Health Qigong • Origin of Ba Duan Jin

The word “Ba” in the Health Qigong routine of Ba Duan Jin, does not mean simply the number of actions, parts or eight movements, but mean that there are a variety of elements in the practicing Ba Duan Jin, with each other interactive restricted, interrelated and circular operation. As the “Introduction on Ba Duan Jin” of the Eight Letters on how to Comply with the Health Preserving & Care wrote by Gao Qian of the Ming Dynasty goes, “practice Ba Duan Jin at the early morning, it will absorb the essence of the heaven and the earth. Following the rules of nature, the time for practice perfectly matches with the biological clock.” The character of “Jin” consists of radicals of “Golden” and “Silk”, which means exquisite and elegant. In addition, the word “Jin” also means the corpus of one set of routine, which is just like the smooth silk, it is a complete set of fitness method.

The name of Ba Duan Jin originated from the Yi Jian Zhi, the most magnificent personal monograph in the history of myth novels written by Hong Mai of the South Song Dynasty. As the book goes, “In the seventh year of Zhenghe, Li Siju was appointed as the government official with the responsibility for reporting the daily life of the emperor. He tried to get up and sit at the middle of the night and carried out breathing adjustment and massage, practicing the so-called Ba Duan Jin.” It indicates that Ba Duan Jin had been popular ever since the North Song Dynasty and it had two separate postures including sitting and standing.

Because the standing posture of Ba Duan Jin is easier for practicing, it has won the ever-increasing popularity. “Health QigongBa Duan Jin” employs the standing posture as the framework, carrying out modification and arrangement. Therefore, this book focuses on the analysis and introduction on the origin and relevant information of Ba Duan Jin.

The standing posture of Ba Duan Jin at first emerged at the article Taoism Essence written by Zeng Zao at the South Song Dynasty, “holding the hands high with palms up to regulate the San Jiao; Posing as an shooting eagle both left-and-right-handed; Holding one arm aloft to regulate the functions of the spleen and stomach; Looking backwards to prevent sickness and strain; Swinging the head and lowering the body to relieve stress; Moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet to strengthen the kidneys; Thrusting the fists and making the eyes glare to enhance strength ; Raising and lowering the heels to care waist. ” After the original verse, the routine of Ba Duan Jin had been repeatedly refined and modified, and accepted by growing number of populace. At the end of Qing Dynasty, the name of Ba Duan Jin was at the first name to be fixed appellation and had a clear chart illustrating for practicing. Most importantly, Ba Duan Jin has developed into traditional set of exercise with the complete routine secrets as followings, “Routine 1 Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs; Routine 2 Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left-and-Right-Handed; Routine 3 Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach; Routine 4 Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain; Routine 5 Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress; Routine 6 Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys; Routine 7 Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength; Routine 8 Raising and Lowering the Heels to Cure Diseases.” Since then, the traditional Ba Duan Jin has been fixed.

During its spreading and popularity, Ba Duan Jin has developed into many genres. For instance, Lou Jie of Qing Dynasty described the standing posture of Ba Duan Jin as “holding the hands high and posing as shooting eagles with both left-and-right hands; holding one arm in strength and swing to semi-shoulder like using sword; adept as monkey and august as fierce-looking tiger ; light as swallow and gain the movement pulling back immediately.” In addition, there are Yi Jin Jing extra-form for strengthen fitness (Qing Dynasty, Anonymous), Ba Duan Jin Exercises Chart (12- movements) and so on. All these theories on Ba Duan Jin derive from Buddhism, and the monks use it as one way for health preserving and care as well as the basic Martial Arts.

Generally speaking, Ba Duan Jin is divided into North and South factions. With regard to the South faction, it usually shows as following. The gentle and slow movements when practice and it mainly employs the standing postures, which is said that it originated from Liang Shichang. With regard to the north faction, it usually shows as following. The masculine movements when practice and it mainly employs the forward stance, which is said that it originated from Yue Fei. According to the relevant literature as well as movements, whether for north or south faction, they stem from the same origin because the legendary founder lacks the authoritative writing words for proving.

Concerning the origin of Ba Duan Jin, there is no consensus on its exact founder and founding time. However, according to the Guidance Map from third tomb of the Western Han Dynasty at Mawangdui, it is conspicuous to see that at least four postures are similar with the Ba Duan Jin illustration. They are “Routine 3 Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach”, “Routine 6 Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys”, “Routine 1 Holding the Hands High with Palms Up to Regulate the Internal Organs” and “Routine 8 Raising and Lowering the Heels to Cure Diseases.” In addition, in according with the Health Preserving & Care, Longevity Secrets written by Tao Hongjing of Northern and Southern Dynasties, there are also the similar movements. For instance, the “left-and-right swing as wolf” is similar with “Routine 4 Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”. The “triple times for raising and lowering heels” is similar with “Routine 8 Raising and Lowering the Heels to Cure Diseases.” The “left-and-right hands to make the posture of shooting eagles” is basically similar with the “Routine 2 Posing as an Archer Shooting Both Left-and-Right-Handed”. The “raising one arm” is basically similar with the “Routine 3 Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach”. And the “double-hands thrusting fists” is basically similar with the “Routine 7 Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength”. Therefore, there is some interrelated relationship between Ba Duan Jin and the Guidance Map.

At the late 50’s of the 20th century, the People’s Sports Press published subsequently the series books of Ba Duan Jin written by Tang Hao and Ma Fengge, and then the People’s Sports Press organized edition groups to carry out professional compile and modification on the traditional Ba Duan Jin. Due to the highly attention of the government, there is an ever-increasing number of practitioners for Ba Duan Jin. By the end of 70’s and the early 80’s of the 20th century, Ba Duan Jin became a curriculum of the colleges and institutions as the national traditional sports project. All of these events have considerably contributed to the development and flourish of the theory of Ba Duan Jin and enriched the connotations of BaDuan Jin.

Through meticulous reference to and verification on a wealth of historical literature and materials, we can get the basic understanding as following:

The traditional Ba Duan Jin should be originated earlier than the Song Dynasty and had been substantially developed during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The origins of the traditional Ba Duan Jin especially the founder has not yet in the consensus. It is safer to conclude that BaDuan Jin originates and stems from the joint-efforts and accumulated knowledge by experts in health preserving as well as practitioners generations by generations.

Before the end of the Qing Dynasty, Ba Duan Jin is a guidance method mainly involved with the body movements.

Whether for south faction or north faction of Ba Duan Jin, they both derived from the same source with subtly difference methods for practicing. There is a trend for integration and assimilation for these two factions during the popularity.

Yang Bolong