D09-17 

Dangdang Online Bookstore
Fourth Floor, Sanli Plaza, No.208 Andingmenwai Street, Beijing
当当网上书店 - 北京安定门外大街208号三利大厦四层 

BeijingForeign Languages Bookstore Distribution Center
Taihu, Tongzhou, Beijing
新华书店物流中心 - 北京通州台湖 

BeijingXinhua Bookstore Distribution Center
No. 15 Xueyuan Road, Haidian District, Beijing
北京市新华书店图书批销中心 - 海淀区学院路15号 

ChinaInternational Book Trading Corporation
No. 35 Chenggongzhuang Xilu, Beijing
中国国际图书贸易总公司外文书刊部 - 北京车公庄西路35号  

Out of Beijing:

Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore
No.390 Fuzhou Road, Shanghai 
上海外文图书公司(外文书店) - 上海市福州路390">号 

Shanghai Shangtu Bookstore
No.1555 Huaihai Zhonglu, Shanghai 
上海上图书店 - 上海市淮海中路1555号 

Shanghai Wenyuzhai Bookstore
Room D22, Shanghai Pudong International Airport 
上海文语斋书店 - 上海浦东国际机场机景观墙D22室 

ZhejiangXinhua Bookstore
No. 7, Cuibai Road, Hangzhou
浙江省新华书店 - 杭州市翠柏路7号 

JiangsuXinhua Bookstore
No. 98, Xianxin Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province
江苏省新华书店 - 江苏省南京市仙新路98号  

Inner Mongolian Xinhua Bookstore
No.94 Zhongshan Road, Hohhot
内蒙古新华书店图书大厦 - 呼和浩特市中山路94号 

Shanxi Foreign Languages Bookstore
No.167 Jiefang Road, Taiyuan, Shanxi
山西省外文书店 - 山西省太原市解放路167号 

Guangdong Xinhua Distribution Corporation
No. 161, Changfu Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou
广东新华发行集团股份有限公司 -  广州市天河区长福路161号

(China.org.cn March 3, 2009)
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