The Inference of the Method Involved
The circle of Qigong hasn’t reached an agreement on which Qigong methods is involved in the Xing Qi inscription. The author agrees with the following two opinions.
One is the Zhoutian Hypothesis. It means that in the internal elixir training, qi will circulate along the governor vessel and conception vessel. If qi just circulates along those two vessels, it is called “Small Zhoutian” because of the circulating area is relatively small; if qi circulates along other vessels and meridians besides those two vessels, then it is called “Big Zhoutian” because of its large circulation area. The first step mentioned above is equal to the “laying foundation” in the internal elixir training, which leads to the accumulation of qi in the lower elixir field. The second step is amount to the process of descending qi from the elixir field to the perineum. The third step is the process to raise qi from the perineum along the conception vessel to the Beihui. Inferring from the words “there is the heaven if retreat”, there might be an implicit relation between “the heaven” and “the earth” in the sentence “the heaven…the earth…” in the inscription, which is similar with the relation between “retreat” and “the heaven”. If the inference is correct, then the stage in question also contains a process of descending qi from the Beihui along the governor vessel, that is, a whole process of Small Zhoutian. The last two sentences of the inscription seem to tell about the effect of the method and the matter needing attention when exercising Zhoutian method. “Tian Ji Yao”, “Di Ji Yao” are also related with internal elixir field. Some people hold that “Tian” and “Di” refers to upper and lower elixir field respectively, while some others believe they should be “Beihun (Kunlun)” and “Perimeum (Haidi)”. Regardless of the reason preciseness of the two opinions, they both refer to the places or acupuncture points of Small Zhoutian. the heaven in the upper part is known as yang and qian in the Eight Trigrams while the earth in the lower part is called yin and kun in the Eight Trigrams In the process of Small Zhoutian exercise, qi will go up along the conception vessel, which is called “the sea of Yang vessels” in traditional Chinese medicine, to the top of the body, and then it will go down along the governor vessel—“the sea of the Yin vessels”, to the bottom of the body. It is in this way that exercising this method can replenish essential qi for the body, promote the circulation of qi and blood, and balance the Yin and Yang of the human body. “Obeying this circulation rule of qi can keep alive; violating the rule may lead to death.” This sentence points out the cautions for the exercisers when they are undertaking the method. That is, if you taking the exercise based on the requirements you will success, or otherwise, you will fail.
The other is the Breathing Hypothesis. The hypothesis is closer to the interpretation given by Guo Moruo. It holds that the inscription is not about any style of Qigong method, but the breathing training in all the Qigong exercises, namely, the way and the process of breathing training. However, it is not just a round like What Guo believes, but a series of complicated process. Analyzing from the key words like “deep”, “store up”, “stretch”, “descend”, “hold”, “sprout”, and “grow”, we know that the inscription is talking about a breathing process which starts from shallow breathing to deep breathing, and combines simple breathing with abdominal breathing guided by thoughts. It needs a long time of hard training to master this kind of breathing. This breathing is usually employed in the exercising of the quiet course. Both Qigong masters in the ancient times and nowadays pay much attention to the importance of the breathing in the Qigong exercises. There are a great amount of descriptions concerned in the literature about Qigong at its early stage. For example, the record of breathing requirement “to breathe slowly and evenly in a low frequency” written in the Tao Teh King; an account about the function of breathing methods of “inhaling and exhaling” in Zhuang • Zi Ke Yi; in the chapter Zhang Zi • Da Zong Shi, “the Qigong masters breathe deeply. The breathing of masters can reaching the bottom of the body, however, the breathing of ordinary exercisers can only pass their throats”, which points out the features of the masters’ breathing, and the difference between the breathing of the masters and that of ordinary people; “inner world” and “sitting forgotten” of Confucians combine the breathing and meditation, which further improves the breathing; the sentence “ inhaling fresh air and breathing out the inner qi to learn storing up qi” in the Han Shu • Wang Ji Zhuang points out the various roles different breathings play in the functions of internal organs, which greatly influences on the application of Qigong in the later generations; and also the Extracts on Nourishing Spiritual Nature and Prolonging Bodily Life written by Tao Hongjing, says that “there is only one way to inhale, however, six to exhale…Chui, Hu, Xi, He, Xu, and Si”, and that is the Six Exercises circulated until nowadays. Qigong masters in modern times also pay great attention to the breathing. Liu Guizhen, one of the founders of Medical Qigong in modern China, has summarized three different types of breathing means in the internal adjustment method. This adds new content to the ancient stop-close breathing making it maneuverable, and thus capable of being widely employed in medical practice. One of the pioneers of Qigong scientific research Lin Yagu has explained the physiological function of breathing during the Qigong exercise from the perspective of autonomic nerve’s effect on the regulating of internal organs. She holds that when exercisers inhaling, the tension of their sympathetic nerves raises up, which results in some exciting effects such as increasing in heart rate and blood pressure. When exhaling, the tension of parasympathetic nerves raises up, which leads to the effects like decreasing in heart rate and blood pressure making exercisers calm down. This is the breathing means favored by most of Qigong methods, and it is more coincide with what is conveyed in the inscription.
In short, the inscription, which is composed of 45 characters, on the cultural relic Xing Qi Inscription, talks about the breathing means in Qigong exercise. Literally, it tells about “a round of deep breath”; when taking the maneuverability into account, it explains the stages of breathing and refining qi. The principles of and means to gather qi, refine qi, and circulate qi, can be applied to various Qigong methods, especially the quiet course method. From the point of a complete set of method, it describes a whole process of Small Zhoutian method.
（By Huang Jian）