The History of Healing Sounds Qigong
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Healing Sounds Qigong has been practiced in China for millennia. It was first recorded as a method of treating and preventing disease as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.). Since ancient times, Chinese physicians and healers have studied the human body and its place in the universe. Healing sounds Qigong is part of a holistic approach to health, vitality, and longevity.
During their analysis of human behavior, it was discovered that we make similar sound patterns in specific situations. For example, we let out a sigh of relief after resolving a stressful situation. We can also see this in laughter, crying, and shouting. Sounds resonate within the human body, using specific tones can release those stuck patterns within us. This method of exhaling to relieve and release an emotion was noted, and over many years a system developed to treat specific organs and their related emotions and states of illness. These methods became known as the Six Breathing Methods (Liu Zi Jue - 六字訣).
The Six Breathing Methods were first introduced by Tao Hongjing (陶弘景
420-589 A.D.). Tao was a leading figure of the Maoshan school of Daoism; he was renowned for his medical knowledge. In his book Caring for the Health of the Mind and Promoting Longevity, he states, “There is only one way to inhale, but there are six ways to exhale.”
During the Tang Dynasty (618-906 A.D.) the legendary physician Sun Simiao wrote about the Six Healing Sounds. Dr. Sun had a unique history that leads him directly to seek methods of health care that could promote health and vitality. He said that as a child he saw doctors repeatedly due to suffering from chills in his youth and that the costs of medications drove his family to poverty. As Dr. Sun grew older, he learned much from the theories of Laozi, Zhuangzi and the various schools of Daoist philosophy during his time alive in China; he also studied many Buddhist scriptures. At the age of eighteen, Sun
Sun Simiao (孫思邈) was determined to study medicine. He initially led a secluded life on Mt. Taibai, studying the Dao, refining his Qi through meditative practices, and nourishing his body with mountain herbs. Later, he became a recluse on Zhongnan Mountain, where he was on friendly terms with Master Daoxuan, a famous Buddhist monk. Also, he once entered Mt. Emei to refine his understanding of Daoism, and it’s related spiritual and health practices. Sun Simiao never sought an official position but lived in seclusion in mountains and forests, and when some emperors such as Emperor Taizong and Emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty repeatedly appointed him to official positions, he always politely declined. Dr. Sun wrote many important Chinese medical texts; he also wrote a famous poem to teach people Healing Sounds Qigong:
The Liver and spring are classified as Wood phases; the Xu (噓)sound in the spring will brighten the eyes and relieve liver stagnation.
The Heart and summer are classified as Fire phases; the He (呵)sound in the summer will relieve fire in the heart.
The Lungs and fall are classified as Metal phases; the Si (呬)sound in the fall will nourish the lungs.
The Kidneys and winter are classified as Water phases; the Chui (吹) sound in the winter will keep the kidneys at ease.
The Xi (嘻) sound will regulate the Triple Burner and eliminate annoying heat.
The Hu (呼) sound during the four seasons will assist the assimilation of food by the spleen.
No body movements accompanied the Liu Zi Jue exercises until the Ming Dynasty (1386 – 1644) when Hu Wenhuan and Gao Lian wrote books on the subject. For instance, they both included in their writings the summary of Liu Zi Jue for dispelling diseases and prolonging the lifespan, which combines controlled breathing with physical exercises.
Lǐ Qīngyún (李清雲) who died 6 May 1933 was a Chinese herbalist, martial artist, and tactical advisor, known for his supposed extreme longevity. He claimed to have been born in 1736, while disputed records suggest 1677. Both asserted lifespans, of 197 and 256 years, which far exceed the longest confirmed lifespan of 122 years. Li spent most of his life in the mountains and was skilled at Qigong. He worked as an herbalist, advocating the consumption of lingzhi mushrooms, goji berry, wild ginseng, he shou wu, huang jing, and gotu kola along with several other Chinese herbal medicines. The purpose of mentioning Li here is not to support any claims on his longevity; it is to highlight his role in spreading healing sounds qigong throughout the world.
One of Li’s disciples, the Taijiquan Master Da Liu, told of his master’s story: when 130 years old Master Li encountered in the mountains an old recluse who taught him Baguazhang and a set of Qigong with breathing instructions, movements training coordinated with specific sounds, and dietary recommendations. Da Liu reports that his master said that his longevity “is because he performed the exercises every day – regularly, correctly, and with sincerity – for 120 years.” We will discuss Li’s method of healing sounds qigong in more detail later in our course on healing sounds.
The popularity of the practice in modern China owed a lot to Dr. Ma Litang who wrote Liu Zi Jue Health and Fitness Exercises and taught the technique to both students and hospital patients.