Integrating Theory with Experience: Medical Qigong For Healing And Healthcare

[Qi Cultivation and Dao]

Integrating Theory With Expereince: Medical Qigong For Healing and Healthcare

by Jill Gonet, MFA and Guan-Chen Sun, PhD

Brief Introduction

Medical Qigong functions to activate, cultivate, balance, harmonize, transform and manage the qi/energy-information for self-healing, self-care and for healing others. A form of qi-energy can be manipulated for facilitating the internal and external communications at energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.

According to teaching of Taoist Masters Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin, the best medicine can be produced by internal Qi cultivation, with greater balance and harmony of the internal organs1. Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin designed “Baduanjin,” one of the most common forms of medical qigong, translated as Eight Pieces of Brocade, or Eight Silken Movements for improving general health and the quality of people’s life2.  Medical qigong can be traced back to ancient times in China.  Qigong has also been known as “Dao Yin3 4,” which means “guiding and directing the Qi flow” by means of specific movements and breathing.

It was during the Jin dynasty (A.D. 265-420), and the Northern and Southern dynasties (A.D. 420-589), that Qigong developed as a way of self-healing and self-care and as a method for treating disease through the emission of Qi by doctors5.  During the Jin dynasty, Zhang Zhan listed in his work Nurturing Life Essentials Summary (Yao Ji) ten essential practices, of which thrift of mentality, cultivating Qi, and Daoyin were all related to Medical Qigong5.  During the Northern and Southern dynasties, many ancient Medical Qigong methods and theories were recorded in Tao Hongjing’s book, Nurturing Life and Improving Longevity (Yang Sheng Yan Ming Lu)5. In the History of the Jin Dynasty (Jin Shu), there is a record of doctor Xing Ling who was known for projecting his Qi to cure a patient who had suffered more than ten years from flaccidity arthralgia syndrome (arthralgia syndrome is mainly characterized by aching pain, swelling in tendons, bones, muscles and joints, and incapability of flexing and extending).6 As a result of his success, many more people became interested in external medical Qigong5.  A medical qigong therapist can project his/her qi to heal another person. The emitted qi has information that can communicate with the Qi condition of the patient for activating the healing process7.   At the present time in China there are many medical qigong clinics, and in some hospitals medical qigong is integrated with traditional Chinese medicine and conventional Western medicine.  Recently a few medical qigong hospitals and schools have been established in China such as Hebei Medical Qigong School and Hospital8, Hebei, China.

Currently, in China, four styles of qigong–Eight Pieces of Brocade, Frolics of Five Animals, Tendon Strengthening Exercise, and Six Healing Sounds–have come to be considered the official qigong9 (since 2003) for promoting people’s health and well-being by the Chinese Health Qigong Association10. These styles of qigong are excellent choices, but they have been taught only as movement and breathing exercises, but the authentic qi based training is lost, which is the essence and substance of medical qigong.

Authentic Qi Activation

Experiencing the qi in qigong practice is the result or product of the Yin and Yang communications and interactions.  This qi, the new and fresh vital energy, not only can be produced from the hands, but also can be produced between both kidneys as well as different Yin/Yang partnerships in the body. This fresh vital-energy-based practice is the unique character of medical qigong.  The key feature of medical qigong practice is the fresh and vital energy–authentic qi activation.  How do practitioners accomplish authentic qi activation?  Two thousand five hundred years ago Laozi stated that: “Dao gives birth to One; One gives birth to Two; Two gives birth to Three; and three gives birth to all things.” (Dao De Jing Chapter 42)11 12. The new birth of the three was emphasized as the source of all things. From internal observation and experiential understanding, practitioners of medical qigong realize that the Qi specifically means the new birth number three-the fresh Vital Energy VE3, which is generated from the Yin and Yang interactions. The VE3 is the key for developing the entire internal energy pathway network or the qi matrix and for internal and external communications. This fresh vital energy (VE3) is the product of Yin and Yang interactions–Authentic Qi.  The authentic qi activation requires the following three conditions: 1) relax the mind and the body; 2) recall the mind back inward and adjust the mind into the state of Xuan (玄); and 3) guide the yin and the yang to interact with each other appropriately.


A relaxed state is the precondition for achieving desirable results and making good progress in Qigong practice. Usually, people use too much energy and attention to focus, many times over what is necessary.  Excess concentration creates pressure, stress, and blockages in the body.  But an unfocused mind or scattered mind leads to loss of energy and causes tiredness and exhaustion.  A relaxed state means a physical condition where internal energy flows freely, without any tension, stiffness, and limpness, but with a sense of flexibility, springiness and aliveness. During Qigong practice, it is important to be aware of any tension, stiffness, and limpness and to get rid of them in order to achieve a harmonized and relaxed state of mind and body.

A Stable Xuan玄State of Mind

Meditation is an important practice in Qigong training because it is a necessary process for training the mind to direct and regulate the energy flow in the body. Once the energy is activated it must be coordinated with the activities of the mind, so that mind and body can benefit from the synchronization and mutual influence.  The mind, when trained by meditation, is able to perceive the subtle levels at which the Qi functions, both at the level of the mind and at the level of the body.

