The History And Development Of Medical Qigong

Qìgong is a Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) meditation and exercise program that integrates focused awareness, regulated breathing, and slow movement to balance and cultivate chi. Qi gong massage is one aspect of qigong in which the practitioner combines knowledge of acupuncture points and channels with certain massage styles.

Qigong is also known as “Cultivation of Life Energy.” It is an exercise of martial arts training, meditation, mind for health, breath, and body alignment. Its roots lie in the Chinese martial arts, philosophy, and medicine and customarily considered as a practice to balance and cultivate chi, better known as “vital” or “life energy”. According to Confucianist, Buddhist, and Daoist custom, qigong enables access to higher spheres of consciousness, aids in cultivating human potential, and awakens the “true nature” of man. Its practice usually involves a meditative and calm state of mind, rhythmical and deep breathing, slow flowing coordinated movement, and moving meditation. Currently, it is practiced in China and in several countries for various purposes including martial arts training, self-development, meditation, alternative and adjunctive medicine, self-healing, preventive medicine, relaxation, exercise, and recreation.

Throughout the millennia, a wide range of qigong styles evolved in different sections of Chinese society. Qigong training has traditionally been mysterious and esoteric, with its secrets passed down from skillful master to student in genealogies that preserve their own unique methods and interpretations. While its practices were banned in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolution; it wasn’t until 1976 that it was allowed to reemerge. Different styles and methods were popularized and combined, punctuated by the drifting away from traditional folklore, spiritual attainment, and philosophy and more and more to a scientific, defense applications, traditional medicine, and health benefit perspective. In China, since the crackdown of 1999, qi gong practice has been severely curtailed. During that time, there has been a rise in the popularity of this ancient art among millions of people in many parts of the world. Research regarding qigong has interestingly been performed for various kinds of health problems, including cancer, injuries and pain, and high blood pressure.


Chi or Qi is commonly translated as vital energy. It refers to energy flowing throughout the body; although it can also have broader definitions like universal energy that includes electromagnetic energy, light, and heat, or food, spirit, energy, gas, air, or breath. Chi or Qi is the fundamental underlying principle in martial arts and TCM. Kung or Gong can mean work or cultivation, and definitions include achievement, outcome, service, attainment, merit, mastery, skill, or practice. It can mean a sense of achievement through great effort. It is also frequently used to mean kung fu (gongfu). Qi and Gong are words that when combined denote systems to balance and foster life energy, particularly for health.

While qigong is a term that has been traced back to the early Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 A.D.) in Daoist literature, its modern terminology in the late 40s and 50s referred to a wide variety of Chinese self-development techniques that expound scientific and health approaches, while downplaying spiritual elite lineages, mysticism, and practices.

A broad range of qigong styles has its roots in ancient Chinese culture that dates back more than 4000 years ago. These styles have evolved within different sectors of Chinese society: for curative and preventive purposes in traditional Chinese medicine, to boost moral character and increase longevity in Confucianism, to improve fighting skills in Chinese martial arts, and as part of meditation practice in Buddhism and Daoism. The current practice of qigong combines varied and sometimes conflicting customs, especially with regard to the Daoist mediation practice of “internal alchemy of Daoism”, the age-old “standing meditation” and meditation exercises of “circulating chi,”, and the unhurried breathing gymnastic exercise of ” pulling and guiding.”

The mainland Chinese government, beginning in the late 40s up to the 1950s, attempted to combine different qigong techniques into one viable system, with the view of building a solid scientific groundwork of the practice of the ancient art. Liu Guishen established the name “Qigong” in 1949 which referred to a set of life saving exercises based on Dao yin and other metaphyical beliefs that he and his partners have refined. Some sinologists consider this effort as the beginning of the scientific or modern understanding of qigong.

From and 1956 to 1963 and then again from 1966 to 1976, the Communist government has strictly regulated traditional Chinese medicine including qigong and only a few people were allowed to practice it in public. However, it has now been promoted in government-run rehab centers and eventually allowed in hospitals and universities. Both tai chi and qigong was widely promoted as daily morning exercise, after the Cultural Revolution. Throughout China, it is practiced en masse. These days, millions of practitioners all over the world perform qigong exercises. They more or less believe in the healing powers of this ancient tradition. People interested in qigong come from diverse backgrounds and practice it for various reasons, including for martial arts training, spirituality, meditation, self-cultivation, alternative and complementary therapy, self-healing, preventive medicine, relaxation, and recreation exercise.


Founded on Chinese philosophy, Qigong contains a wide range of practices that harmonize the mind, breath, and body together. Practices entail still and moving meditation, non-contact therapies, sound meditation, chanting, and massage done in a wide variety of body postures. There are two classifications of Qigong: 1. passive or meditative qigong (jing gong), with inner movement of the breath and still positions and 2. active or dynamic qigong (dong gong), with flowing and slow motions.

Qigong from a healing standpoint, can be categorized into two systems: 1. external qigong entailing treatment by a practitioner who discharges or directs Chi. 2. internal qigong focusing on self-development and self-care. Qi gong practice as moving meditation usually synchronizes calm mental focus, deep diaphragmatic breathing, and slow stylized motion along with guiding chi imagery flowing through the body. While the details of the administration may differ, the forms of qigong can generally be depicted as a combination of four types of practice: activities that require external aids, meditative, static, and dynamic.

Medical Qigong

Considered as an “accepted medical procedure” in China since 1989, Qigong has been at times integrated into the curriculum of major medical universities in China. China’s official Medical Qigong textbook in 2013 defines medical qigong as “a mind-body exercise skill that combines adjustments of mind, breathe, and body into a single entity” and asserts that qi gong is based on “alignment,” “tuning,” “regulation,” or “adjustment” of mind, breath, and body. Because of this, it is deemed by practitioners as much more than ordinary physical exercises, since it combines mental, breathing, and postural training into one to create a specific psycho-physiological state of being. While medical qigong is still grounded on classical and traditional theory, modern practitioners also espouse the significance of a healthy scientific basis. Also, the 2013 official Medical Qigong textbook textbook states that qigong’s physiological benefits are many, and include among others, beneficial effects on neurophysiology and an increase in cardiovascular and respiratory function.


Based on the best available proof that demonstrates the safety and efficacy of qigong, mainstream and conventional medicine has included certain techniques and practices of this healing art. At this stage, qigong is not widely deemed to be a component of conventional medicine since clinical research regarding its efficacy for certain medical conditions has been inconclusive, and because there is currently no medical consensus concerning its effectiveness.

Integrative medicine is defined as “the integration of complementary and conventional therapies medicines with the aim of utilizing the best modalities for the care of the patient as a whole.” On the other hand, we have complementary medicine that commonly refers to “adopting a non-conventional treatment plan that includes mainstream medicine.” Alternative therapy points to “adopting a non-conventional approach in lieu of mainstream medicine.” Integrative practitioners use Qigong as a complement to mainstream medicine, based on interpretations of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) with regards to the safety and effectiveness of qigong.

Ni Nan Healing Art Center
2579 Merrick Rd
Bellmore, NY 11710
Phone: (516) 442-7408