Qigong Fever Book – History of Qi Gong in China

history of qigong in China Qi Gong fever david palmer

Qigong a regimen of body, breath, and mental training exercises was one of the most widespread cultural and religious movements of late-twentieth-century urban China. The practice was promoted by senior Communist Party leaders as a uniquely Chinese healing tradition and as a harbinger of a new scientific revolution, yet the movement’s mass popularity and the almost religious devotion of its followers led to its ruthless suppression. In this absorbing and revealing book, David A. Palmer relies on a combination of historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives to describe the spread of the qigong craze and its reflection of key trends that have shaped China since 1949, including the search for a national identity and an emphasis on the absolute authority of science. Qigong offered the promise of an all-powerful technology of the body rooted in the mysteries of Chinese culture. However, after 1995 the scientific underpinnings of qigong came under attack, its leaders were denounced as charlatans, and its networks of followers, notably Falungong, were suppressed as “evil cults.” According to Palmer, the success of the movement proves that a hugely important religious dimension not only survived under the CCP but was actively fostered, if not created, by high-ranking party members. Tracing the complex relationships among the masters, officials, scientists, practitioners, and ideologues involved in qigong, Palmer opens a fascinating window on the transformation of Chinese tradition as it evolved along with the Chinese state. As he brilliantly demonstrates, the rise and collapse of the qigong movement is key to understanding the politics and culture of post-Mao society.

David A. Palmer – Why he studied Chinese religion

Well, I was born in and grew up in Toronto and um. Toronto is a city that has a significant Chinese population and actually, in my high school, which was Jarvis collegiate in downtown Toronto. I think around about a third of the students were Chinese and Vietnamese, and often Chinese Vietnamese, and so in the hallways of the school.

Every day we could hear people speaking Cantonese and various dialects of Chinese, and so the existence of Chinese culture was certainly a palpable presence around me when i was in high school and i had a very good friend and actually, he’s also a contributor to this volume.

My classmate Elijah Siegler was and is an aficionado of Chinese food, and so he uh he would take me and our gang of friends to Chinese restaurants. Very often, and so i developed a taste for dim sum and uh and Chinese food, and we were also on the – and i guess my first uh.

Perhaps I don’t know when it really was, but my first um uh exposure to uh something related to Chinese religion was with the yi jing with the book of changes. Now, how did this happen was that Elijah and I were members of the school debating team and we often did pretty humorous things when we were in inter-school debating competitions, and at one point at one competition, I can’t remember what the topic of debate Was but we actually brought an Ejing and we cast coins in the middle of the debate, to find the argument that we were going to use in the debate.

So that was the first time that I engaged in some kind of practice, which is related to what we’re calling Chinese religion here and um. Did it work? Well, I think we won the debate.

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