Qigong / Chi Kung

qigong posture

Qigong or Chi Kung (simplified Chinese 气功, traditional Chinese 氣功, pinyin: qìgōng; Wade-Giles: chi gong, pronunciation soundfile) is an umbrella term for Chinese health exercises, which aim to coordinate body, breath and mind in order to improve the flexibility of the body, the relaxation in and through movement and the overall attentiveness and mindfulness of the practitioner. It is used for preventive as well as therapeutic purposes.

Video “Calligraphy Qigong”

Meaning of the Chinese characters

The Chinese Characters for Qigong are “qi”, which means (life) energy and “gong”, which means work. Thus, Qigong literally means “working with the Qi”, but it is better translated as “cultivation of life energy”.

Qigong as health exercises

Qigong exercises (also referred to as routines or sets) consist of a choreography of movements accompanied by a supportive breathing technique and a required focus of attention for mind and/or eyes. The health benefit lies in conscious work on bodily tensions as in Qigong relaxation is interpreted as focused release of tension rather than mere floppiness.

Beginning in the 1950s, the health aspect of Qigong – the traditional nurturing of the Qi as part of the three human treasures (San Bao): Jing, Qi and Shen (matter, energy and spirit) – was officially recognised by the Chinese state. Until today it is used in hospitals as a cure for different disease patterns.

Types of Qigong


The single aspects of Qigong – the meditative aspect as well as the leading of the breath and the qi – carry different weight in different schools. Some schools focus on the movement of the body (external exercise) as the central aspect of the exercises while others see the meditative aspect (internal exercise) as being of equal importance.

The Qigong sets and routines themselves vary from still to moving and from meditative to martial as their origins are twofold. They lie in medicine (medical school, Yi jia) as well as in martial arts (martial school, Wu jia). Three main types of Qigong can be distinguished by means of their movement and focus of practice:

Neigong / Jinggong: physically “passive” (i.e. lying, sitting, standing), relaxed body, regulated breathing, mind focused inwards
Waigong / Donggong: physically “active”, mind and breathing are coordinated in movement
Ying gong: „martial“, the physical exercise is mainly directed at increasing the resistance and strength of the body

History and philosophical schools

The first descriptions of Qigong exercises dates back to the 11th century BC. Around 300 AD Ge Hong coined the notion Yangsheng – the nurturing of life by harmonisation of the cycle of Jing (matter), Qi (energy) and Shen (spirit). Another Qigong Classic is Sima Chengzhen’s essay on seated meditation.
Different schools of Qigong can also be distinguished by means of their underlying philosophical thought systems, which tend to emphasize different aspects and goals of practice:

– Confucian tradition (Ru jia) – character building, ideal morality of the noblemen/gentlemen
– Daoist tradition (Dao jia) – longevity, enlightenment through closeness to nature and natural actions
– Buddhist tradition (Fo jia) – meditative practices leading to spiritual enlightenment

Known traditional Qigong sets

Some of the most known Qigong sets are the Eight Pieces of Brocade (Ba duan jin), Five Animal Qigong (Wu Qin Xi) and the Six Healing Sounds (Liu Zi Jue).

Audio file “pronunciation Qigong”

Author: Taiji-Forum

Images: Taiji-Forum and Wang Ning