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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).
The Kung Fu master, Sifu Wong Kiew-Kit, referring to the Shaolin Wahnam style, says "the first eight Lohan Hands are the same as the eight exercises in a famous set of chi kung exercises called the Eight Pieces of Brocade." There are numerous versions, seated and standing, of Bodhiidharma's exercise sets - including the related "Tendon-Changing and Marrow-Washing" (Yi Jin Jing) qigong set with exercises identical to Brocade versions (Li Jingwei, 2014, p. Some versions of the 18 Lohan (Luohan) Hands have up to four levels, and scores of movement forms for qigong and martial purposes.
The Chinese Health Qigong Association says that "as a traditional Chinese health and fitness Qigong exercise routine, Ba Duan Jin, or Eight Section Exercises, dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279)." The scholars Ji Jingwei and Zhu Jianping say, in their book An Illustrated Handbook of Chinese Qigong Forms from the Ancient Texts (2014, p.82), that "The Eight Section Brocade is a set of dynamic exercises for health preservation composed of eight parts.
He created a series of exercises called the "Animal Frolics." There are many versions of the animal frolics exercises today, and some of these exercises are similar to those found in the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung.
In The History of the Later Han, Hua T'o wrote: "Man's body must have exercise, but it should never be done to the point of exhaustion.
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.
These methods and practices were explored and adapted in China for thousands of years to help to maintain good health, to prevent and cure diseases, to restore vitality, to calm the mind, and to enhance the spirit of the patient or practitioner.
By moving about briskly, digestion is improved, the blood vessels are opened, and illnesses are prevented. As far as Tao Yin (bending and stretching exercises) is concerned, we have the bear's neck, the crane's twist, and swaying the waist and moving the joints to promote long life.