Baduanjin
(Eight Pieces of Brocade)
八段錦

                  Baduanjin is a set of eight individual modules of movements that were created by the ancient Chinese as a method of promoting and restoring health.  “Baduan” (eight pieces) refers to the eight modules; “jin” (brocade) is descriptive of the elegance and the value of the eight internal energy training movements.  The set is distinguished by the refined movements, with just the right amount of activity.  The movements in each training module focus on the preventive and curative needs of the targeted organ or meridian.  They work to open the qi (energy) channels and re-adjust the functioning of the organs.  It is an excellent internal training method for the opening the twelve yang, or regular channels, as well as the ren and  du channels (任督二脈) among the eight extra channels.  It stands out from among all the ancient Chinese qigong training methods as a fine example of the combined use of active and passive internal training and enjoys a pre-eminent position in the history of the development of Chinese qigong.

          Baduanjin dates back to the time of the Nan Bei Dynasties (South and North Dynasties  南北朝) in Chinese history (220 – 581 C.E.). Yangxingingyanminglu(養性延命錄) written by Tao Hong Jing (陶弘景)of the Nan Dynasty makes mention of some movements and forms which are remarkably similar to some of those in Baduanjin.  This establishes the link between Baduanjin and Yangxingingyanminglu.

          The earliest mention of the name, Baduanjin, was in Yijian Zhi (Stories Heard by Yijian 夷堅志), from the Northern Song Dynasty (1123-1202 C.E.), but there was no mention of the actual details of the training routine.  There were two different versions of Baduanjin in the Southern Song Dynasty as recorded in Pivot of the Way (Dao Shi 道樞).

          Baduanjin flourished in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.  Several different versions of Baduanjin were being practiced simultaneously during this period.  Among these, one was Seated Baduanjin and the other Standing Baduanjin.  There were also Northern Baduanjin and Southern Baduanjin, each with its own characteristic training style.  Northern Baduanjin uses the bow and arrow stance, together with bold and forceful movements; hence it is often known as “martial Baduanjin.”  Southern Baduanjin, on the other hand, uses the high stance. The movements are agile, soft and gentle; thus, it is also known as “elegant Baduanjin.”

          Although Baduanjin formally came into existence in the Song Dynasty, its basics have been recorded in various ancient qigong texts, especially writings on curative qigong.  This indicates that Baduanjin is the distillation of a variety of ancient curative qigong and health-inducing qigong methods.  It is comprehensive, easy to remember and is particularly suitable for middle-aged and senior practitioners.  This explains its appeal and its influence.

          Through the eight hundred years of its existence, Baduanjin has undergone a number of changes, both in form and substance.  However, since it became formalized in the Qing Dynasty, it has remained the favourite health exercise of the masses.  It is particularly effective in strengthening the body, maintaining youthfulness and warding off illnesses.

          With its eight-hundred-year history, Baduanjin is considered a treasure of the Chinese healthy-living culture.  It stresses movements that are slow and gentle, flexible and consistent, relaxed, free and extended. It combines tightness and elasticity, activity and passivity.  The spirit and the form are unified; where the mind goes, the form follows, while qi presides over all.

          Standing Baduanjin, which is currently the most frequently practiced version, is recorded in “Baduanjin Internal Training Method” by an unnamed writer and which is an attachment to Illustrated Yijinjing (易筋經圖說 ) published in the Qing Dynasty during the reign of the Emperor Xian Feng (咸豐).

          The mnemonic for practicing Standing Baduanjin is as follows:

Two hands hold up the heavens to stimulate the triple energizer
meridian (Sanjiao 三焦)
Drawing the bow on left and right to shoot the hawk
Raise one hand if treating the kidneys and the spleen
Look backwards for the five kinds of exhaustion seven types of injuries
Shake the head and shake the tail to remove excessive heat
Two hands hold the feet to strengthen the kidneys and waist
Clench the fists and glare fiercely gives you general vitality and muscular strength
Bouncing on the toes to drive out a hundred illnesses

