jeudi 17 mars 2011

Yangsheng : Art of nourishing the vital principle (second part)

Since the Song dynasty, texts on Taoïst alchemy are talking about Yangsheng as a practice for mutual maintain of xing and ming ( xingming shuangxiu / 性命双修).

In the book "Traité d'alchimie et de physiologie taoïste" (Treatise of Taoïst alchemy and physiology), which major content is a translation in french of the "Weisheng shenglixue mingzhi" (clear explanations on physiology and hygiene) by Zhao bichen, the author, professeur Catherine Despeux, enlightens us on the notions of xing and ming :

"The caracter xing is made of the life radical
dded to the heart radical. It represents the proper nature, the essence of the being. Ming is the destiny fixed by the sky for a man, the amount of life which was offered to him at his birth. It is also the being considered in space and time. We could use here the work of Heiddeger and translate those two notions as the being and the being there. According to Granet, xing is the vertical manifestation of the being and ming is its horizontal manifestation in the space."

Xingming guizhi, birth of the embryo

In the "Collection of essential principles on the xing and ming"
(xingming guizhi), taoïst book from the 17th century, it is said (from a translation in french by Catherine Despeux) :
"Body, mind and thoughts make three families. When they meet, the embryo is finished. Essence, breath and spiritual energy have three different origins. When they return to the one, the cinnabar is accomplished. To make the three go back to one, one must be in quietness and have an empty mind."

Mi jingke, shield and spear stance

In her book "
Dachengquan shiyong xueshuo",
Mi jingke, one of Wang xiangzhai's disciples, talks about the importance of the "forget yourself" and "enter the quietness" - two expressions from the Chan buddhism - to make the practice really beneficial. This reminds us the deep bonds that exist between the two major chinese religions accross history : the taoïst idea of "embryo" does also exist in the Buddhism as soon as the 8th century by the name of "Holy embryo"and the xingming guizhi showes its close relashionship with the notion of Dharmakaya, the Buddha nature that everyone has inside of him.

When it come to therapeutic zhanzhuang, it has been developped in the 50's by Wang xiangzhai and some of his disciples, in collaboration with different hospitals and medical research institutes, like Beijing city and Hebei province medical research institutes.

Wang yufang, teaching zhanzhuang to a paraplegic

Many positif results have been noticed on different affections after a regular
practice of
Among others, high blood pressure, chronic hepatitis, hemiplegia, polyarthritis, depression and other psychic affections had been, at the time, treated by zhanzhuang and followed in its different stages of progression by scientists and doctors. Basically, a general improvement of health, caracterised by a better appetite and sleep, could be noticed during the first weeks of practice, sometimes even during the first days. An action on the production of white blood cells by the organism has also been noticed (increase of the production or decrease and stabilization, according to the case).

Madam Wang yufang, yougest daughter of master Wang xiangzhai, published many books on this subject and
"Yiliao tiyu huibian, hunyuan jianshen fa" (Collection of medical and sport texts, Hunyuan method for strengthening the body) might be the most complete one. This book contains many papers and training methods from her father, her own papers and, among them, "31 postures of yiquan", which is a more complete version of the 24 postures standardized by Wang xiangzhai and Yu yongnian.

Madam Wang yufang shows some shili moves

So, the practice of Yangsheng contained in the yiquan / dachengquan has been developped as a way for recovering a good health. Its foundation is to "maintain the vital principle" (yangsheng), that we can sometimes in modern chinese texts find with the expression "to protect the vital principle" (weisheng).

But, as the master Li jianyu, disciple of Wang xiangzhai, tells us in his own book "Shenyiquan, yangshenggong" (Divine intention boxing, training to maintain the vital principle) : zhanzhuang's practice is to look for move inside immobility. This all starts in the mind but has consequences on the body, at first, and then, even, to outside of the body !

And this reminds us the origin of yangshenggong, more than just a practice for health...

dimanche 13 mars 2011

Yangsheng, the art of nourishing the vital principle

The teaching of Wang xiangzhai, known today as Yiquan or Dachengquan, was established on the basis of the several researches he made during his living. These searches, focused on the chinese tradition, brought him to the creation of a method for the developpment of the human being in harmony with its proper nature. He taught this method, so called zhanzhuanggong, by assimilating it to an antic Yangsheng form (Yangsheng : nourishing life). In his text entitled "Zhanzhuanggong" (the pole standing exercice), he speaks about it in those following words (personal translation) :

"The pole standing (zhanzhuang) is an antic form of the "nourishing life" art (yangsheng) of my country.
More than 2000 years ago, the yellow emperor's book of esoterism (Huangdi neijing) was already speaking about it in those words : " ... In the ancient times, there were men able to understand the mysteries of the sky and earth. Men who had understood the principles of yin and yang, of the vital breath, able to preserve their spirit in loneliness, to make their muscles be one. As a result, they could live as long as the sky and earth ... "
A few hundreds of years later, that kind of exercice became only a way for martial artists to work on their basics."

Yangshengzhuang, by master Wang xiangzhai

But if Wang xiangzhai is quoting the "Huangdi neijing" as the first book which mentioned that art of preserving vitality, the expression Yangsheng was already used in several taoïst classic books. The "Zhuangzi", one of the very classic corpus of Taoïsm from the 3rd century is mentionning it in its chapter 3 "Yangshengzhu" (About nourishing the life).

In a text entitled "Process of nourishing the vital principle in the old Taoïst religion" (Journal asiatique, 1937), Henry Maspero talked about it in these words :

"As it is the original breath, and not the external breath, that you have to make circulate in the body, there is no need to make it enter and to hold it with effort, as some ancestors were doing : No breath holding, which are tiring and sometimes harmful. But it doesn't mean that it is an easy thing to do. On the contrary, it requires a long apprenticeship. "The internal naturaly in the body. It is not something that one has to look for outside of the body ; (but) if one doesn't get explanations from an enlightened master, (all the trial) will be only wasted time and one will never succeed" (Taiqing Wanglao (fuqi) chuan koujue, Daozang, 569)."

Taoïst symbol, the
tripod vase of alchemy

This work on nourishing the vital principle (Yangsheng) is nothing else but the origin of the Taoïst internal alchemy (Neidan).

The goal of this alchemy, in the Taoïst tradition, is to trancend the human nature and reach immortality. Immortality which was regarded in the chinese popular myths as the final state of development that only superiors being could reach. As a reality it was a representation of the ultimate spiritual stage of regression proposed by the Taoïst religion which allow the human being to go back to the primitive way of fonctioning, when it was free of any conditionning...