| The Healing Art of Qi Gong |
By Master Hong Liu and Paul Perry
Genre: Inspirational & Self-Help
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THE HEALING ART OF QI GONG
It was my good fortune to be raised in the presence of healers. My mother was the director of medical care and hospitals in Shanghai, an enormous job that could only be accomplished by someone with boundless energy and deep curiosity about medical treatments of all kinds. She spoke about the causes and cures of illness almost all the time, no matter who was around. One of my first memories is of my mother talking about the importance of public health to the strength of the nation.
When it came to health, she was very open-minded. ''A good doctor has to trust his intuition because some things can be sensed but not explained," she told me. "It is important to rely on science, but even more important to remember that intuition usually comes first and then leads to science"
It was a rare day when our house was not teeming with doctors of all kinds. They would stop by after their day's work and drink some tea in the living room of our French colonialstyle home in downtown Shanghai. Sometimes the room would fill up and the conversation would become very lively, as doctors talked about difficult cases or some of the many public health hazards that plagued China in the early years of the People's Republic.
As a young man I benefited from these debates. I realized that there were many paths to healing, not just one. A particular path might work for most people but not everyone. Sometimes new treatments would be discovered, or rediscovered, and people who were thought to be hopeless would now become treatable.
A good doctor was aware of al1 the paths and open to trying new ones, especially if a patient was otherwise on a road to nowhere. Sometimes patients take several different paths to find healing. Sometimes they never find it, no matter how many paths they take. The role of a good doctor is to know all the alternatives and help the patients understand where they are going in their search for health.
Raised in this kind of environment, there was never any question that I would become a medical doctor. I enrolled in the Military Medical College, where my studies were focused on allopathic medicine, the type of medicine familiar to most Americans, also known as Western medicine. But in addition, we were trained in Chinese herbal medicine, which is the use of nature's pharmacopoeia in healing diseases.
During medical school and into my practice, I returned home to immerse myself in the ongoing debate about health and healing. This debate had now expanded to include healers who were beyond the scope of "usual" medicine. During the Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao's wife had ordered that all ancient medical traditions be banned so that he could gain tighter control over Chinese society. But my mother had bravely spoken out in favor of traditional medicine, an act that convinced the responsible officials to exempt them from extinction.
Many Qi Gong masters, as well as other healers, had been released from prison because of my mother's intervention and they immediately recognized her as a friend. Now they, too, came to drink tea and mingle with the medical doctors.
The Chinese say that "where Qi Gong masters gather, so do patients." This was certainly true at our house, where a crowd of sick people arrived with each visiting master.
There was one Qi Gong master, however, who outdrew all the others. Every time he came from his home in the mountains of southern China, the house filled with people who wanted to be examined by him. Sometimes the house became so full that it was almost impossible for me to get across the living room and into my own bedroom. I would stand and watch as he diagnosed and treated dozens of people.
The examinations he conducted were amazing. He never asked what ailment the patient had. Instead he looked at the person briefly as though they were some kind of curious flower. Then he would just blurt out the patient's illness and where it bothered the patient most. He told patients their symptoms and could even tell what problems they had had in the past and whether their illness was hereditary.
After giving them external Qi treatments, using his own energy to unblock theirs, he would show people techniques and exercises they could do to manipulate their own Qi. Sometimes he would write a prescription for herbs.
When he was finished, he moved on to the next patient, and so on until he was finished with everyone.
One night he was pressed for time and did something that was new to me. He asked a group of about twenty patients to sit down and concentrate on their illness. Then he began to meditate, projecting his Qi on the group for about fifteen minutes. Suddenly some of the people began to laugh while others began to cry. They spoke of sensations that were like electrical charges inside their bodies. Others said they could feel things move inside of them. Almost everyone came away filled with vitality, as though each person had been recharged with life.
I was in awe of what I saw. It was as though he were pulling energy from the universe and transmitting it to those who needed it. One night after he left I told my mother that I was stunned by what I saw this man do.
"We are constantly using science to search for the meaning of life and the power of the universe," I said to my mother. "Yet this man seems to possess the power of life without science."
What she said confused me at the time, although I came to understand it perfectly later.
