Daoism in Popular Culture
The Myriad Ways of Manipulating Qi




Feng Shui
As far as religion is concerned, the most influential pseudoscience was that of “winds and water,” the literal translation of feng-shui. ... Feng-shui constitutes a system of divination for determining the auspicious citing of human dwellings — for the living or for the dead. ... [The] fundamental thing is to place the grave or  home properly with regard to the functioning of yin and yang ... [for] in the Chinese view the earth is no different from the heavens in pulsating with the breaths of the two primal forces. [Chinese Religion: An Introduction, 19-20.]
 

Early morning in most Chinese cities a curious ritual takes place. In parkways, on sidewalks, in private courtyards and public squares, people congregate in groups as small as two and as large as two hundred or more. They stand and swing their arms in circles, drawing the morning air inside themselves with sweeping gestures. Here, a group follows a leader through a cycle of movements that repeat again and again. There, on the next corner, a smaller group practices seemingly randomly. Yet there seems to be an internal coherence. Sometimes there is music. Often they practice in silence. ... In recent years, qi gong has been gaining an enormous popularity in China, as it has around the world. Practitioners consider it the dao of preserving life, a treasure from ancient times. Contemporary masters claim followings that number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Not only are the followers of such masters legion, so are the myths and legends that have grown up around individuals supposed to possess “special skills.” In numerous schools of qi gong around China, something from the country’s ancient cultural past is alive and flourishing. It is as if the magic of the ancient shaman reemerged in the midst of China’s headlong rush to the twenty-first century. [A Brief History of Qi117-8]
 
 
Qi gong is a generic term that is used to describe a considerable variety of schools of thought and approaches to the practice of developing the qi. ... The origins of qi gong are not precisely known. ... It is conceivable that among the Chinese there have been practitioners of some form or other of qi gong since the dawn of civilization. The oldest coherent system of exercises designed to guide and cultivate qi, however, date to before the beginning of the imperial era of Chinese history. ... [In the Ke Yi chapter of the Zhuangzi, ] there are clear references to this early systematic method of developing the power of qi and harnessing its life extending potentials. “One who practices dao yin [exercise to lead and guide the qi] to preserve one’s health seeks to be like Peng Zu who excelled at longevity.” [A Brief History of Qi, 118-9]

  
“The special quality of tai ji quan,” according to the great twentieth century tai ji master Cheng Man Ching, “is its ability to sink the ch’i  to the tan t’ien.” For the past several decades, the art of tai ji quan, or “yin yang boxing” as it is sometimes called, has been rapidly and steadily growing in popularity outside of China. ... The system of postures and movements which was highly developed by the Chen clan in Hebei Province during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries incorporated the fundamental principles of Daoist philosophy into a regimen of exercise, meditation, qi gong, and martial techniques. The entire system depends upon a comprehension of yin and yang, for the name, tai ji quan, literally means “tai ji boxing.” Tai ji is the term used to describe the interrelationship of yinyang. [A Brief History of Qi, 154-5]
 
 
Recall that the dan tian is a special point in the body, located approximately one and one-third inches below the navel in the interior of the body somewhat less than half-way behind the front of the lower abdomen. Its name reveals an important aspect of its significance. The word dan comes from Daoist alchemy. It is a name associated with the long-sought-after internal elixir [See Chapter 5]. The Daoists believed that an elixir of sorts could be fashioned without the use of herbs or chemicals through the concentration of qi and jing (essence) within the body. ... Tai ji quan, springing from Daoist sources, incorporates the dan tian as the focal point of the entire exercise. ... Indeed, tai ji teachers who agree on little else can generally be found to be in accord on this one fundamental principle of the art: only by concentrating the qi, the functional power of the body, in the dan tian can the student make real progress. [A Brief History of Qi, 157-8]

Other Ways to Channel Qi
Both the metaphor and the concrete reality of the martial arts provide immediate and compelling expressions of the concept of qi. For centuries, philosophers and poets have sought the right word to contain the mysteries of qiThe painter who could capture qi and make it flow through paper and ink could bring to life a whole universe in a few strokes of the brush. The doctor who could observe the manifestations [of] patients’ qi and through the use of herbs and needles rectify and harmonize its movements and transformations, could save lives. And the martial artist who can comprehend and cultivate the power of qi becomes a peerless boxer, one who “knowns himself and knows his opponent and in one hundred battles gains victory one hundred times.” [A Brief History of Qi, 160]
 
 

 
Painting ~ Old & New
 
 
Calligraphy
 

Yijing Divination