What: An ancient healing system which focuses on the restoration of holistic balance through gentle breathing techniques and slow movements
Origins: Qigong can be traced back some two thousand years in ancient China.
Benefits:Qigong can harmonise, strengthen and have a healing effect on the functioning of all the internal organs and bodily systems. It increases the supply and flow of energy throughout the body, can have a variety of rejuvenating effects and is believed to increase longevity as it induces calm mental and emotional states.
Day 8, 22/09/11: Discovering Qigong - China
Up early to play qigong with Francesco and Master Wan in the park. As we walked, we passed all the local people who were also practicing; it was a moving thing to witness.
After a glutinous breakfast the sticky rice boarded the bus for the long ride to Mount Emei.
Mount Emei is the highest of China's four holy Buddhist Mountains, rising 3,099 metres (10,167 ft.) above sea level. Ever since Buddhism arrived in China, this has been an important place of refuge and retreat for pilgrims.
As we jumped aboard the local transport the hairpin bends proved nauseating. Stopping at the mid-way point I held my breath as I hopped off the bus; the stench of diesel was sickening. Like sighting the Holy Grail or the Divine Mother a sense of bliss crept over me, I could hardly believe my eyes... here they sold snickers!
When we arrived at the top of the cable car a few of us decided to continue up the mountain on foot. I have to admit over the last few days I've been desperate to stretch my legs and this was too good an opportunity to miss; even if we were in a cloud. As we climbed the many steps we were watched by rather peculiar looking monkeys.
The route was so peaceful once we broke away from the maddening crowds; the mist provided an eerie, mystical quality and the wind moved with a silent tongue.
The surrounding gorges were deep; the rock faces severe and jagged; due to the low lying cloud imagination became my sole means of sight. As we headed over 3,000m dark trees rose from a white, empty void.
Before long the peace and serenity was soon stolen by the massing crowds. On top rose a huge Buddha statue, shrouded by of veil of cloud. Fortunately the cloud lifted momentarily, allowing just enough time to sneak a peek.
Master Wan enthusiastically signalled that Abi and I accompany him to the higher level, where a partially finished golden temple stood.
En route he stopped and whilst overlooking a void of 'absolute' emptiness he began playing with the air, playing with qigong. The spontaneity of this moment only served to enhance my connection with it. It was incredible; spiritually, physically and emotionally I was spell bound. Before our eyes literally existed nothing, an empty abyss, the never ending story.
After heading back down we entered the temple beneath the mighty Buddha statue, inside we were seated for meditation practice. To begin with it was only Master Wan, Abi and myself but then more and more people joined; predominantly local people.
A strong emotion welled up inside as colours danced before me. The moment was so utterly humbling, it didn't need anything else, any words or actions because everything was exactly how it needed to be; perfect.
As unfamiliar emotions closed around my windpipe, I opened my eyes. Local people with young children were asking the Master if they could join in the practice; which of course he welcomed with a cheerful somewhat childlike giggle.
From here we headed back to the Holiday Inn. En route we had our evening meal at a medicinal restaurant. All the food served here had been specifically designed to include an array of different medicinal herbs; each was designed to focus on a different area of the body, organ function or to cultivate/restore the body's chi.
It was amazing to see how they incorporated plant medicine into each dish; the kitchen operations here must be immense - to deliver this many dishes to this number of people in this restaurant was mind blowing; certainly puts industrial food manufacture into perspective.
The food was fascinating however the taste... well let's just say, it was very... medicinal.
Master Wan (interpreted by Louise) told us that he used to be the food taster for Deng Xiaoping (Leader of the Communist Party). This was to not only taste the food; in terms of quality and/or in case of poison but to also check the authenticity of the herbs and establish a sound chi balance.