Principles of Qigong

This continues the translation and interpretation of the official Chinese instructional video on Ba Duan Jin (the Eight Brocades). My friend Pan Huai is translating for me as we both study this qigong form.

The following are key concepts for understanding the content of this part of the video and for understanding the practice of Qigong:

  • Yinian—the mind or will that commands Qi.
  • Qi—energy, sometimes also called life force. Vitality.
  • Hu xi—breathing (hu = exhale, xi = inhale).
  • Shen—facial expression, through which inner mood or emotion is visible.
  • Qing—mood or emotion.
  • Xing—outward appearance of the body as a whole; posture, carriage.
  • Jing—spirit; the essence or center of being from which energy flows.

How these concepts relate: Qing, the inner state (mood, emotion), is readable from outside through both Shen (facial expression) and Xing (posture, carriage). Qi (energy) flows from the Jing (spirit) and is directed by Yinian (the mind or will).

Qigong could be described as the practice of directing, at will, energy from the jing (spirit) to the shen and xing (outward expression and posture). The video provides three principles for how to practice Qigong.

principle3Reading the right column first, from the top down:

Rou He Huan Man

Rou means soft or gentle. He (pronounced like “her” without the R) means coming together, combining or coordinating. Rou he can be translated to mean that body movements are soft, gentle and coordinated. Huan means slow. Man is grounded; in Tai Chi, this relates to knowing where the body’s weight is centered. Huan man means standing steadily and moving smoothely, knowing where the weight is centered.

The left column from the top down reads:

Yuan Huo Lian Guan

Yuan means rounded; curved or circular. Huo is relaxed, loose, or nimble. Lian means connected. Guan means in sequence, or strung together. In the practice of Qigong, movements are soft and rounded, and connected in sequence.

principle2The second principle reads (again, starting at the right, top to bottom):

Song Jin Jie He

Song means loose or relaxed. Jin means tight or tense. There is a point of stillness in a movement, like the fullest extension of a stretch, the point where one movement ends and another begins. Or where one repetition of a movement ends and the next begins. Jie He means coordinate, in the sense that the loose, relaxed movement and the moment of tension flow from one to the other in a deliberate way.

The left column reads:

Dong Jing Xiang Jian

Dong is move, or movement. Jing is stillness. Xiang jian means both are present, by turns.

In the video, the looseness and relaxation is described as involving all the layers and aspects of the mind and body. The body relaxes on four levels, from the outside in: skin, muscles, bones, organs. Four aspects of the mind, from the visible outward expression to the deepest layer, are expression (Shen), posture (Xing), breathing, and mood or emotion.

So the practice of Qigong a deep state of physical relaxation together with a calm internal state that is reflected in relaxed breathing, expression and overall body posture.

principle1The third principle reads from the top right down:

Shen Yu Xing He

Shen and Xing are defined above as facial expression and overall body posture, or the carriage. Yu means and; He is come together or coordinate. So the expression and posture should be commensurate; in harmony.

In the left column:

Qi Yu Qi Zhong

I am not typing in accents. Qi occurs twice in this sentence, but it’s two different words here (they have different intonations). The first Qi is the familiar term for energy or vitality. The second is a pronoun referring back to the first part of this principle; it refers to Shen and Xing (expression and posture). Yu means contained in, and zhong means in the middle. Energy is contained within them (Shen and Xing). In the practice of Qigong, facial expression and overall body posture are suffused with Qi.

These principles can be compared  to Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Important Points for the practice of Tai Chi. The last five points are the most relevant here (eg, stillness in motion, use mind not force, internal and external coordinate, upper follows lower), but as we move closer to the actual descriptions of the Ba Duan Jin forms, we’ll find that some of the first five important points apply as well. That’s next.

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