location: Frist page History & Culture “Dancing” on the Painted-Pottery Pot(Ⅱ)
“Dancing” on the Painted-Pottery Pot(Ⅱ)

The Development Track of “the Dancing”

The Chinese word “Wu” (namely “dancing”) can be a verb, which means “to shake”, while “Dao” means “to exercise with lower limbs”. Therefore, “Wu Dao” means “to shaking your arms and moving your legs to get exercises for the whole body”. The pictures on the pot show that the dancers are taking a whole body exercises in a quick rhythm and with a large range of movements. If the dancers in the pictures are the patients, then it coincides with the account about using dancing to cure illnesses in the Lush • Chennai and Lu Shi.

According to the research on the history of Qigong, this sort of “dancing” is the very origin of various Qigong styles in China. In terms of medicine Qigong which appeared at least in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, “the dancing” had already developed into a physical and breathing exercise using to prevent illnesses and keep health. Together with Chinese medicine, nine classic needles, Jiu Ruo, and stone needles, they were the five main methods of clinical traditional Chinese medicine. Therefore in the oldest existing classic of traditional Chinese medicine The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor Su Wen • Dao Fa Fang Yi Lun, there is an account saying that: “The central plains possess diversified vegetation due to its flat terrain and humid climate.  The people living there have plenty of various kind of food and do not have to work much. Therefore, they usually suffer from malaise and chills and fever, which need to be treated with the physical and breathing exercise. This is the reason for the exercise originated from the central plains.” In other words, the feature of flat terrain is the reason for the exercise originating from the central plains. Generally speaking, the central plains region refers to the central region of Yellow river valley, the hardest hit area of the floods.  The essence of the physical and breathing exercise is to soften the body and smooth the circulation of qi and blood through taking the exercise. During its long development in the following 2000 years, together with other medicine Qigong methods, the physical and breathing exercise is widely used and become popular in keeping in good health, recovery treatments, and various illness treatments. Thanks to the efforts made by predecessors of the Tangshan sanitarium in Hebei province in 1950s, the exercise was officially named as “Qigong” by the administrative department of National Health Bureau. The “Daoyin Picture (namely the Physical and Breathing Exercise Picture)” appearing a bit later than The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor, shows vividly the bloom of the “dancing” in the Han dynasty.  For the Confucian school, Confucius and his disciple Yanhui developed “inner world” and “sitting forgotten”, which led the dynamic “dancing” into a static state.  In this way, the connotation and the denotation of the exercise have both been extended.  This kind of “stillness”, together with the exercise of mind and breathing, becomes a good example of meditation for the later generations. There were even some Confucian scholars dividing their daily practice into two parts: “a half day meditation exercise and a half day study”. Mr. Guo Moruo had said that “Confucian scholars paid great attention to the meditation practice.  Many people hold that the meditation came from Zen, however, I think it came into being because of Yanhui.” For Taoists, after their failure in using pills from the outside world to prolong their lives, they turned to self refinery. They made the Essence, Spirit, and qi as the “medicine” (raw materials), the elixir field “Ding furnace” (the refinery place), and the breath regulating led by thoughts the “heat controlling”, so as to “pills” from the inner body and to keep a good health. Since the upper, middle, and lower elixir fields all locate in the anterior median line of the body connecting with both the governor vessels and conception vessels, and because human thoughts always move along those vessels without ending; therefore, this exercise is called “Zhoutian Method” or “Inner Pills Refinery Method”.  The major feature of this method (usually called Taoism Qigong) is to “train ‘Xing’ and ‘Ming’ at the same time (namely the training of both body and mind)”. “Xing” refers to the mental activities of human mind, while “Ming” the mechanism of human body.” In other words, this Qigong method emphasizes equal attention to both human body and mind.” In the actual practicing, there are two different styles of practicing, that is, the “Xing first, Ming second” style which requires exercisers starting practice from the upper elixir field, and the “Ming first, Xing second” style which requires to start from the lower elixir field.  Since its transmission from ancient India into China in the Han dynasty, Buddhism keeps a bidirectional interaction with Qigong. On the one hand, records related with Qigong can be found in some early Buddhist scriptures such as “four elements of inhaling and exhaling in Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing, of which have been taken advantage by exercisers; on the other hand, in its long process of localism, “the Buddhists tried to prolong their lives in order to finish their missionary work … treated various illness with the help of pills and self refinery.(Li Shi Yuan Wen)” That is, they absorbed the exercise methods from Qigong to keep fit and prolong life, and gradually, they form their style of Qigong, the Buddhist Qigong.  After their combination with traditional Chinese sports (especially martial arts), the Qigong methods we just mentioned above become the Health Qigong widely promoted nowadays.

To sum up, in respect to the relationship between the painted-pottery pot and ancient Qigong, the following conclusions seem can be drawn: first, the three dancing pictures on the inner wall of the pot might be the earliest set of body movements related with the origin of Qigong in the existing history literature, or a kind of Qigong method; therefore, the pot is one of the important cultural relic for us to study the origin of Qigong. Second, this kind of “dancing” (also “Dredging dancing” or “ Da Wu”) possesses the medical function of keeping good health, helping stretching joints and eliminating dampness left inside the body, becoming the embryo of various styles of Qigong (especially the active course methods) of later generations. Third, taking by tradition physicians, Confucians, Taoists, and Buddhists, it has been developed into various styles of Qigong, such as Confucian Qigong representing by sitting forgotten, and inner world, Taoist Qigong representing by inner pills or “Zhoutian”, Buddhist Qigong representing by keeping still and in deep meditation and stopping in contemplation, and the popular folk Qigong. These kinds of Qigong not only extend the connotation and denotation of the “Dancing”, but also provide ways for people to keep in a good health.

(By Huang Jian)

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