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How Chi Gong Works on Cancer

[Excerpt from Paul Dong's book, Chi Gong: The Ancient Chinese Way to Health, Paul Dong and Aristide H. Esser, 1990, Marlowe and Company]

Haughtiness invites ruin; humility receives benefits.
-I Ching (The Book of Changes)

Paul Dong has a personal interest in the effect of chi gong on cancer which he explains as follows:

Because several of my relatives and friends died of cancer, I always felt particularly fearful of cancer. When I came across a Chinese book on five chi gong exercise techniques and discovered that chi gong can cure cancer, I became highly interested and started collecting materials on this subject. I also went to China in 1984 to see for myself and found that it is definitely true that chi gong is being used to cure cancer. In the eleven years since 1979, the Chinese have cured hundreds of cancer victims through chi gong, and thousands upon thousands have used chi gong to achieve improvement and to prolong their lives. When news of this spread outside China, many medical professionals from other countries came to mainland China to observe. Members of the staff at Harvard Medical School have shown great interest in this area and have been to China twice to observe the practice. According to the article "Cancer Does Not Mean Death" by Ke Yan,1 an American oncologist (the article doesn't give the doctor's name) visited China and requested an interview with the pioneer of chi gong cancer treatment, Mrs. Guo Lin (1906-1984). Guo Lin said, "Even if I tell you about it, you wouldn't believe me. You'd better find a patient of mine to talk to." The oncologist found quite a few of her patients in the Beijing district chi gong cancer class, spent four days talking with them and saw the facts for himself.

Doctors have taken two contrasting approaches to cancer. The first approach is to consider cancer to be an isolated condition localized at one spot in the body and to attack it directly using chemicals, surgery, or radiation. The second approach, which is gaining more and more prominence today, is to consider the condition of the whole person as the environment for cancer and to strengthen the body's resistance to cancer. This may come under the modem heading of psychoneuroimmunology (discussed in chapter 13) and relies on many factors, including exercise, diet, and mental imaging to combat the disease. Chi gong is part of this second approach.

The use of chi gong cancer treatment in China originated with Ms. Guo Lin, a Chinese traditional painter, mentioned above. In 1949, she was afflicted with uterine cancer and had it removed by surgery in Shanghai. Cancer recurred in 1960. This time it had metastasized to the bladder, and she had another operation in Beijing to remove part of the bladder that was cancerous. When she had another relapse, the doctors gave her six months to live. However, she did not give up hope, and in her struggle against cancer, she remembered that her grandfather, a Taoist priest, had taught her as a child to practice chi gong. She determinedly began to research and practice chi gong, hoping to recover her health in this way. After initial practice with no effect, she turned to the ancient chi gong texts willed to her by her grandfather and created her own exercise schedule. She practiced diligently for two hours every day, and in half a year her cancer subsided. She was strongly convinced of chi gong's ability to cure diseases, and in 1970 started giving lessons in what she called New Chi Gong Therapy. According to Cyrus Lee, Master Guo's therapy is not based on the external energy (Wei chi) of others, but upon the inner energy (Nei chi) of the patient (for these distinctions, review chapter 1, "Special Section on Chi"). Her therapy combines "active and passive exercises in three stages: relaxation (sung jing), concentration (Yi Lian), and breathing (Tiao Hsi)."2

By 1977 Master Guo had achieved spectacular results and proclaimed publicly that chi gong can cure cancer. Cancer victims from all over immediately streamed into Beijing to take part in the chi gong cancer therapy class she had organized. Each day three hundred to four hundred people studied chi gong techniques for cancer treatment with her. Until her death in 1984 she worked tirelessly, curing hundreds of cancer patients while easing the pain and prolonging the lives of thousands more. Mrs. Wong Chung-siu, a student of Guo Lin's currently living in Fremont, California, told Paul Dong that Guo Lin's pinnacle of success came in 1982. Aided by nine assistants she had trained, Guo Lin held nine cancer classes of seventy students each, meeting three times a day. With her nine assistants to help her, she was able over the next two years to travel all over China to twenty provincial capitals to teach and lecture at the request of much local health care and medical departments, and she became a national celebrity before her death in 1984 (twenty years after her life had been given up by Western medicine).

