"When you drink the water, remember the spring"
- Chinese Proverb
Periodically I travel throughout the United States to study how Chinese people do qigong early each morning. [see my "Qigong in the Park “ - Qi Journal, Fall 2009] .
I discovered one set of movements that appeared to be favored and preferred above all others. I saw it at Tompkins Square Park in the lower east side of Manhattan. I saw fragments of it scattered in the qigong of people on the Boston Common, and in New York City’s China Town at Columbus Park, and in Washington Square Park in San Francisco. I saw the whole form (with its second variant version) being done by almost one hundred people on in Madison Park in Oakland’s Chinatown. (Later I was to learn that even my wife does it: her instructor, Huan Zhang often uses it as a warm up to his Yang Style Taijiquan.)
I didn’t know what it was called until I went to a favorite place of mine, the New China Book Store in San Francisco—sadly they just closed. As usual, I asked for and bought everything they had on qigong (even the books in Chinese). Once again the majority of what I purchased was about THAT form. Finally I learned its name (both in English and Chinese): The most popular, and I believe the fastest growing,qigong practiced in the world today is Taiji Qigong in 18 Movements (太极气功十八式); it is often abbreviated as Shibashi (“Eighteen Types/Forms/Styles”). Today in China all students of Traditional Chinese Medicine (roughly estimated to be one hundred thousand men and women) are required by the Government to study the Shibashi of Lin Housheng.
I subscribe to Google Video Alerts which notifies me of any new qigong videos on the Web. I receive notification of about three “releases” a day. The one most common form that is presented—although it may not be called that, and curiously often never even mentions who really created it—is the Taiji Qigong – Shibashi. I just noticed that Fabrice Piché has been trying to correct that gross error by adding the truth that Lin Housheng is in fact the father of Shibashi.
Qigong—by various other names—is over 2,000 years old. But its classic forms—(and here I am not talking about what is popularly called “Tai Chi”)—usually have only hints, or offer myths, about the lives of their creators. With Shibashi that has changed: at last we can begin to find out about the actual historical circumstances and events that surround the birth of a major qigong form.
Lin Housheng (林厚省) – A Short Biography of the Creator of Shibashi
Lin Housheng was born on the 16th of September 1939 in the city of Fuqing, in Fujian Province, located in the lower southeastern corner of China. His father died when he was three years old. From childhood on, he loved the development of the human body through physical training. At age fifteen he began studying with a Southern Shaolin monk. As in the tradition, this monk is never named.
Lin Housheng graduated from Shanghai Physical Education University in 1964. His major was in aquatic sports and Wushu (martial arts, or what is popularly called “Kung Fu”). His excellent grades enabled him to remain in Shanghai, where he took a job as a researcher at the Shanghai Physical Education Science Research Institute, which soon was closed because of the Cultural Revolution. Then he was transferred to a high school to teach physical education.
On May 6, 1966 The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was officially unleashed creating social chaos throughout the country. In the State controlled press qigong was called “a rotten relic of feudalism” - “rubbish of history” – “a poisonous weed.” People who practiced qigong were called “counter-revolutionary” or “class enemy.”
Despite the possible threat of being mercilessly beaten, forced into slave labor, imprisoned, or even brutally murdered along with his wife and infant daughter, Lin Housheng secretly practiced his qigong and tai chi for many hours late into the night. This intensive hard work was to lead to many amazing achievements in the years ahead.
"In 1968, at age 29, during his practice, an abnormal feeling suddenly began running throughout his body. His nervous system suddenly became extremely stimulated. He became excited, full of intense feelings of what it meant to be alive. The entire world around him turned into magnificent golden light. He felt his life energy (qi), like a flowing spring, running inside his body, smoothly circulating through the Governing and Conception Vessels [the energy meridians in the back and front of the body]. Then suddenly, this circular flow split into two strong pathways of qi, each flowing down from his shoulders, and out of his two palms. He realized this was exactly what his teacher had told him before about External Qi.” -- [translated fromLin Houxing Qi Gong Shi Jie, 1992]
On October 6, 1976, one month after the death of Mao Zedong, the insanity of the Cultural Revolution ended. Now Lin Housheng could come out of hiding and use the enormous skills that he had acquired over the years. But first he needed to answer the many skeptics in the government and elsewhere who claimed that Qigong was a meaningless superstitious relic from the past. To this mechanistic scientific Marxist establishment he set out to prove that Qigong was not some fake and fraudulent “witchcraft.”