"What this master possesses isn't magic," she said. "It is just science that has not yet been examined."
I began to find out more about this Master Kwan, although much about him remains a mystery to me, even to this day. I was told that he lived outside of Canton high on a mountain in a cave. Even though the path to his home was steep and somewhat difficult, the citizens of Canton and surrounding areas flocked to see him. It was common for him to start seeing patients early in the morning and to be working with them until well after sundown.
The only people who did not trek up the mountain were high government officials. Instead they sent messengers to make the trip for them. When they requested his presence, Master Kwan reluctantly ventured off the mountain. Even a master does not say no to the government of China.
When he was treating government officials in Shanghai he usually stayed at my mother's house. Then, at any time of day or night, we could expect a black government car to appear in the alley and take Master Kwan away. Usually he would be taken to the offices or private residences of the officials to conduct treatments. On rare occasions, however, government officials came to our house for treatment. One such occasion came when the mayor of Shanghai came for treatment of a problem that he refused to talk about in advance. His assistant was mysterious when asked why the mayor was coming. At first he would say nothing about the mayor's medical condition. Then, when my mother pressed him, the nervous young man would say only that the mayor had dealt with a number of Western-trained physicians, but to no avail.
"It is you who must ask him what the problem is," said the assistant. "It is too personal for me to tell you."
Word of his visit got around, and on the day of the appointment, the house began to fill with people. Not only did medical doctors show up, but also our neighbors and patients of Master Kwan. By the time the mayor arrived, there was a large group of spectators filling the living room.
At the appointed hour, three official cars arrived in back of the house. Without knocking, four bodyguards walked through the door and began searching the residence. When they saw that the living room was full of spectators, they demanded that everyone clear out. Master Kwan refused.
"You don't dare tell my people to leave," he said. "These are my invited guests."
The bodyguards began to argue, but Master Kwan dug in his heels. The master had a mind of his own, a trait not common among the Chinese people in those days. As he argued with the government bodyguards, everyone in the room became very quiet and nervous. Still Master Kwan persevered.
"If these people cannot stay, then your boss cannot come in and be treated," shouted Master Kwan. He had been jailed during the Cultural Revolution and had a sincere dislike of the police, even those in the glorified form of bodyguards. He opposed their authority whenever he could.
"Why don't you leave?" he shouted. "Then there would be more room than we would know what to do with."
Before the bodyguards could respond to this insult, the mayor walked into the room. He was an enormous man who practically filled the doorway when he appeared. It was rare in China to see someone who was so heavy, and everyone gaped openly at his girth.
At first he was surprised to see so many people. Then he began to smile. He told my mother that he was honored that so many of his people were interested in his well-being. He shook a few hands and waved to people in the back of the room and remarked about how cold it had been that winter in Shanghai.
Master Kwan had him sit down and they began to chat. Although I counted more than fifty people in the room, not a sound was uttered as the two talked.
What happened over the course of their conversation was amazing.
Almost as soon as the mayor sat down, he began to perspire. I noticed beads of sweat forming on his forehead and soon he took a handkerchief out of his pocket and was wiping it over his face. How strange, I thought. My own forehead felt cool and it was even so cold in the room that you could see the breath of some of the people near the front door.
I turned my attention to the mayor. He was perspiring more profusely now and was even unbuttoning his shirt. As I listened to the conversation I realized that they had not even begun to address the medical condition, whatever it was, that had brought the mayor in the first place.
The treatment was supposed to take only thirty minutes. When that time had passed, however, the mayor excused himself to go to the bathroom and then returned and continued talking to Master Kwan. After forty minutes he stood up and removed his jacket, which caused a buzz in the room since it was so cold already. A few minutes later he removed his shirt, which was now damp with perspiration. Very strange, I thought. The mayor of Shanghai is sitting in a cold room with only his undershirt on and still he is perspiring!
An hour had passed and the mayor's assistants were beginning to fidget. They had scheduled only thirty minutes for the meeting and were now wondering when he would be finished. One of the assistants stepped forward and whispered to the mayor, who waved him away. "Cancel that meeting," he said. "This is too interesting."
The assistant scurried out of the room to make a telephone call and the mayor went to the bathroom for the second time.
