Editor in Chief: Tianjun Liu Associate Editor in Chief: Kevin W. Chen Published by Singing Dragon, 2010 Hardback, 653 pages Price: £55.00 ISBN: 9781848190238
(Reviewed by Gordon Faulkner, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 6)
This ‘encyclopaedic survey’ is the first English translation of the only official textbook of medical qigong used throughout modern China in the study of traditional Chinese medicine.
It was put together by a multitude of editors from colleges and universities in China, under the direction of Professor Tianjun Liu, physician and director of the Qigong laboratory at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, China’s top institute of Chinese medical education. Professor Liu has also served as secretary general of the National Qigong Education and Study Association and as council member of the China and International Academic Society of Medical Qigong.
The text was then translated and re-edited by a host of people in America under Kevin W. Chen, associate professor at the Center for Integrative Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. Depending upon your point of view, this could be seen as ‘many hands make light work’ or ‘too many cooks spoil the broth.’
There are very few texts in English on this subject. The only comparable book in scale and scope is Jerry Alan Johnson’s Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy.
This textbook is aimed at qigong practitioners, medical students and healthcare professionals working in complementary therapies as well as for all those seeking a better understanding of the beneficial medical applications of qigong.
The book’s Introduction sets out to establish what the authors mean by ‘medical qigong’. This definition is important because qigong covers a multitude of traditions, styles, categories, functions and methods and there are many disagreements amongst practitioners and teachers as to what ‘their qigong’ actually is. To use running as an analogy: Are you running for health, to win a race, to catch a bus, away from danger, or to raise funds for charity? It is all the same physical action but the purpose and the mental activity is very different. So too with qigong. Not everyone may agree with their definition but at least it is clearly stated in the book that its contents, medical qigong, is a discipline for cultivating qi for health and healing and represents only a small portion of the general qigong traditions.
The main text is in four parts: Part 1, Fundamental Theories, contains three chapters which cover the history and development of qigong, classic qigong theories and modern scientific research on qigong.
The history chapter is detailed and benefits greatly from hindsight and is a good addition to the historical record of Chinese exercises like that of Livia Kohn’s ‘Chinese Healing Exercises: The Tradition of Daoyin.’ The classical qigong theories are well laid out and the research chapter gives a good overview of the story so far.
Part 2, Practical Methods and Skills, contains three chapters which cover basic operations of qigong practice, an introduction to qigong forms and methods, and selected qigong forms.
All qigong focuses on the Three Regulations or Adjustments as they are referred to here: adjusting the mind, adjusting the body and adjusting the breathing. This section admirably covers these adjustments in great detail. The section dealing with qigong reactions, deviations and corrections is a timely reminder that things do not always go as planned.
Part 3, Clinical Applications, contains a general introduction to qigong therapy and examples of clinical application. This part presents the reader with the characteristics of qigong therapy, syndrome differentiation, standard procedures and treatment methods. This is followed by a selection of clinical examples which usefully shows both ancient and modern qigong treatments for common diseases.
Part 4, Classical Qigong Literature, contains selected readings of the ancient literature and includes both published and unpublished sources. These readings are presented in both the original Chinese text (in simplified characters) and in English.
The book is completed with a gratifyingly extensive glossary of key qigong terms and a large bibliography of classic Chinese works. The biggest drawback is the lack of illustrations. In the 650 plus pages there are a total of just 37 illustrations, all of poor quality and some of which are rather pointlessly of book covers.
Inevitably there will be some complaints about the use of the word ‘medical’ by people who think the word belongs solely to doctors. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘medical’ as ‘relating to the science or practice of medicine’ and defines ‘medicine’ as the ‘science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease’, which is what this book is about.
What the wealth of material in this book should do is destroy a common idea that a weekend course in qigong is enough to qualify someone in its mastery.
Overall, a good book. Not one to read from cover to cover but, like any encyclopaedia, to dip into for reference and enjoyment. A worthwhile addition to any practitioner’s collection.
Gordon Faulkner Gordon Faulkner is the Director of the Chanquanshu School of Daoist Arts, President for Scotland & Wales in the European Daoyin Yangsheng Gong Federation, Specialist Advisor to the UK Qigong Teachers Association and author of the award winning book ‘Managing Stress with Qigong’.