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The use of calisthenics, stretching, and breathing exercises to maintain good health, fight disease, and enhance the quality of life is of great antiquity.
This type of physical activity has a long documented history in both India and China.
Literature that talks about such health and fitness exercise postures or routines, with some movements quite similar to movements in the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung, goes back nearly 2,500 years.
Let us now review some of that historical development, in chronological order.
Taoism emphasizes the underlying unity of the individual and the cosmos, living in harmony with the true Way or Dao (Tao), giving up petty viewpoints, simplicity, solitary retreats, avoiding violent interference with others, a simple natural diet, natural and compassionate living, sharing with others, seeking insight into "emptiness", seeking a higher understanding or enlightenment, living a healthy lifestyle, storing and circulating energy (Qi, Chi, Prana), practicing meditation, studying and working diligently, and seeking mystical insights.
It is likely that ancient dances, medical theory, military drills and exercises, shamanistic rituals, and Buddhist and Taoist practices were all sources for the specific and formal movement routines of Dao-yin or Chi Kung (Qigong).The ancient terms for these types of Qigong or Chi Kung (energy/Qi/breath training) fitness exercises include: Dao Yin (guiding, breathing and stretching), "guiding and stretching" or "pulling and guiding" exercises; or, Daoqi Yinti (guide the qi and stretch the body); or, Yang Sheng Fa (Longevity Practices, Nourishing Life); or Neidan (Inner Alchemy).Seeking ways to enjoy a long, healthy, energetic, ethical and enchanted life are, of course, of widespread and perennial interest.Interesting theories abound about the origin and development of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung.
Over many centuries in China, traditional medical remedies (e.g., herbs, massage, diet, heat, acupuncture, exercise routines, etc.) were combined with esoteric and magical Daoist (Taoist) and local shamanistic healing practices.In addition, trade and cultural exchanges between India and China transferred Buddhist theory and practices, Tantra, Yoga, Dao-yin, medicinal herbs, medical techniques, and martial arts training techniques between these civilizations.