He returned and discussion began about the theories behind Qi Gong. Master Kwan had the mayor's undivided attention. The big man sat on the chair and listened attentively to the master as he talked about the origin and uses of his healing art. As the mayor listened he was perspiring so much that my mother finally gave him a towel.
He went to the bathroom for a third time and returned. An hour and thirty minutes had passed and still no mention had been made of why the mayor had come to see Master Kwan.
The conversation continued and so did the perspiration. I did not know how the mayor could ignore such drenching perspiration, and concluded that he was so impressed with Master Kwan that he did not notice it. He looked like a man who had run a footrace.
After two hours, he went to the bathroom a fourth time. When he returned, Master Kwan stood up and bowed.
"That is the end of your treatment," he said.
"It can't be!" insisted the mayor. "I haven't told you why I came to see you!"
"I know already," insisted Master Kwan. "You came because you are so heavy. You want to lose some weight."
"That's true!" said the mayor. "How did you know?"
Everyone in the room laughed when he said this. The only ones who did not know about Master Kwan's powers of remote diagnosis were the mayor and his entourage.
"Look at what happened here," Master Kwan said, addressing the mayor. "You have been perspiring for two hours. You have gone to the bathroom four times. This will continue all day."
The mayor became very excited. He wanted to sit down and talk more, but his assistants were now demanding that he leave.
"We will talk again soon," said Master Kwan, handing the mayor his shirt.
When the big man left, Master Kwan explained that he had increased the mayor's metabolism. By speeding up all of his bodily processes, Master Kwan made sure the mayor would burn more calories and would lose weight. Doing this had caused the mayor to have diarrhea, which is why he had gone to the bathroom so many times. "That will continue for a couple of days until his body adjusts to the faster metabolism," said Master Kwan.
I could contain myself no longer. "But what did you do to change his metabolism?" I asked. "You never touched him. What did you do to make him sweat?"
Master Kwan nodded like a professor forming his thoughts.
"There are three ways to convey energy," he said. "The most direct way is through acupuncture needles. The second is by touching people in meridian spots. The third and most powerful is by using remote Qi to send the energy directly through the air. That is what I did with the mayor. As we talked, I just pointed my fingers at him and continued with the conversation. The Qi that I emitted raised his metabolism, as you could all see."
He then sat down and demonstrated the position his hands had been in when the mayor was there. His hand was resting on his thigh with his fingers together and pointed at the chair where the mayor had sat.
The next day the mayor called Master Kwan from a train. He was still perspiring and had gone to the bathroom several times that night as the master had said he would. Before he hung up he made another appointment to see the master.
Master Kwan usually said nothing about his visits to high government officials. As with all patients, their cases were considered confidential. It was not uncommon for us to be talking about some government official around the house when the master would say, "I treated him just last week," or "I have visited him and his family many times."
That would usually be the extent of Master Kwan's comments. He knew the power of the government and was very careful to keep information to himself about the people he treated. He had spent a few years in prison for practicing Qi Gong during the Cultural Revolution and would probably have been there still if my mother had not intervened.
He broke this rule of silence only once, and that was to tell about the time he treated the man who had imprisoned him.
He told me this story one night as we drank tea in the living room of our house in Shanghai. We were sitting quietly when he began to chuckle to himself. I ignored it at first, thinking that he was laughing at a private joke. When he laughed a few more times, however, I broke down and intruded.
"What is so funny?" I asked.
"I am just remembering the time I treated the man who put me in jail," he said.
The man was the governor of Guangdong, a very large province in the south of China. He had been among the officials who carried out the orders that all of the traditional physicians be rounded up and imprisoned. Chairman Mao's wife felt that any form of tradition detracted from her husband's communistic goals and ordered that all such practitioners be sent to "reeducation" camps. Master Kwan had spent two years in such a camp. Now the man who had ordered his imprisonment just a few years ago was asking that the master provide for his health.
Master Kwan was very pleasant as he was ushered into the governor's office. He concealed his dislike of this man behind a warm smile and friendly greeting. After looking at him for a moment to do a remote diagnosis, Master Kwan told the governor that he had a blockage in his kidney meridian.