Because Guo Lin had demonstrated that her chi gong techniques were able to cure cancer, people trained in other styles of chi gong were eager to see if they could achieve the same results. Among these other styles, quiet gong and movement gong also demonstrated the same ability to achieve cures or alleviation of cancer. Paul Dong judges from the Chinese literature that movement gong is more effective in curing cancer. The technique used by Guo Lin combines both movement chi gong and meditation chi gong (movement first and quiet gong afterward).


One type of movement of Gong is Flying Crane, which is quite popular in China. According to reports, it has cured many cancer patients. In a journal Qi Gong of the flying Crane, published in Beijing, an article "Fight Cancer with the True Qi", written by Xie Hau,3 states that the Beijing Flying Crane Club invited eleven cancer victims to participate in an experiment. After three months of practicing chi gong, they showed varying degrees of improvement. Among them, Li Shan-cheng showed the most notable effects. Li, fifty-nine years old at the time, had cancer of the esophagus and was unable to eat; in fact, he couldn't even swallow water. He was emaciated. Then he watched a report on TV about chi gong curing cancer and joined a Flying Crane therapy class. After practicing chi gong for ten days, he had a check-up and discovered that his tumor had become smaller, and he was able to eat again. With this encouragement, he practiced chi gong an hour at a time, four times a day. After three months, he had made a complete recovery and went back to work as usual. He credited chi gong with saving his life.

In Hebei province's Tianjin University, the chi gong class for the fourth quarter of 1983 included fifteen cancer victims (the categories were cancer of the liver, the stomach, the mammary gland, and the rectum). After six months to a year of practicing chi gong, not one of them had died. Their conditions showed various levels of improvement, and all of the patients experienced the triple benefit of eating, sleeping, and feeling well. They were also firm in their conviction that "to exercise right is to survive." The styles of chi gong that they practiced were Standing-On-Stake and meditation gong, which will be described in chapters 8 and 12 respectively.

All kinds of cases regarding the cure of cancer with different styles of chi gong are frequently reported in chi gong magazines. The conclusion may be that no matter what chi gong style is used, it is possible to cure cancer. The simple truth is that every style of chi gong adheres to three principles: (a) achieving a state of tranquility, (b) relaxation and release of tension, (c) commitment and development of willpower. And each of these principles is important in one's fight against cancer. In addition, we think that the reason Guo Lin's chi gong was especially effective is that she had her patients train in groups. Group practice is the best way to arouse interest and bring good cheer. Interest helps one concentrate on doing the chi gong exercises, and cheerfulness produces a beneficial effect on the organism. As the first step in curing cancer, Guo Lin had the patients come together as a group and swear an oath to resist cancer, for the purpose of increasing their fighting spirit. Willpower was applied as a healing technique. In a large group of patients (Guo Lin's cancer therapy groups usually consisted of seventy people), there would be one or two of a more sensitive disposition, achieving the beneficial effects of chi gong earlier than the others. As soon as one or two patients had shown good results, the rest of the patients would be encouraged to have greater confidence, and as we know, a positive attitude plays a role in curing disease. Also, if people practice chi gong exercises alone and then fail to achieve results, they are more likely to become discouraged.

One reason for the negative impact of failure acknowledged in Western medicine is that the feeling of helplessness appears to suppress the immune system's ability to resist tumor development.4 On the other hand, fostering positive images appears to strengthen immunological competence.5 Lawrence Leshan has pointed to psychological factors in cancer causation since the fifties.6 Specific methods to fight cancer successfully with visualization techniques were introduced in the U.S. by Carl Simonton, M.D., in the early seventies. 7 Thus there are reasons to think that a positive attitude improves and negative thoughts decrease the immune mechanism's ability to defend the body.

Much, but not all of chi gong's effect is based on entering a state of meditation. In meditation, there are no distractions, depressing thoughts, or worries. The body's functions are able to return to normal by relaxation, which is the key to balancing the circulation of the chi and the blood. In Chinese traditional medical theory, stimulating the circulation of the chi and blood is the main healing method. Additionally, a sense of happiness is achieved in meditation, and that is a major wellspring of increased confidence and fighting spirit.

The several effects described above are important mechanisms for treating any disease. As the term psychoneuroimmunology implies, these mechanisms include both psychological and physiological elements. As we know, the psychological and the physiological aspects operate in interdependent ways. From the physiological point of view, the Shanghai Institute of Medical Science's Institute for the Combined Use of Chinese and Western Medicine has conducted a study on the effects of chi gong and Tai Chi Chuan on elderly people's endocrine systems (the pituitary, thyroid, and sex glands). They invited forty-seven elderly people of the same age, sixty-six years old, to perform chi gong exercises regularly. After doing this for several weeks, the capabilities of their pituitary, thyroid, and sex glands were shown to have increased. This strengthening and stabilizing of the endocrine system can have a beneficial regulating effect on the vigor of the whole body's metabolism.

