"Life is cultivated by sports." This is a popular saying in modern China. In fact this idea was appreciated by doctors in all the previous dynasties. Hua Tuo said, "Human beings must do physical work. Necessary physical work promotes digestion, smoothes blood flow and prevents diseases." Sun Simiao said, "The key to health cultivation is to do some physical work regularly. Physical work prevents the onset of various diseases."
Such an idea about work and health can be traced far to the antiquity. In a picture about dao yin (a sort of physical exercise practiced in ancient times) unearthed from a tom of Western Han Dynasty in Ma Wang Dui, Hunan Province, showed that different ways of exercise could cure different diseases. In another book entitled Yin Shu unearthed from a tomb of Han Dynasty in Hubei Province, the procedure for reduction of lower jawbone was thoroughly described. This shows that the definition of dao yin in ancient times was to cure diseases through exercise. During the period of Three Kingdoms, Hua Tuo formulated a sort of exercise called wu qin xi (frolics of five animals). Ever since then, the concept of dao yin changed from curing diseases to cultivation of health.
Frolics of five animals is an exercise developed by imitating the movement of tiger, deer, bear, ape and crane under the influence of the theory of wu xing (five elements).It was said that Wu Pu, the student of Hua Tuo, practiced this frolics every day and still enjoyed good haring and vision in his 90th year.
Another method for health cultivation recognized and adopted into its system by TCM is qi gong. According to some researchers, some schools of qi gong have been practiced for over one thousand years. Classical literature shows that qi gong is closely related to Buddhism and Daoism (or Taoism as known to some people in the West). However in the books compiled by doctors in the previous dynasties, no record of qi gong can be found. This shows that the relationship between qi gong and TCM was not quite close.
In the 1950s, qi gong began to be practiced in some sanatoriums and gradually popularized all through China. Some academic institutes and organizations were set up to study the theory and practice of qi gong.