In the first chapter of Dao De Jing, Laozi said:” The “Way” (Dao or Tao) can be taught, but here the way I speak of is different from the ordinary way; a name can be given, but I don’t want to give it an ordinary name.  “Wu”–the state of emptiness (zero) is the beginning of everything. “You”–the state of appearance of initial intelligence and thoughts (one) is the origin of the manifestation of things and events. The stable state of Wu is required for observing and revealing the secret of creation and new developments; the stable state of You is required for observing and recognizing the false and the true. Both states, Wu and You, are called by different names but they both issue from the same source called “Xuan”–the state of the golden secret of all life. The stable state of Xuan (between zero and one) is the gate of internal cultivation and realization, as well as external recognition and understanding of the creation and development of everything11.”

Laozi found that the state of mind between the Wu, emptiness, and the You, appearance, of the initial thought, a state which he called “Xuan,” is the entry into the golden secret of all life. This xuan state of mind allows the intellectual mind to integrate with the intuitive mind and the dream system in order to work on internal cultivation and development as well as to experience and exercise internal local communications and non-local communications11.  Thus, the Way Laozi taught in his Dao De Jing is the Way of Xuan (Xuan Dao 玄道  -NOT ordinary Dao 常道), and the studies of the Way of Laozi can be viewed as “Xuan Xue 玄学 ” (in Chinese history from 240-589 C.E., viewed as mythology)13.  For successful Medical Qigong training, the master key for activating, cultivating and managing the authentic Qi, vital energy VE3, is to develop a stable xuan state of mind.

Appropriate Interactions of Yin and Yang

In the view of ancient Daoists, everything, every phenomenon in nature, has two poles–Yin and Yang. According to the ancient classic, Yijing-the Book of Changes, “one Yin plus one Yang, is the Dao.” This statement refers to the Dao that first determines itself as Unity (or the One), and then gives birth to the opposites, interdependent, simultaneous, and complementary two aspects, Yin and Yang.  There are so many levels or layers of Yin and Yang in nature and in the universe.  Examples of such opposites/interdependencies include the protons and electrons of atoms, the hydrogen and the oxygen of water, the water and the fire, the lake and the mountain, the sun and the moon,

the east and the west, the day and the night, the heaven and the earth, the male and female of human beings, the left hand and the right hand, the left eye and the right eye, the hands and the feet, the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system, the left kidney and the right kidney, the kidneys and the heart in the physical body, etc.



In addition, interactions between Yin and Yang give birth to the authentic Qi, the number 3, Vital Energy-VE3.  For example, if a medical qigong practitioner brings his or her hands in front of the chest with palms facing each other, relaxes the neck, shoulders and elbows, uses a soft focus/relaxed mind to pay attention to the right hand and the left hand, slightly waves the hands, and lets the right hand and the left hand interact with each other, the practitioner will become aware of energetic sensation on the palms and between the hands; he or she may feel sensations like magnetic feelings or rubber bands between the hands, or warmth of the palms, heaviness of the arms and tingling or buzzing of the fingers, etc. These new and fresh sensations between the hands are authentic qi, the vital energies created from the interactions of the Yin and the Yang.  Similarly, different vital energies can be produced between kidneys, between elbows, knees, between kidneys and heart and so forth in different stages of medical qigong practice.

Integrate the Theory with Experience-Cultivating the Internal Energy Matrix

According to the theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), good health exists when the internal body is balanced and harmonized and its “Qi” is flowing freely through the internal Qi pathways or acupuncture meridian system. The true foundation of TCM is Qi and the Qi pathways.  Authentic Qi has two aspects: one is vital energy, or life force; the other is information, intelligence, emotions, consciousness, intention, thoughts, images, and memories. Each cell, each tissue and each organ system carries its own unique Qi, which allows it to perform its unique functions at energetic and informational levels.  The Qi pathways function as an internal energy and information network for supporting the body’s functions, and for both internal and external communications.  Thus, the cultivation and development of the internal energy matrix is the foundation of medical qigong; the formation of the matrix will allow medical qigong practitioners to experience and realize the synchronicity and correspondence between themselves and their clients, students, plants, animals, or universal messages.

In medical qigong training, the study of acupuncture meridians should not be limited only to meridian theory via intellectual understanding, but also by cultivating and developing the internal energy matrix–the energy body within–so that medical qigong practitioners will be able to experience the authentic Qi flow along the meridians/internal Qi pathways.  This dual attainment leads medical qigong practitioners to integrate the theory with their experience—together–for complete realization.  In this kind of learning, experience enters in, wisdom forms, and body energies are remembered and understood as a subject and teaching in their own right, the elements at work in creation are observed, and the archetypal play of mythos comes to life in the practitioner’s experiential understanding.

(to be continued in next issue)

Jill Gonet, MFA has been published in numerous literary journals including Poetry, Ploughshares, The New England Review, The Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Poetry, among others. She is the recipient of awards from the Poetry Society of America, as well as grants from the Seattle Arts Commission. She is a student of ancient Daoist classics since high school, and has studied the classics diligently. She has practiced Qigong daily for over 20 years and combines her interests in writing, Chinese culture, and the art of internal cultivation by collaborating on many writings with Dr. Sun.

Guan-Cheng Sun, PhD is the founder of the Institute of Qigong & Integrative Medicine. He has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics with which he has conducted extensive research. Dr. Sun has spent over 30 years refining his skills and has developed a new system of Qigong called “Yi Ren® Qigong” at the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine (, and two Medical Qigong Certificate Programs through Bastyr University in Washington (



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