This section is from the book "The Beverages of the Chinese; Kung-fu or Tauist Medical Gymnastics; the Population of China; A Modern Chinese Anatomist and A Chapter in Chinese Surgery.", by John Dudgeon. Also available from Amazon: Kung Fu, or Taoist Medical Gymnastics.
The Tauists pretend, when they have gazed for a long time, first on one side then on the other, in regarding the root of the nose, that the torrent of thought is suspended, that a profound calm envelopes the soul, and a preparation for a doing-nothing inertia which is the beginning of the communication with spirits.
Regarding respiration, there are three ways, - one by the mouth, one by the nose, and inspiration by the one and expiration by the other. In the three modes of respiration, sometimes it is the inspiration that is, as Amiot puts it, precipitee, filee, pleine or eteinte; sometimes it is the expiration, sometimes also both. The other principal differences which lie at the base of Kung-fu in respiration, as noted by Amiot, are inspiration and expiration by sifflement, haleinee, sauts, repetition, attraction, and deglutition.
It has now been said in what Kung-fu consists. It lies with art to choose and combine them, to change and repeat them according to the malady which it is sought to cure. The morning is the best time for it. After the sleep of the night, the blood is in a state of greater repose, the humours are more tranquil, and the organs more supple, especially if one has been careful to sup lightly. Fat persons, or those charged with humours, gain it always by eating nothing at night; and this preparation is absolutely necessary for certain maladies.
In Amiot's Notice, twenty figures are given illustrative of the text. In each of the postures, the principal thing is to respire in a particular manner a certain number of times, and to proportion the length of the Kung-fu to the malady. The body is either half nude or dressed, and the position is either standing or sitting. There are series of each. In respiration, the' mouth must be half full of water or saliva. Various potions, decoctions, and drugs, are ordered to be taken before or after Kung-fu; they seem to have been added in the course of time, to facilitate the effects.
Amiot dispensed with entering into greater details, as Kung-fu was only a bagatelle, or at least may be so merely; yet, as he might fail to make his meaning clear, and as otherwise, as he says, it is always good to speak to the eyes, he had figures copied to give an idea of the subject. In a few words, he indicates the different maladies which they are said to cure, in order that the European physician may be in a position to pronounce on this singular practice. Of the twenty figures drawn, although seventeen are given for the sitting posture, it would be necessary, he says, to add many more to give all the attitudes and positions which are blended with the posture; "but in truth we have not had the courage to copy out a larger number," or, as Hue says in speaking of current facts in Chinese medicine, he prefers to abstain because, says he, "Le vrai peut quelquefois n'etre pas vraisemblable." Amiot says - "The account which we have under our eyes is in a manner so obscure and in terms so bizarre that we have not ventured to risk a translation of it." If some alleviation to the ills of humanity is the result of it, he will believe himself well recompensed for the courage he has had in risking the Notice.
The physical and physiological principles of the art are the following, and I am indebted to M. Dally for this resume.
I. - That the mechanism of the human body is altogether hydraulic, that is to say, that the free circulation of the blood, of the humours (i.e., the lymph), and of the spirits, and the respective equilibrium which modifies their movements and their reciprocal action, being all the time the weight and the wheels of the human body, the health subsists only by this circulation, and this equilibrium, wherein it is re-established, only by their re-establishment.
2. - That the air, which without cessation enters the blood and the lymph through the lungs, being as the balance which tempers and restores their fluidity, can neither be re-established nor subsist of itself.
The consequences of these two principles are: - 1. - That the circulation of liquids in the human body having to conquer the two great obstacles of weight and friction, everything which tends to diminish the one or the other will aid in re-establishing it when it is altered. 2, - As the activity and elasticity of the air increases the fluidity of the liquids, and facilitating by that means their movement, all that tends to increase or diminish the force and volume of them in those of the human body, ought to accelerate or retard their circulation. These principles and consequences being supposed, the defenders of Kung-fu enter into very great details, to approximate it to the sympathetic correspondence of the different parts of the body, the action and reaction of the great organs of the circulation, of the secretion of the lymph, of the digestion of the aliments, etc. So much for the principles. What of the theory?
There are the two essential principles of Kung-fu, the posture of the body, and the mode in which respiration is quickened, retarded, and modified.
1. - If we look at the circulation of the blood, lymph, and spirits, on the side of the obstacles which the weight opposes to it, and of the friction which retards it, it is evident that the mode in which the body is straight or bent, lying or raised, the feet and hands stretched or bent, raised, lowered or twisted, ought to work in the hydraulic mechanism a physical change which facilitates or impedes it. The horizontal situation, being that which diminishes the greatest obstacle of the weight, is that also which is most favourable to the circulation. That of being upright, on the contrary, leaving all its resistance to the action of the weight, ought necessarily to render the circulation more difficult. For the same reason, according as one holds the arms, the feet, and the head, raised, or inclined, or bent, it ought to become more or less easy for it. This is not all; that which retards it, in one place, gives it more force, where it does not find any obstacle; and, from that time, it assists the lymph and the blood to overcome the engorgements which obstruct their passage there. One can further add that, the more it has been impeded in one place, the more its impetuosity brings it back there with force when the obstacle is removed.