To do this he became the central subject of the experiments of a famous nuclear scientist, Gu Hansen. On March 10, 1978 Lin Housheng projected external qi from his hands which she measured with modern scientific devices. Low frequency, infrared ray modulations, and electromagnetic waves were detected. Qi was now scientifically shown to exist [at least the Qi that Lin was sending].
“It is the first time that the physical nature of qi was proven. The publication of the results of the experiment created waves within the country, aroused interest and drew the attention of numerous scientists towards qigong research. Their heroic undertaking had a determining effect on the rise of qigong in contemporary China.” David A. Palmer. Qigong Fever. Columbia University.
This lead to an increased interest in Lin Housheng and his abilities. The next year, 1979, Lin successfully demonstrated his qigong skills at China's State Council (Beijing) to three Deputy Prime Ministers and over 300 scientists.
In the same year, 1979, Lin Housheng combined elements of Tai chi and Qigong to create the first set of eighteen exercises that made up Taiji Qigong – Shibashi.
1980 was an exciting year. His book, Qigong Makes Health (气功使人健康) was published. It was the first book about qigong to appear after the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Then on June 21 a truly amazing thing took place:
“On June 21, 1980 at Shanghai No. 8 People’s Hospital, a unique surgical operation took place which made world news. A qigong master, Lin Hou Sheng from the Chinese Medicine Research Institute stretched out his right hand and pointed his index and middle fingers at Yin Tang (an acupuncture point) between the eyebrows of the patient. Through his fingertips he emitted wai qi (externally projected qi) from a distance of about 3 centimeters on a 29 year old female patient. After three minutes, he nodded to the surgeon who then picked up his sharp scalpel and commenced a surgical operation on a thyroid tumor.
The patient received no additional anesthesia, remained conscious throughout, and did not show even the least sign of pain during the 140 minute operation. When a walnut sized tumor was removed and shown to the patient, a smile lit up her face.(Lin Housheng continued to perform many other successful qigong procedures at the hospital.)
…. Since the mid 1980's, due in part to the attention generated by Lin, renewed interest in Qigong and Qigong healing developed into a national fad in China.” Medical Qigong: A Vital Branch of Oriental Medicine, by Jampa Mackenzie Stewart; at http://taoofmedicine.com/qigong/
“Largely triggered by Lin’s work an astonishing qigong craze was taking place in China: By the middle of the 1980s, there were 2,000 qigong organizations and between 60 and 200 million practitioners across China. This represented almost one fifth of the Chinese population.”
Lin Housheng had become a Chinese Qigong “Superstar.” The first edition of 150, 000 copies of his book, Qi Gong is the Answer to Health, sold out in one month in 1985. [Paul Dong. Chi Gong: The Ancient Chinese Way to Health, pg. 117].
By 1987, Lin treated the wife of the mayor of Shanghai. That mayor, Jiang Zemin , in two years would become the most powerful person in China: The General Secretary of the Communist Party.
In 1989 he came to the United States to participate in a research project at San Diego State University. He became a citizen of the United States in 2010.
In the 1990’s--and continuing into the 21st century—Lin Housheng tours the world, especially in the countries of Southeast Asia, presenting for local Taiji Qigong Shibashi Associations. His audiences often consist of many thousands of people.
In 2011 he toured Malaysia and Taiwan. In the fall 2012 he expects to tour Malaysia and Taiwan once again.
Presently he lives in Los Angeles County, California in a largely Asian community---(he never learned to speak English). In his many tours of Asia he resides in the city where he first found fame, Shanghai.
In October, 2011 the author interviewed Lin Housheng with his daughter functioning as translator.
Q: Do you still practice sending External Qi for healing?
LHS: Yes, sometimes. But I invented a similar device to replace my external Qi for healing.
Q: What are you doing now?
LHS: I am mostly retired, but I’m often invited to tour Shibashi associations in different Asian countries, and giving lectures about Shibashi and Qigong.
Q: What was the most exciting thing that has happened in your life?
LHS: The most exciting things are pioneering qigong anesthesia, researching on qigong's materialism, inventing qigong medical devices to replicate external qi, and creating various sets of Shibashi.
