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 animal forces, locomotive or muscular, Yang, and the vegetative forces, secretory or chemical, Yin, are harmonised and held in equilibrium by the physical forces, T'ai-chi; and from this state of equilibrium results life and health. These three forces have contrary tendencies; the Yang tends to produce and perpetuate itself incessantly, the Yin tends to descend to the terrestrial region, and the Fai-chi remounts to its origin, the Tao, the reason of all the visible manifestation. The Yang and the Yin are so united among themselves that they are in a state of reciprocal dependence, and they possess only a certain power of reaction proportioned the one to the other, a power dispensed by the T'ai-chi. It is in the maintenance of this proportionality, of this species of static, physical, chemical, and intellectual equilibrium, that the will, the moral power of man, and the acts by which this will manifests itself, ought to tend incessantly. Now, Kung-fu has been instituted for this object. It is charged with the maintenance or re-establishment of all parts of the body and its faculties in their condition of unity and primitive harmony among them and with the soul, in order that the soul may have at its disposition a powerful and faithful servant for the execution of its will. In other words, and from the Notice of Amiot, Kung-fu is " a real exercise of religion, which, in curing the body of its infirmities, frees the soul from the servitude of the senses," and gives to it the power to accomplish its duties upon the earth and of raising itself freely to the perfection and perpetuity of its spiritual nature in the Tao, the reason of the grand creative power. Thus Kung-fu, in its primitive institution, appears as a souvenir of the Tree of Life, under which man of the first days came, after his labours, to shelter his forces and his health and conserve his soul, still pure, a docile instrument of his will. Such are the principles upon which reposes the theory of Kung-fu of the Chinese, like that of their chemical and pharmaceutical medicine, and also that of their religious, social, and philosophic doctrines; for the Chinese, whatever be their studies of man or the institutions which concern him, carry always their considerations into all the elements of his nature and his constitution. However we may think that the progress of the civilization of the West has not yet arrived at this degree of practical reason, we are certainly astonished to see that, from the first ages of humanity, the priests of Tao were in possession of this grand thought of the unity of the human nature, and that they had made the application of it to all things, even to hygiene and to therapeutics, by movement organised in its relations with the physical, chemical, and psychical laws of the human being.
Indeed, this will be a curious history to write, says Dally, that of these old priests of Tao, - these remains still living of the first Brahmans of India, of the Magi of Chaldea, of the priests of Egypt, of the Druids of Gaul, their contemporaries, diverse sects, - sprung more than 3000 years before our era, from the alteration of the primitive tradition of mankind. Depositories of the tradition, these founders of nations carried the doctrine of Kung-fu from the common cradle into all the countries where they established themselves. Perpetuated whole and complete among the Chinese, we shall find it more or less mutilated and altered among other peoples.
Lao-tse was the founder of the religion of Tao, or rather the restorer of it, as he himself says. He appeared in the 6th century B.C.; and, like Confucius, his rival, the political reformer of China, at the same epoch as Buddha, Zoroaster, Socrates, and Plato, curious synchronisms which prove the providential solidarity of all the fractions of humanity. M. Dally, believing that he hears the distant echo of the religious principle of the Kung-fu in Plato whom he quotes, he concludes this chapter with the words of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Thessalonians (v. 23), where M. Dally recognises the pure tradition of the religious and scientific principle which presides in the doctrine of the Kung-fu: - "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved entire, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
I am indebted for much of what has now been presented, in illustration of this system, to Pere Amiot, and particularly to M. Dally, who has published a large work on the subject, called Cinesiologie on Science du Movement, Paris, 1857, in which he reviews Amiot's Notice. He sums up the subject in these terms.
This art is a very ancient practice of medicine, founded on principles originally pure and free of all the superstition with which it is to-day surrounded. It goes back to a period when the Tauist priests formed an official sacerdotal caste, in the time of Hwang-ti (2698 B.C.).
The art consists in three essential parts: -
1. - It comprises divers positions of the body, the art of varying the attitudes; and it explains how, during these positions and attitudes, the act of respiration ought to be carried on, following certain rules in various inspirations and expirations.
2. - The method has its own scientific language.
3. - It has really operated in the cure of disease, and in the alleviation of many infirmities.
The Chinese, to whatever order they belong, have recourse with eagerness to this mode of therapeutics, when all other means of cure have been tried in vain. Thus, Kung-fu has really all the characters of an ancient scientific method.
So much for the principles and theory of Kung-fu as given by Amiot, and so ably enforced and explained by Dally. The latter entertains higher ideas of the value of Kung-fu than, in my opinion, is warranted. Amiot gives some of the salient points of position and breathing movements for the cure of certain maladies, but has not criticised or pointed out the unscientific ideas of the Chinese, not only regarding their cosmogony or philosophy of creation, but the physiology and anatomy of the human body which in their system are closely correlated, including the number, position, and functions of the viscera, the circulation of the blood, the true cause of the pulse, etc., and which are diametrically opposed to our modern Western medical science. A couple of illustrations, which will be found in the sequel, will explain the Chinese ideas of the human body. Although their theories, however, may be and are wrong, there may be and doubtless is advantage derived from Kung-fu in the prevention and cure of disease, and the strengthening of the body, just as in their therapeutics, although entirely empirical, they are often successful in the treatment of disease.