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Qigong (氣功 - qi4 gong1) (ch'i kung in Wade-Giles) is an ancient Chinese medical technique based on Chinese religion and philosophy. An essential concept underlying Qigong is that the body has an energy field known as Qi. Qigong is the art of managing Qi in one's body to achieve good health. It has a very long history in China. The written records are as old as 5,000 years, and the relics date back at least 7,000 years. Numerous books have been written about Qigong during the five thousand year long history of China. The development of Chinese Qigong can be divided into three periods:

Today, there are millions of people in China and around the world who regularly practice Qigong. Some proponents of Qigong have used science to prove its efficacy, but these efforts are still in their infancy. Skeptics claim there is no such thing as Qi, and that millions of people are essentially deluded.

Medical Qigong treatment has been officially recognized as a standard medical technique in Chinese hospitals since 1989. It has been included in the curriculum of major universities in China.

There are thousands of different forms, methods or styles of Qigong. For example "Yan Xin Qigong" [1], a refined and modernized traditional Chinese Qigong, has become one of the widely accepted methods because of its proven effectiveness and benefits. Dr. Yan Xin [1], a famous Qigong scientist and founder of Yan Xin Qigong, believes that in order for Qigong to be accepted by the modern world, it must pass the test of rigorous scientific study. Without such a test, Qigong runs into the danger of being dismissed as "superstition". His goal is simple and yet profound, "Use science to promote Qigong and use Qigong to gain breakthroughs in science". Therefore along with other masters in China, he came forward in the mid- 1980s and collaborated with prominent scientists in many prestigious research institutions in China. More than 20 papers have been published in top scientific journals. Two of his Qigong research papers in collaboration with U.S. scientists and published in United States are "Structure and Property Changes in Certain Materials Influenced by the External Qi of Qigong" [1], "Protective Effect of XY99-5038 on Hydrogen Peroxide Induced Cell Death in Cultured Retinal Neurons" [1], "Certain Physical Manifestation and Effects of External Qi of Yan Xin Life Science Technology" [1].

In recent years Qigong has seen a resurgence in popularity in China. Unfortunately, as in many other fields, dishonest people have tried to take advantage of this. In view of the many Qigong frauds, hoaxes and quacks and after years of heated debate, the Chinese government finally decided to officially manage Qigong through government regulations in 1996 and has also listed Qigong as part of the National Health Plan.

Qigong is a technique for the cultivation of one's mind and body, as well as for the refinement of personal character and for the improvement of all humanity. It is a comprehensive system of knowledge that is integrated with the diverse forms of culture, philosophy, religion, methodology, natural views of life, world, and the universe as a wholeness.

In Qigong, human mind and Mother Nature are inseparable. According to this philosophy, the goal is to access high energy, matter, and information of life through the principle of accumulating De. Accumulating "De" could be described as a process in which one harmonizes with the universe by positive and virtuous thinking and behavior.

The level of an individual's Qigong accomplishment is fundamentally dependent upon the level of one's De. Therefore in Qigong, the practitioner's focus on virtue is an extremely important technical requirement, especially in the advanced level of Qigong. Without such continuous cultivation of De, one will not be able to achieve a highly relaxed and tranquil mind/body state which is the fundamental requirement of Qigong practice. Therefore, one must develop new thinking and approaches based on the characteristics and nature of Qi in order to advance the De, the science of human being and universe as One.

Scientific criticism

Practitioners of mainstream western medicine rely on the scientific method for results; they point out that it is impossible to make and interpret claims based on testimonials, hearsay and religious arguments of Qigong proponents.

Some scientists hold that, because they are unable to measure qi to their satisfaction, it simply does not exist. Proponents of qigong claim that they can detect and manipulate this energy, but some scientists claim that if a physical or medical phenomenon is real, it can be measured and observed by science. Since they are unable to do this, and contend that the sensations practitioners of qigong claim to feel are not real, and that they deceiving themselves with magical thinking.

Some claim a correlation between the human energy field (HEF), as reported by Walter Kilner, and qi.

In 1911. Walter Kilner, M.D., from St. Thomas Hospital in London, reported on seeing the HEF, or aura, as he called it. Looking through glass screens stained with dicyanin dye, he saw a glowing mist around the body in three distinct zones:

1. A 1/4 inch layer closest to skin 2. A more vaporous layer, 1 inch wide, streaming perpendicularly from the body 3. A delicate exterior luminosity with indefinite contours, about 6 inches wide

He wrote "The Human Aura" which was published in New York, 1965. Since then a few scientists rediscovered HEF and called it in different names.

There is also the belief that masters of qigong have healing abilities and can see the flow of Qi, with some gifted from birth with the ability to see Qi.

Dr. Phillips Stevens writes "Many of today's complementary or alternative systems of healing involve magical beliefs, manifesting ways of thinking based in principles of cosmology and causality that are timeless and absolutely universal. So similar are some of these principles among all human populations that some cognitive scientists have suggested that they are innate to the human species, and this suggestion is being strengthened by current scientific research....Some of the principles of magical beliefs described above are evident in currently popular belief systems. A clear example is homeopathy...The fundamental principle of its founder, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), similia similibus curentur ("let likes cure likes"), is an explicit expression of a magical principle."

See also: Tai Chi Chuan, acupuncture, Magical thinking, mind-body problem, placebo effect

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