Bachelor of Arts
Cynthia R. Chapman
Marc J. Blecher
Qigong, China, Religion, Spirituality, Science, Marxism, The State, Extraordinary powers, Charisma, Bodies, Zhonggong, Falun Gong
This capstone engages the history qigong, a Chinese method of spiritual and bodily cultivation. Although similar Daoist practices have existed for thousands of years, the term qigong was invented by the Chinese military in the 1950s. Qigong exploded in popularity in China from the early 1980s to the late 90s. The Chinese state promoted, appropriated, regulated, and ultimately suppressed qigong. On one hand, the Chinese Communist Party wanted to measure and order qigong according to orthodox scientific and political principles, thus processing and controlling the explosion of spirituality known as “Qigong Fever.” Yet on the other hand, both within and outside the state, many people witnessed the miraculous power of qigong, came to believe in it deeply, and wanted its spiritual and religious elements to thrive. The interplay of these two approaches—to measure and control vs. to experience and believe—drove the state’s interaction with qigong, fueling qigong’s rise yet causing its fall. Ultimately, the religious elements of qigong operated on their own terms and proved impossible to control.
Cramer, William J., "The Rise and Fall of Qigong" (2020). Honors Papers. 685.