Ⅳ. History of Qigong

△ History of practicing Qigong has long history, and it could be divided by four periods by their characteristics. imageⓒAdobeStock_Yakobchuk Olena.

Qigong: Theory, Principles, and Application in Integrative Healthcare Settings

By Hey Soon Jeong PD., L.Ac., Jun Yoon, Jeff Millison M.Ac., L.Ac., Academic Dean of VUIM

The documented history of what we know as Qigong goes back more than two millennia. Qigong is believed to have originated as a dancing remedy to wish for healing and health maintenance. According to the 2010 PubMed article by R. Jahnke et al., the earliest form of Qigong has made up one of the roots of contemporary Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory and practice. However, the name “Qigong” was not in general use until the twentieth century. According to Holden Qigong, the most commonly used name for Qigong was Dao-yin, which can be interpreted as “leading and guiding the energy.” Qigong became a more widely used term when Liu Gui Zheng published a paper titled “Practice on Qigong therapy” in 1953 that describes a broad range of Chinese self-cultivation exercises.

The following four major historical periods of Qigong are extracted from the Shen-Nong website.


  1. Before 206 BC

The introduction of three energies of heaven, earth, and the man was the first step in Qigong development. The Yellow Emperor is considered the originator of many health and longevity practices linked to Qigong in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. Then Lao Tzu (circa 450 B.C), the founder of Taoism, introduced the breathing technique. According to Holden Qigong, Qigong-like practices were common in royal and aristocratic households.


  1. 206 BC -500 AD

In this period, Buddhism and meditation influenced the development of religious Qigong. According to the Institute of Qigong & Integrative Medicine, meditation is also an important part of Qigong practice because it is a necessary process for training the mind to direct and regulate the Qi flow. 4 Religious Qigong focused on Qi cultivation to escape the cycle of reincarnation. According to Holden Qigong, religious Qigong was passed down to only a few specially chosen followers in each generation, and it was never taught outside of the religious sanctuaries. Aside from the religious Qigong, a renowned physician named Hua Tuo (141-208 AD) created a new form of Qigong mimicking the movements of five animals: tiger, deer, bear, monkey, and bird. This was influential to the development of a more dynamic Qigong.


  1. 500 AD – 1911 A.D.

In this period, a variety of Qigong styles such as Tai Chi, Animal Frolics, Eight Pieces of Brocade, Swimming Dragon, Microcosmic Orbit, and Six Syllable Secret were introduced and developed in China. According to Holden Qigong, Buddhists from the Indian subcontinent continued to influence Qigong practices and evolve them to take the form of martial arts. For example, around 500 A.D., a Buddhist monk from India unified the spiritual and martial branches of Qigong to strengthen their bodies through movements and spiritual practices. According to Holden Qigong, Qigong became rapidly popular to the public due to the efforts of traditional healers and Qigong masters, who used Qigong as the first choice of treatment. If Qigong was not enough to cultivate the Qi of patients, acupuncture treatment and herbal formula were prescribed as the next steps. Also, emitting Qi to patients by professional Qigong masters became a form of treatment that attracted the wider public to the medical Qigong.


  1. 1911 A.D. – present

According to Holden Qigong, Taoism, Chinese Medicine, and religious Qigong were banned by the Chinese Communist Party at first. As a result of efforts to prove the benefits of Qigong using science and technology. However, the government approved the establishment of 5 China Qigong Science Association in 1985. According to the Institute of Qigong & Integrative medicine, Qigong was open to the public, and millions of practitioners were taught. In addition, scientific researches on the efficacy of Qigong began to capture global attention. Although various Qigong styles are offered to the public today, most of them have been criticized because of a lack of authentic internal Qi-cultivation practice. Four major historical periods of Qigong are extracted from the Shen-Nong website.




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