"Because this problem is in your back, I need you to take off your shirt," he said.
The governor did so willingly.
Master Kwan looked at the governor more closely.
"Now you need to take off your pants."
The governor did this as well.
Master Kwan had the governor move out from behind his desk and sit in a chair that was in the middle of the room. Then Master Kwan sat in a chair across from him and removed his shoes.
"Lean back," said Master Kwan. When he did as he was told, the master raised one foot and held it against the nose of the governor. Then he rubbed the toes in a circular motion until the governor shuddered.
Of course this was no treatment. Master Kwan told me that it was his way of teaching the governor humiliation, the sort the master had suffered at the hands of government officials like this governor. But the governor did not know this. He was humiliated by the foot in his face, but had to accept it. After all, was this not the Qi Gong master's way of giving him Qi?
When the "treatment" was over, Master Kwan told the governor that he could put his clothing back on.
"How many more times do you have to do that until I am well?" the governor asked.
Master Kwan thought a moment. "At least five times," he replied." We must do the exact same thing five more times."
But the extent of the necessary treatment presented a problem, said Master Kwan. For his visit to the governor, Master Kwan had been registered into an ordinary hotel, thinking that treatment would take only one day. For an extended visit, he would require much nicer accommodations, preferably like those found in foreign hotels. "If I don't stay in comfortable quarters"Master Kwan shrugged "my Qi weakens."
When he told this to the governor, the politician called his assistant on the telephone. A few telephone calls later, and Master Kwan was registered in the presidential suite of the best hotel in Canton, the capital of Guangdong.
"We have you checked in for five days," the assistant told him.
"There must be some mistake," said Master Kwan, addressing the assistant and the governor. "I did say five treatments. But the treatments are once a week."
For more than a month, Master Kwan lived like a king in the presidential suite. Once a week he was picked up by a driver in a government car and taken to the governor's office, where he unceremoniously pressed his foot into the face of the man who had once put him in jail.
The most ironic thing was this: After five weeks of such treatment, the governor was healed. He felt so much better that he sang the praises of the master to other provincial governors. Now, said Master Kwan, he was being invited to care for other governors.
He had only one requirement: To stick his foot in their faces, the governors had to arrange for him to stay five weeks at the presidential suite of a local hotel.
"Revenge has been very kind to me," he said with a laugh.
One time Master Kwan showed up at our house and was very excited. He had been asked to come down from the mountain by the Chinese Sports Federation. Some international table tennis competitions were just a few weeks away and one of the top competitors had a recurrence of a shoulder and back injury that would prevent him from competing.
This would be a disaster for the Chinese. This athlete was the one great hope for a medal at these games. If he was not able to at least compete, the Chinese would lose face in the international athletic community.
The Sports Federation was now in a panic. When the athlete's pain first began, they thought it would just go away if he took it easy. As it worsened, however, they became increasingly nervous. They sent him to Western-trained medical doctors in Beijing who gave him injections of cortisone and painkillers so he would not miss too much practice. Now the pain was so bad that painkillers did not help. The doctors became nervous and began asking their colleagues about alternative solutions. That was when Master Kwan was suggested.
It was a great honor to be asked to treat an athlete, and Master Kwan knew it. The Sports Federation was so respectful of the master that its officials had agreed to bring this athlete to Shanghai if the master would come up from his mountain home near Canton. Master Kwan was very excited when he showed up at our house. He laughed and talked about the sports injuries he had treated, as he waited for the athletes to arrive. This athlete's problem was typical of table tennis players, who make so many repetitive moves that they strain their joints and spine. Master Kwan had healed such problems before. However, to cure such a well-known athlete would indeed be an honor.
When the player and his trainers arrived, however, Master Kwan did not act honored at all. As the group came into the living room, he turned his back on them and began to talk to his apprentices as though the sports people had not come into the room. Then he talked and joked with me and my brother as the sports entourage stood awkwardly behind him, waiting to be noticed.
Finally he spoke to them. "This athlete has been hurt for some time," he said. "You should have taken his pain more seriously when it first started."
"We did everything we could do," said one of the trainers. He described a litany of treatments that the athlete had gone through, including physical therapy and cortisone injections.