MORE ABOUT SHIBASHI
“The formulation of “The 18 Movements of Taiji Qigong was based on some movements of the “Taiji Quan coupled with the Qigong breathing.” -- Lin Housheng
Lin Housheng took certain gestures from Taijiquan and modified, often simplifying, them to create a new qigong of relatively easy to do slow and gentle movements. For example, Shibashi begins with a version of the first movement from most tai chi forms “Step Out, Raise and Lower Hands.” Shibashi Set 1, no. 10 has “Waving Hands Like Clouds,” which resembles a tai chi form of the same name, but without the moving feet.
How it came to be
Question to Ping Lin (Lin Housheng’s daughter): “Did any government commission — such as the ‘State Physical Culture and Sports Commission’ order your father to produce a qigong for all the people? Or did he build Shibashi, and then present it to the government?”
Ping Lin: “The Government received good reports about my father and his work. He then got permission to promote Qigong. That is why he came up with the Shibashi, an easy to do exercise for regular people.”
Unlike older historical qigong forms, the original version of Shibashi is easily obtainable. Using an internet browser for video and typing “18 taiji qigong Master Lin Hou” will present you with the first Taiji Qigong. However, thanks to Lin Housheng’s creativity, there are many other Shibashi forms. What Lin actually did was to construct a total six different sets of eighteen movements each giving a grand total of 108 exercise forms. Set 1 came out in 1979. Set 2 was available in 1988. Other Sets continued appearing in the 1990’s and into the new century. In 2009 a DVD was released consisting of Lin’s favorite 36 movements taken from the past Sets.
What it will do for you
Simply doing the gestures of Shibashi as a gentle exercise will bring about the positive results of relaxation, gentle stretching and muscular development. It becomes more of a qigong when the person practicing the forms becomes aware of the life energy streaming through their arms, legs, and body. The possible results increase when the mind and breath more actively enter the process to direct and guide the qi.
Nevertheless the primary purpose of Shibashi is health. The wave-like, fluid motions of the exercises stimulate the flow of blood throughout the entire body -- (Lin Housheng believes that the qi resides in the blood). In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sickness is thought to be caused by excesses or depletions or stagnation of the qi. Shibashi can help to rectify such imbalances to bring about a state of well-being. Physical and emotional problems are washed away in the increased flow of the life energy of qi. Here is an example: the third form of Taiji Qigong no. 1 is “Painting a Rainbow.” For this you turn the torso and arms from side to side. This regulates the qi flow to all the organs of the torso (called the “Triple Burner,” or “Triple Heater” in TCM). It also seems to massage and stimulate the endocrine glands—thyroid, thalamus, adrenals—and the lymph nodes in the neck, under-arms, and groin. That may help prevent the two biggest killers for all people: cancer and heart disease. In many Shibashi forms the arm and head movements alternate from left to right, this may help to harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Shibashi’s gentle movements may be practiced by young and old alike to increase energetic vitality, rejuvenate the body, mind and soul, and gain more physical agility and flexibility. It also may be an aid to loose weight, reduce emotional tension, and improve concentration; as well as gain more intuitive creative power. Although not often mentioned in the existing literature, it may lead to deeper spiritual experiences, since in its more advanced practice, internal conscious life energy (qi) may be experienced as joined to external life energy (non-local consciousness, or the divine presence in everything and everyone). As Lin Housheng showed with his External Qi, truly amazing things may happen.
A special thank you must go to Ping Lin, Lin Housheng’s daughter, who graciously worked through my ignorance to supply the insights only a child knows about their father. Si Ying Wu graciously helped with some of the difficult translations from Chinese to English. And especially to Fabrice Piché for putting this article on the internet. However for any mistakes in the text no one is to blame but the author.
About Tai Chi Grandmaster He Weiqi: Some of the information about Shibashi on the internet says that it was created by He Weiqi and Lin Hou Sheng. Apparently this is not so. Lin Hou Sheng’s daughter on a telephone told me, “He Weiqi added nothing to Shibashi no. 1, and only minor things [to Set 2] when she was my father’s assistant promoting Shibashi Set 2 in Malaysia in 1988.”
The author occasionally teaches Shibashi in the Boston area. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.