The Rise and Fall of Wang Lin and Qigong

Jul. 27, 2015 15:42:00

1981年1月2日发,北戴河气功疗养院一名男子在练习名为强壮功的疗养法,左图为盘坐式;右图为站式。新华社贲兰武

A man practicing “Strengthening Exercise” in Hebei Medical Qigong Hospital in 1981. (Photo by Ben Lanwu) 

The ancient Chinese healing art of qigong has suffered another blow with the demise of celebrity guru Wang Lin.

Wang’s rise was a master class of deceit, using his celebrity status to cheat the rich.

That ended when police in Jiangxi Province detained him on July 15 on suspicion of the kidnapping and murder of one of his followers.

It was the final blow to his credibility, which was undermined when he was suspected of illegally owning automatic weapons and practicing medical treatments in 2013.

Everyone is afraid of illness and death. Wang made his fortune from this weakness of human nature, proclaiming the “superpower of qigong”and succeeding in the political, economic and entertainment fields.

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Wang Lin  photo from the Internet

Qigong developed over centuries as a practical and effective way of keeping the body healthy.

It is a set of skills to regulate the body, the breathing and the mind, according to a Chinese book called “Chinese Medical Qigong”.

It developed as a strengthening or therapeutic activity through Chinese traditional ways of exercising and mental relaxation.

Its elevation to a “super therapy”, with “super practitioners” like Wang, was a process that reflects China’s contemporary history.

Liu Guizhen claimed he used qigong to treat his mental illness in the 1950s. He went on to promote and research qigong in Hebei Province, north China.

The Ministry of Health praised him for this success at the opening of the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, since renamed the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, when it was established in 1955.

The public started to learn about qigong when it was first reported in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1956.

The popularity of qigong really took off in the 1980s and 1990s, and a series of qigong-related journals were launched around China.

80年代,北京一场气功宣讲会上,人们集体做功。CFP黄小兵

A group practicing Qigong together in Beijing in the 1980s.  Photo by Huang Xiaobing

The first national qigong organization, the Chinese Academy of Qigong, was set up in 1981. Founding president Qian Xuesen promoted qigong through the academy.

1981年3月4日至4月1日,中国武术、硬气功演出团访问英国。新华社夏道陵

A performance of Chinese martial arts and Qigong in the UK in 1981.  Photo by Xia Daoling

The China Association of Medical Qigong is the current name of the national organization.

1986年,中国气功科学研究会成立,时任科协主席的钱学森在成立大会上演讲,在实质上推动了气功的发展。图为上世纪八十年代,北京一公园内练气功的人群。CFP

People were practicing Qigong in a park in Beijing in the 1980s. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, qigong was transformed from a health regime to a “super therapy”, with millions of fanatical practitioners.

1987年1月10日发,一位“气功大师”利用气功为人催眠。新华社邵军

       A Qigong practitioner trying to hypnotize people in 1987.  Photo by Shao Jun

1987年3月3日发,以气功、点穴治病而闻名的朱鹤亭为保加利亚驻华大使顿切夫治疗高血压和糖尿病。据称,他还治愈过一些友人的糖尿病、帕金森氏症、偏瘫、肺癌、白内障等。新华社唐师曾

       Zhu Heting, a leading Qigong practitioner, treating the Bulgarian ambassador to China for high blood pressure and diabetes. He used to treat his friends for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, lung cancer and cataracts.  Photo byTang Shizeng

1987年4月7日发,上海中医药研究院利用气功“外气”麻醉,为患者进行手术。副所长林厚省(右一)正向准备手术的病人发送“外气”,进行气功麻醉。新华社.jpg

Qigong was practiced as an anesthetic before operations in Shanghai in1987.

1987年11月30日发,气功师运用内功,发放外气,接受者情不禁地手舞足蹈,气功师借此宣传其输导气血、通经活络的绝活。新华社张福来

A practitioner tells an audience how qigong can regulate blood circulation.  Photo by Zhang Fulai

1988年,在北京地坛练习罗汉功的老人。

Elderly people were practicing qigong in Beijing in 1988.

1989年8月31日,6岁、体重47公斤、身高120公分的张楠在练气功,社会上称练气功可以减肥。新华社黄景达

A six-year-old boy who weighed 47kg practiced qigong to help him lose weight in 1989.  Photo by Huang Jingda

 

1989年,北京地坛公园练气功的人。CFP王文波

      A man was practicing qigong in Beijing in 1989. Photo by Wang Wenbo

1989年冬,北京地坛公园练气功的人。CFP黄小兵

       A man was practicing qigong in Beijing in the cold in 1989.  Photo by Huang Xiaobing

1989年冬,北京地坛公园练习罗汉功的民众,罗汉功为一种佛学功法。CFP黄小兵

A crowd were practicing a Buddhist qigong activity in Beijing in 1989.  Photo by Huang Xiaobing

It could be said that qigong flourished because of the suppression of education during the Cultural Revolution, when understanding of the sciences waned.

With the increase in wealth brought by the reform and opening up policy, qigong benefited as people sought new ideas to improve their health and enjoy their leisure time.

It has also replaced traditional medical treatments among those who would choose to avoid medical and invasive treatments to cure their ailments.

Qigong performances have focused on the dramatic, such as swallowing glass, spoon bending or even controlling others’ minds.

Some of these applied little-known science; others just cheated audiences through trickery.

1990年4月16日发,练习“铜钟功”的女子。因其练功姿势似立地铜钟得名。新华社吴元柳

A woman practicing “Exercise of Copper Clock” in 1990.  Photo by Wu Yuanliu

1993年底,在北京妙峰山高级气功强化培训班上,每个学员头上都盖一口锅。这就是历史上有名的信息锅,据说,该锅可以用来接受宇宙的大气场,达成天人感应。

      Members of a qigong workshop put pots on their heads to absorb the energy from the cosmos in 1993.

 

1995年5月24日发,辽宁省气功医学会理事李正洪独创还童功点穴疗法,不打针,不吃药治愈糖尿病。学员们正“一”字排开,互相按摩点穴。新华社郑永吉

Claims that acupuncture could cure diabetes without medicines or injections attracted members to a qigong club in 1995.  Photo by Zheng Yongji

When a massive forest fire swept Heilongjiang Province in1987, qigong leader Yan Xin claimed he successfully put it out by using qigong to call for rain – despite being 2,000 km away.

His claims that he could cure fractures and AIDS and passthrough a wall with qigong drew a lot of media attention.

严新

Yan Xin

In a book called “Superman Zhang Baosheng”, in the 1990s, Zhang claimed he could use his mind to move objects.  He had been involved in a qigong “super therapy” organization in Beijing since 1982.

He was found cheating during a qigong performance on television in 1995, and was later arrested for fraud and harming social order.

张宝胜

Zhang Baosheng

“Super therapy” qigong began to lose its luster in the late 1990s with more reports of such cases.

Growing science and medical knowledge, particularly from the Internet, have diminished its appeal.

More regular forms of qigong such as tai chi and wu qin xi are now gaining followers.

2008年6月2日,北京,一些居民在公园练习气功。Getty Guang Niu

People were practicing qigong in a Beijing park in 2008.

2012年8月21日,中国健身气功欧洲教练员培训班在比利时首都布鲁塞尔开课,来自17个欧洲国家31个

       Eighty-three members of qigong organizations from 17 European countries practice wu qin xi, a series of exercises based on animal movements.  Photo by Wang Xiaojun

 

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