"Going abroad" has become a popular phrase in China as its fast
growing enterprises are doing more business outside. Traditional
Chinese culture is also following this trend. Qigong, one of the
cultural symbols, is going abroad to show off the skills which have
taken thousands of years to develop.
When Chinese around the world celebrate their Lunar New Year
next month, six delegations, organized by the Chinese Health Qigong
Association (CHQA), will visit seven countries - Canada, Britain,
France, Belgium, Germany, Australia and the United States, all
places they have never been before.
A man practises Qigong at 2nd International
Health Qigong Demonstration and Exchange, Aug. 25, 2007.
During the visits, 40 plus trainers of qigong, a system of deep
breathing exercises, will demonstrate their skills in squares of
big cities, and hold news conferences to introduce this Chinese
traditional art of fitness.
According to Zou Jijun, vice president and secretary general of
the CHQA, these qigong trainers are professors in sports
universities, and state-level trainers from China's provincial
areas. In order to better promote Health Qigong, they will also
train local trainers so that the trainers can spread the concept
"Health Qigong is a gem of Chinese traditional culture. Its
Chinese characteristics and healthy lifestyle may attract
foreigners who are interested in Chinese culture and health," said
As the double-digit growth of China's economy continues, Chinese
traditional culture has become a focus for the outside world. Some
typical Chinese symbols, like martial arts, acupuncture and tai chi
have spread around the globe.
Qigong (also written as Chi Kung) refers to the type of exercise
that manages the health of mind, body and breath. The word consists
of two Chinese characters: qi and gong. Qi, as used in the context
of the phrase qigong, refers to both the signal that controls the
functioning of the body and the actual functions of the body. The
word gong is the short form for gong fu (kung fu), which means
training with time and effort.
In its 5,000-year history, qigong has absorbed different
traditional Chinese cultural schools. The CHQA said that Confucians
practise qigong to cultivate mind and body; Taoists and Buddhists
do it to transcend worldliness; Chinese doctors use it to cure
illness and maintain health; and martial arts practitioners do it
to defend and fight attacks.
Nowadays, qigong has been classified into two categories: one is
Medical Qigong, which is used in some Chinese traditional medical
treatment, and the other is Health Qigong, which people use to stay
Zou said that based on traditional qigong practices and the
needs of modern society, the CHQA has released four sets of
practice forms, the oldest one of which, Wu Qin Xi (Frolics of Five
Animals) dates back some 2,000 years ago. They have been widely
practiced in China. Chinese people practiced it to prevent minor
diseases, improve their immune system and prolong life.
"Body activity can decrease fat, while strength practice can
prevent calcium depletion, which is the major cause of
osteoporosis. It also can help improve heart-lung function.
Adjusting the breath can improve the functions of internal organs,"
said Professor Hu Xiaofei of Beijing Sports University. Hu is a
professor with and an expert in sports health preservation. As a
member of a delegation, Hu will visit the United States next month
as a trainer.
Delegation from Chinese Health Qigong
Association perform in France in October 2007.(File Photo)
Because of its effectiveness, Health Qigong is popular. Every
morning, senior citizens gather in parks and on riverbanks to
practise qigong, making it a typical scene of Chinese city life.
Zou with the CHQA said that more than 80 million people practise
qigong throughout China.
At the same time, foreign people have been attracted to qigong.
Etsuko Kunisada, aged 31, is an example. She gave up her well-paid
job in a bank in Japan's Osaka March last year when she decided to
go to Beijing. Later, she became a fan of Chinese culture and began
to practise tai chi. After a year of practice, she found it was
still interesting, but had become more and more difficult.
"When I practise tai chi, I need to practise how to breathe. I
find that tai chi and qigong are interrelated, and qigong can help
me breathe more smoothly," said Etsuko. So she began to practise
qigong three times a week at Beijing Sports University (BSU).
According to the BSU, hundreds of foreigners like Etsuko come to
the university to study qigong every year.
In order to attract more foreign practitioners, Zou said the
CHQA has held three rounds of overseas promotion activities since
2006. They have visited nearly 30 countries, in which more than
50,000 foreign people watched their demonstrations, while 10,000
plus began to practise the exercise. Now the CHQA has more than
50organizations overseas, and deployed trainers in 29 countries. A
total of 36 promotion activities have been planned for this
The German team perform Qigong at 2nd
International Health Qigong Demonstration and Exchange, Aug. 25,
2007. (File Photo)
"Qigong is a kind of vehicle, through which foreign
practitioners can better understand China and its traditional
culture," said Zou. When people enjoy their Chinese-style fitness,
they experience the unique Chinese concept of life and humanity at
the same time.
As the number of practitioners of tai chi and qigong is
increasing in Japan, Etsuko hoped she could open a Chinese fitness
center after returning home. With this promotion method of training
the trainers, Zou Jijun of the CHQA believes that more and more
foreigners will be interested in Health Qigong.
"We are trying to introduce to the outside world a healthy
lifestyle," said Professor Hu Xiaofei, adding excessive nutrition
and insufficient body exercise cause a lot of modern diseases,
while the ancient Chinese noted some 2,000 years ago that being
moderate in eating was a healthy habit.
"Most of China's senior citizens enjoy healthy lives. They
practise tai chi and qigong in the parks every morning, instead of
laying on a bed with their lives being maintained by medical
equipment," said Hu.
"The concept of integration in China's health philosophy is
different from western medicine. By adjusting body, breath, and
mind, qigong makes the practitioners healthy and strong. Foreigners
may be interested in this integrated method," said Zou.
Besides the attitude to health, qigong embraces far more Chinese
life philosophy, said Hu. Qigong practitioners have to concentrate
their minds when practicing. They have to be peaceful and quiet
during their practicing. Qigong needs a moderate attitude, instead
of being emulative in competitive sports. All these requirements
will help build a moderate, peaceful and amiable character, a
typical Chinese person's character created mostly by Confucian
"In the Chinese concept of health, the body, mind, moral
character and self-cultivation are all interrelated, thus
practicing qigong is learning the Chinese way to conduct oneself in
society at the same time," said Hu.
However, Hu believes what's more important is that the
philosophy qigong embraces promotes not only the integration of
body and mind, but also the environment and mankind, society and
individuals. In the rapidly growing modern international society
challenged by environmental pollution and social conflicts, this
philosophy seems critical for building a harmonious world.
"When people have fewer diseases and material desires, they can
live in harmony and peace," said Hu. "However, a result-oriented
attitude may lead to problems and failure. Instead, we should enjoy
the process and practise the lifestyle."
(Xinhua News Agency January 26, 2008)