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The Secret of Daoism: Dao Jia (道家) Fang Shi (方士) and Qigong
Qigong is training to maintain the mind and body using the techniques of meditation (thought manipulation), conscious breathing, movements and posture. The term "qigong" rarely appeared in classical Chinese writings, but became popular after 1960, when qigong master Liu Gui Zhen used it in promoting health by using qigong exercises. Qigong was practised by very few people prior to that time because of the practitioners' vows of secrecy. After the 1960's, qigong suddenly became wide spread. Certain forms of qigong, however, are suspect, arising from questionable sources and could actually be harmful for health.
Some people think that the original source of qigong is the dao jiao religions. Yet most people, especially Westerners, do not differentiate between the Daoist religion and the Daoist philosophers of China. The Daoist religion is called dao jiao (tao chiao), and Dao jiao religions were formed during the end of Han dynasties as political organizations for overthrowing the Han empire. The Daoist philosophers, on the other hand, are called dao jia (taochia). The word "jia" can be translated in English as the suffix "ologists," which means specialists in a certain field of knowledge. Therefore, dao jia means specialist(s) in dao (tao).
What is dao?
Scholars who are not dao jia would translate it as "way." It is true that the every day usage of the word dao means "way" or "road." But in the term dao jia, dao means something else. It means neither road or way.
It is true that writings of the dao jiao religions mentioned qigong training. But dao jiao religions were formed late in the history of China. The earliest dao jiao religion, "Wu Dou Mi Jiao", which literally means "Five Deca-liter of Rice Religion," was formed by Zhang Dao Lin during the period of emperor Xun Di of the Later Han Dynasty, about A.D. 126-144. This Five Deca-liter of Rice Religion spread over the provinces of Xanxi and Sichuan. Another dao jiao religion, "Tai Ping Jiao", literally means "Peace Religion," and was formed by a leader of a revolutionary group, Zhang Jiao . This Peace Religion spread over the provinces of Shandong, Hebei, and Henan. These daoist religions were actually political organizations. The main scripture of these primitive daoist religions was the "Tai Ping Jing." The content of Tai Ping Jing was very complex. Although its content also covered some practices like qigong, the writings on qigong were very ambiguous and mystical, of little significant academic value when compared to a work from the same period, "Cantongqi", by Wei Bo Yang 魏伯陽.
Wei Bo Yang, an important medical writer during the Eastern Han dynasty, was one of the Fang Shi, a group of alchemists who appeared in the records of the Qin Dynasty (255 BC-206 BC). The Fang Shi was an important group in qigong development.
Another important fang shi and medical writer of the Eastern Jing dynasty (317 AD- 420 AD) is Ge Hong (283 AD - 363 AD), also known as Bao Pu Zi . The book written by Bao Pu Zi on qigong training is also called Bao Pu Zi.
Dao jia were those philosophers who tried to achieve immortality by improving and maintaining their mental and physical health by using qigong. The prominent dao jia scholars of ancient China were Lao Zi (Lao Tse or Lao Tze) (604 BC - unknown) and Zhuang Zi (Chuang Tze). Lao Zi was the chief archive librarian of the Zhou dynasty during the Spring and Autumn period. Zhuang Zi (399-275 BC) lived about two hundred years after Lao Zi. Since the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD), the term "Lao-Zhuang zhi xue" (the study of Lao-Zhuang), has become synonymous with daoist philosophy.
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To be translated: 彭祖老子之研究。
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