This is not to suggest that we understand the extent of chi gong's effects on cancer. We do know that practicing chi gong exercises influences many of the body's mechanisms. For instance, it not only raises the capabilities of the endocrine system, but it also has a regulating effect on cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). These two substances play a vital bioenergetic role in phosphorylation, which is the key to respiration and thus the oxygen provision for all of the body's cells. As we will review below, oxygen prevents cancer growth. In addition, cyclic AMP is familiar as an intracellular signal transforming stimuli from outside the cell into a response by the cell and therefore could play an important role in our immune system.

In a recent study, Wang Chong-xing and collaborators at the Shanghai Institute of Hypertension reported at a world conference on chi gong on improvement in the ratio of cAMP/cGMP within one year of chi gong practice.8 It is claimed that the concentration and physiological stability (expressed in a stable ratio) of these two enzyme messengers play major roles in the normal regulation and maintenance of health. It is assumed that cancer cells thrive when the blood cAMP content is low. Ding Shen and other investigators, reporting at the same world conference, have found that the practice of chi gong, among other beneficial effects, increases the cAMP content of the blood which may explain part of chi gong's effect on cancer.

Another important factor in cancer growth is whether or not the body's oxygen content is sufficient. Beijing's Qi Gong and Cancer Research Unit have conducted many experiments on this aspect. When the body is deficient in oxygen, cancer cells grow; and when the body is rich in oxygen, cancer cells die. One explanation for the sense of serenity produced by entering a state of deep meditation through chi gong is the increase in the absorption of oxygen. In ancient China, Taoist priests chose to meditate underneath the pine tree because they had discovered that the pine exudes the greatest amount of oxygen.

The above points are possible explanations by modem science of several mechanisms by which chi gong cures cancer. From the point of view of Chinese traditional medicine, chi gong has the functions of activating the body's vital forces (chi), strengthening the blood's circulation, balancing the yin and the yang, stimulating the conductivity of the meridians and improving the psychological state. Chinese medical theory emphasizes that chi is the driving force of life. The body's health is determined by the strength or weakness of its chi. As soon as the chi is weakened, the "blood is clogged," the yin and yang lose their balance, and disease will result. Research by the Bei Dai He Chi Gong Clinic indicates that after doing a chi gong exercise for a certain period of time (we judge this to be approximately forty minutes), the body's internal regional blood volume increases by 30 percent and the body temperature rises two to three degrees Celsius. For the Chinese, these facts demonstrate the way that chi gong acts to clear the meridians-unclog the blood-and moderate the chi and blood. In other words, when the chi and the blood are flowing freely, the body will maintain physiological balance (the balance of yin and yang), and diseases will disappear of themselves.

In recent years, scientists and medical specialists have been turning their attention to the immune system for the purpose of fighting disease. China took up this point more than two thousand years ago. As The Emperor's Classic state in "Questions and Answers": "Be imperturbable and the true chi will come to you; concentrate the inner spirit and well-being follows." This signifies that if the body's energy is at its full level, it will not sicken. Chi gong exercises bring out and mobilize the body's latent strength, raise the body's energy level, and activate the cells of the immune system, causing a feeling of well-being.


Many studies have demonstrated that people suffering from emotional damage, tension, a low level of energy, depression, and irritability have a markedly higher rate of cancer occurrence. Through the practice of chi gong, especially when reaching the level of the deep meditative state, a whole set of beneficial psychological and spiritual conditions emerge, including emotional well-being, spiritual happiness, stability of mood, and complete relaxation of the body. This directly inspires the patient's confidence of defeating cancer, as well as benefiting the body's dynamic balance, and as a consequence makes a positive contribution to the healing and comfort of the body.

