location: Frist page History & Culture Xing Qi in the Xing Qi Inscription (Ⅰ)
Xing Qi in the Xing Qi Inscription (Ⅰ)

The Jade with Xing Qi inscription is also called Xing Qi Inscription. It is a pair of small hollow jade pillars, with 12 faces and a height of 1.3cm, locating in Tianjing Museum.  Based on studies, it is a cultural relic from the Warring States period (about 380BC), and it is the oldest and precious object reflecting directly the exercise of ancient Qigong. The inscription on them consists of 45 characters. Correct interpretation and understanding of the inscription would help us knowing about the general situation of ancient Qigong, mastering the Health Qigong methods, especially the methods of breath regulating.

The Interpretation of the Inscription

Many scholars like Guo Moruo, Wen Yiduo, Yu Shengwu, and Chen Banghuai, have interpreted the inscription. The circle of Qigong favors the version given by Guo Moruo, that is , “When exercise Health Qigong (Xing Qi), the qi should be gathered gently from the very start, then gradually moved from the above to the down and from the one point to another  so that to achieve the best effects. Tian Ji Yao shall be in the upper part while Di Ji Yao should be in the lower part or otherwise the life has to come to its end. (The Slavery Era)”. After interpreting the inscription, Guo claimed that it discusses about the ancient “Daoyin”, a physical and breathing exercise. “The exercise was called ‘Daoyin’ in the ancient time; in fact, it is the Qigong nowadays.”  The inscription explains briefly the relationships between Xing Qi inscription, “Daoyin” and Qigong. Guo also holds that: “A deep breath is a round. When inhaling deeply, a large volume of air will go down inside the body. After it reaches the bosom, breathe it out in a way in which buds grow up in an opposite direction till the top of the end. Thus, the law of the nature is observed or otherwise the life will have to come to its end.” The interpretation above is reasonable literally, however, some doubts remain when it is employed in the actual exercise of Qigong.  First, a “deep breath” is such a complicated process that ordinary exercisers cannot perform except for those well-trained ones. A similar conclusion can be derived from the analysis of the word “Xu”. “Xu” means to accumulate and store up, which is same as Guo’s “a large volume of air”. However, it is very difficult to store up a very large volume of air in a round of deep breath. If the exercisers do not accumulate and store a large volume of air, the sections like “to stretch”, “to descend”, “to hold” , “to sprout” and “to grow up” are out of the question. Therefore, the author of this article tends to believe that this inscription is about the stages of practicing breathing, or the process of the breathing when exercising Qigong. The process can be divided into three steps:

Step 1: “Xu” stage.  It is a stage of storing up a large volume of air by taking a deep breath. The gist of exercising is that, the breath need to be deep, slow, smooth, and even, which can be realized with the help of controlling the elixir fields. Inhale the natural air into the elixir field, and then gather all the qi to the elixir field, so as to realize the goal of storing up a large volume of air. Therefore, this stage is also called qi nourishing or qi gathering.

Step 2: From “Xu” to “Zhang”. It is a process to extend and hold the stored air so as to make it sprout. In this stage, the requirement for the depth of breath is lower than that of the first stage. However, it requires a good combination of breathing and thoughts. As the accumulated air increases, the touching reactions like “eight touches” and “sixteen scenes” appear to the exercisers, which is related to the sections like to stretch”, “to hold”, “to sprout” and “to descend”.  What’s more, the accumulated air can circulate along meridians. That is what it means by “to descend”. This stage is usually called “qi refining”. Compared with the first stage which emphasizes the large quantity of the inhaled air, this stage stresses the high quality of qi.

Step 3: From “Meng” to “Tian”, namely the growing-up stage. By this time, the qi inside the body will circulate along certain meridians and collaterals until it reached the final point. This is the completion of a circulation of Xing Qi.

(By Huang Jian)

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