          Baduanjin has withstood the test of time which is evidence for its efficacy.  Its design is based on the theory of “Midnight-midday Ebb Flow,” (子午流注)which, in turn, is based on the theory of “Correspondence between Nature and Human.”  During their evolution over 3.5 billion years, natural creatures, including man, have developed a rhythm which echoes that in nature.  In China, the knowledge of the biological rhythm dates back to ancient times and is known as the “Theory of Midnight-Midday Ebb Flow;” in western terms, this is known as “circadian rhythm.”  The theory states that in a twenty-four period, within the human body, the twelve yang (regular) channels experience their own ebb and flow.  The lung meridian is at its peak during the hour of yin (寅時), which is the time period between 3 to 5 a.m.  The hour of yin and not the hour of zi (子時) marks the beginning of the daily circulation of the internal qi.  In Chinese philosophy, the heavens start with the hour of zi (子時), the earth with the hour of chou (丑時), and man with the hour of yin (寅時).  Man must wait until the heavens and the earth are formed before he comes into being.  The peak hour for the large intestines is from 05h to 07h, during the hour of mao (卯時); in Baduanjin, the movement “Two Hands Hold up the Heavens” which triggers the yang qi is followed immediately by the movement “Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk” which stimulates the qi in the lungs and the large intestines.  The stomach reaches its peak hour between 07h to 09h – the hour of chen (辰時) – the spleen between 09h to 11h – the hour of si (巳時)- thus, the third movement, “Raise One Hand,” is intended for the re-adjustment of the spleen and the stomach.  The order of the movements is governed by the order of the ebb and flow of the internal qi in the meridians.  For the same reason, the heart reaches its peak between 11h to 13h, the hour of wu (午時), the small intestines between 13h to 15h, the hour of wei (未時); hence the fourth and fifth movements are “Look Backwards for the Five Kinds of Exhaustion Seven Injuries” and “Shake the Head and Shake the Tail to Remove Excessive Heat.”  This is followed by the hour of shen, from 15h to 17h. (申時) when the bladder reaches its peak, then the hour of you (酉), between the hours of 17h to 19h, which governs the kidneys, and which are helped by the sixth movement “Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist.”  The hour of xu (戌時), from 19h to 21h, is when the pericardium meridian (心包經)reaches its peak,  the hour of hai (亥時), from 21h to 23h, is the peaking time for the triple energizer meridian, as mentioned previously.  Between 23h to 01h, during the hour of zi (子時) is the peak time for the gallbladder meridian, while from 01h to 03h, the hour of chou (丑時), the liver meridian is at its peak; hence the seventh movement is “Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely,” which stimulates the qi in the liver and gallbladder meridians.  The final movement, “Bouncing on the Toes to Drive out a Hundred Illnesses”, is the summing up of all the benefits of the entire set, which explains the “boast” that it will drive out a hundred illnesses.  In traditional Chinese Daoist qigong, both the principle and the objective are the correspondence between nature and man.  Any form of training, if it is close to or corresponds with nature, then it is a beneficial form of training.  In this philosophical world view, man is regarded as the microcosm; alternately, we can also say that the universe is the “macro-man.”  To attain the state when nature and man work as one, the flow of qi in the body will need to closely correspond with the flow of qi in nature.

          Of course, there is the question of whether the theory of “Midnight-midday Ebb Flow” can withstand the test of time, or if the theory is mere empty talk.  The understanding we now have of the circadian rhythm is precisely the evidence that shows that the theory of “Midnight-midday Ebb Flow” is realistic and convincing.  This, in turn, explains the lasting appeal and efficacy of Baduanjin over the last eight hundred years.

Appendix 1:
Daoist Baduanjin Mnemonic

          Daoist Baduanjin is an exercise consisting of eight modules that was developed by the ancients using the concept of bagua (or “eight symbols”八卦).  It uses an eight-line mnemonic to assist the learner in remembering the movements.  It follows the Manifested, or Later Heaven, Bagua (後天八卦), starting with the trigram qian (乾)in the northwest and ends with the trigram dui (兌) in the west.  For better results, the practitioner should perform the exercise following the directions indicated.  This was designed with the principle of electro-magnetic fields in mind.  In training, when the practitioner faces the designated direction for each movement, he will gain additional benefits.

Below is the mnemonic:

Raise the head to smooth the triple energy meridian (qian, heaven)
Left liver right lung like shooting a hawk (kan, water)
Hold the feet to strengthen the kidneys and waist (gen, mountain)
Look backwards to treat five kinds of exhaustion and seven injuries (zhen, thunder)
Bouncing the toes to readjust the internal organs (xun, wind)
Move the tail like a fish in water to remove excess heat (li, fire)
Clench the fists to enhance the blood flow (kun, earth)
Separate heaven and earth to stimulate the spleen and stomach (dui, lake)

Appendix 2:
In Huorenxinfa (活人心法), there is a record of Seated Baduanjin under the section Baduanjin Qigong.  The routine is as follows.

In a sitting position, close the eyes and focus. Clench the fists and calm the mind.  Click the teeth thirty-six times.  Hold both hands behind the back of the head. Do a drumming motion twenty-four times at the tiangu(天鼓)at the back of the head.  Turn the neck in a slight swaying motion.  Move the tongue to stimulate the flow of saliva.  Move the saliva around the mouth in a rinsing motion thirty-six times until the mouth is full of saliva.  Allow the saliva to go down in three small swallows while focussing the mind on sending the saliva down to the navel.  Hold the breath and rub the hands to generate heat, then rub the back (jingmen) with the hands.  In one breath, focus on generating heat in the navel.  Sway the body to left and right.  Stretch out the feet.  Cross the hands and hold them palm up, stretch and grip the feet.  Wait until the saliva flow is stimulated, rinse the mouth with the saliva and swallow.  Repeat three times and swallow the saliva nine times.  Allow the saliva to go down audibly and the meridians will readjust themselves.  Focus on the qi circulating between the ren and  du channels (任督二脈).  This exercise is called Baduanjin.  Practice after the hour of zi (子時) and before the hour of wu (午時) everyday without interruption.  This is the way to resisting illness and strengthening the body.