"You missed one," said Master Kwan, turning to face the entourage. "You did not bring him to me."
Standing up, Master Kwan raised his arms slowly over his head like a graceful diver and addressed the athlete. "Do what I am doing," he instructed. The boy raised his arms slowly from his side but got no higher than three-quarters of the way before he grimaced and lowered them again.
"What can you do? What can you do?" pleaded one of the trainers.
"Calm down," demanded Master Kwan. "l tell you he will be fine."
He turned the boy around and touched several spots on his back and shoulders. He did not press hard, but merely put his fingers on particular spots and held them there. As he did this, the tension left the player's face and he appeared to be comfortably asleep.
When the master finished, he stepped back and asked the athlete to raise his hands. This time he raised them over his head. When he experienced no pain, the table tennis player began moving his shoulder through a range of motion that obviously would have been impossible when he first came in the door. Now he was laughing and pretending to play table tennis. He was jumping around the room and swinging his arms like a player at the table.
"No pain?" asked Master Kwan. "Do you feel pain anywhere?"
"None at all," the athlete said, continuing to roll his head and twist his neck.
What I saw shocked me. By this time I had already gone through much of my medical training and I knew that the doctors in charge of the athlete's treatment had done everything by the book, yet it had only served to make things worse. What I was seeing was hard to accept.
Master Kwan left the room and soon returned with a hot herbal patch. He taped this patch on the player's lower back and pressed it against his skin.
"Take that off tomorrow when you get back to Beijing," he told him. "Then just continue to train."
There were literally tears in the trainers' eyes as they saw what had happened. A few weeks later the athlete won the competitions.
That night I could barely sleep. In fact, I did not want to sleep. What I had seen was too exciting to ignore. World-class athletes are treated by the best doctors in the country. We call them the "specialists' specialists" because their knowledge about the human body is so extensive. Yet all of their good work cannot heal this table tennis player's pain. Then in comes a man who claims to draw energy from the universe. He touches the player's neck and back in a few places and the athlete is suddenly healed. How could this be? I wondered. How could I ignore this man and his methods of healing?
The desire to control disease was the reason I was becoming a doctor of medicine. Could this energy medicine be combined with my Western medical knowledge to create a superior form of treatment? Was it, as it appeared to be, a combination of isometric and isotonic exercises, combined with meditation and guided imagery as well as a number of other interventions and techniques that were not yet even recognized by medicine? Was it truly a unifying principle of medicine that had been downplayed in favor of a more mechanical interpretation of the human body?
As I started to doze I was left wondering if seeing this night's demonstration was a blessing or a curse. Should I follow my own intuition and learn more about Qi Gong? Or should I keep my focus on the proven, scientific, Western method of medicine I already understood? I was confused.
I fell asleep for a few hours that night but awoke well before sunrise. My mind was full of the mysteries I had seen that night. I thought more about Qi Gong and how it might relate to my life. I was in the army at this time, which exercised control over everything from my training to my living arrangements. Maybe it was futile to even think that I could study under Master Kwan.
Unable to sleep, I got out of bed and quietly began to pace around the house. We had a hallway with big windows that looked out onto a courtyard. On this particular night the windows were open, and even though it was chilly I could feel puffs of warm air, which puzzled me.
As I reached out to close the window, I saw the source of the warm wind. There in the garden was Master Kwan. He was practicing martial arts, twirling his arms in graceful sweeps that made him look like frothing waves pounding the shore. With every movement of his arm I could hear a crack as though lightning had struck. There was some kind of force that seemed to produce a maverick wind. I don't know how else to explain it. As he performed his graceful routine, winds blew and swayed the plants and trees around him.
It was impressive, exhilarating, and frightening all at the same time.
I must have been leaning very far out the window, because I gasped and almost fell out when a hand touched my back. It was my mother.
"Do not disturb the master when he is practicing," she said.
She reached past me and pulled the window shut. Still I stood there for a long time.
There was no longer any question in my mind. I had to learn Qi Gong from Master Kwan.
Excerpted from The Healing Art of Qi Gong , by Master Hong Liu and Paul Perry . Copyright (c) 1997 by Master Hong Liu. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top