Besides one's own practice of chi gong, another method of treating cancer is through the use of a chi gong expert who can provide relief by transmitting external chi from his body to that of the patient, thereby purportedly killing cancer cells. Dr. Feng Li-da, vice-president, General Hospital of the Chinese Navy, Beijing, and professor of immunology, Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, has done many experiments in this area. She reported that by transmitting external chi for one minute, a chi gong expert can destroy 90 percent of colon and dysentery bacilli, and in ten minutes 60 percent of a flu virus. In sixty minutes, the rate of destroyed uterine cancer cells is also around 60 percent, and that of destroyed gastric cancer cells 25 percent. A twenty-gram tumor on a mouse disappeared within a five-week period of external chi treatment. A few of the experiments referred to above were reported in the following press release of November 28,1983, by the New China (Xinhua) News Agency:

A meeting for the evaluation and demonstration of the action of chi gong on certain bacteria had recently been held, presided over by Feng, Li Da, deputy superintendent of the Navy General Hospital and director of the Immunology Research Division. Test tubes filled respectively with coliform bacillus and dysentery bacteria, golden and white staphylococcus, and virus were handed over one by one to a chi gong master, who held each of the tubes firmly in his hand for a minute to release external energy (chi) at it. A projector displayed the image of each experimental sample on a screen. Under an electronic microscope, the bacteria were shown to be expanding, cracking, and dissolving, being killed by chi gong. From the immunological standpoint, Feng has thus demonstrated that chi energy is an objective reality. Furthermore, she has confirmed that chi gong is effective to a certain degree in treating B-hepatitis. There is also encouraging preliminary evidence of the therapeutic effect of chi gong with respect to the treatment of guinea pigs suffering from ascites ( an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen) caused by cancer. Dr. Feng declared that in mainland China chi gong has now advanced from the prescientific phase to a new epoch in which modern methods are employed in its study. The study of chi gong has been conducive to the development of immunology and other sciences.

Another example: A Japanese cancer victim, Ansei Shonin, who had a tumor in the lower part of his head, deeply imbedded in his nasal cavity. Made a special trip from Japan to Beijing's General Hospital of the People's Liberation Army to undergo external chi treatment. A chi gong expert performed twelve days of external chi treatment, and as a result Ansei Shonin's tumor, as large as an egg, shrunk, and his pain was distinctly eased.

Why external chi works toward strengthening of the cells and the immune responses of the body in the case of healing a disease, and appears to kill or otherwise interrupt and reverse the growth of cells (or bacteria) in the case of cancer (or the influencing of bacterial cultures) is not known. To the best of our knowledge, it is due to the different intent of the qi gong master. This may be similar to visualization or imaging therapy, as applied in Western alternative medical approaches. As part of the therapy, the determination is made in advance whether the patient will visualize growth of healthy or destruction of cancerous cells in his or her own body.

In conclusion, then, cancer victims apparently can achieve effective treatment by practicing chi gong as shown by Master Guo. But one might suggest that if the patient is too weak or for other reasons unable to practice chi gong regularly and vigorously, external chi should be tried as a cure or used as a supplement to chi gong. Finally, as described in the previous chapter regarding practices in the Bei Da Hei Clinic, combinations of "internal" and "external" chi with dietetic therapy and Western medical science may all be attempted when looking for a cure for cancer.


1. Ke Yan, "Cancer Does Not Mean Death," Beijing Literature, July 1982, 43.

2. Cyrus Lee, "Qi Gong (Breath Exercise) and Its Major Models," Chinese Cukure 24 (September1984): 71-79. The description was Guoted by Prof. Lee from Guo Lin's book Hsin Qigong Liao Fa (Hofei: Science and Technology Press, 1980), 4.

3. Xie Hua, "Fight Cancer with the True Qi," Qi Gong of the Flying Crane, Beijing, n.d. 4. See for example, M. Visintainer et al. in Science 216 (1982): 437-40.

5. See for example, P Lansky in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 23 (1982): 496- 503.

6. See for example, Lawrence Leshan, You Can Fight for Your Life: Emotional Factors in the Causation of Cancer (New York: Evans, 1977).

7. O.C. Simonton et al., Getting Well Again (Los Angeles: J. P Tarcher, 1978). 8. Wang Chong-xing et al. in First World Conference for Academic Exchange of Medical Qi Gong, 1988, 85.

Disclaimer: This sort of energy exercise can be used as an addition to any cancer recovery program. But it in no way should be used to replace any cancer therapy prescribed by your physician. We offer no explicit nor implicit opinion on the effectiveness of practicing Guo Lin Chi Kung for those with cancer. It is just our wish to provide information on this so that those interested can have a resource for learning this style.

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