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By John Bracy
The Hsing Chen and Chi Arts Association web pages places focus on two types of Taoist yoga –– active and passive forms. Although since the 1950s these have been considered forms of ch’i kung (also written qigong), over the millennia they have been known by other names. Other terms for these kinds of Chinese energetic exercise include nei kung ( 內功, also written nei gung and meaning “inner work” and yang sheng (養生) “nurturing life” exercise. Relatedly, yang hsing (also written yang xing, 養形) pertains to the cultivation of the body and exercises directed to maintenance of mind and spirit are called respectively yang xin (養心 ) and yang shen (養神). Some forms of mind and body ch’i kung practice date to at least the fourth century BCE. The term ch’i kung ( 氣功 ) translates as “internal energy skill” and is used as a categorical label for every kind of practice from passive laying on the floor exercise to the direction of an invisible non-contact energy force some believe is emitted by a wai ch’i (外気) non-contact, healer.
When employed as a physical practice, the exercises and posture holding fall into the category of dao yin (導引) “pulling and stretching” or Taoist breathing exercise. Other terms that sometimes apply are an mo (按摩 ) and hsing ch’i (also written xing qi (行気). An mo refers to massage and hsing ch’i, which translates as “moving ch’i ,” a term that can also refer to the flowing characters in Chinese and Japanese cursive style script.
Although the term ch’i kung (qigong/ qi gong) dates to only the 1950s, references to some from of ch’i kung-like practices can be found as far back as the fourth century BCE. Note there are currently at least many hundreds of traditions/ schools/ methods of ch’i kung, with various names, many of which trace their lineage to legendary or historical founding masters.