Yi Jin Jing ( Tendon-Muscle Strengthening Exercises ) is a health and fitness exercise handed down from ancient China.It is a Qigong manual containing a series of exercises, coordinated with specific breathing and mental concentration, said to enhance physical health dramatically when practiced consistently. In the modern day there are many translations and distinct sets of exercises all said to be derived from the original (the provenance of which is the subject of some debate). These exercises are notable for being a key element of the physical conditioning used in Shaolin training.
Based on the 12 routines, Yi Jin Jing features key points of the original exercises while putting the theory, skills and effects on the same solid foundation as knowledge of health and fitness Qigong, Traditional Chinese medicine and other related scientific fields.
Yi Jin Jing features extended, soft and even movements displaying a graceful charm, and it puts focus on the turning and flexing of the spine, thus invigorating the limbs and internal organs. These movements have been proved to be able to improve health and fitness, prevent diseases, prolong life and improve the intellect. In particular, practice of the Yi Jin Jing exercises has very impressive effects on the respiratory system, flexibility, balance and muscular strength. It can also prevent and cure diseases of the joints, digestive system, cardiovascular system and nervous system.
According to legend, the Yijin Jing was said to be left behind by Bodhidharma after his departure from the Shaolin Monastery, and discovered within his grave (or hidden in the walls of the temple) years after he had left (or died). It was accompanied by another text, the Xisui Jing, which was passed to a student of Bodhidharma's but has not survived to the modern day.
The monks of Shaolin reportedly practiced the exercises within the text but lost the true purpose of the document; Lin reports the legend that they "selfishly coveted it, practicing the skills therein, falling into heterodox ways, and losing the correct purpose of cultivating the Way. The Shaolin monks have made some fame for themselves through their fighting skill; this is all due to having obtained this manuscript."
Both documents were written in an Indian language which was not well-understood by the monks of the temple; apparently one monk decided that the text must contain more valuable knowledge than simply self-defense, and went on a pilgrimage with a copy of the text to find someone who could translate the deeper meaning of the text. He eventually met an Indian priest named Pramati in the province of Szechwan who, examining the text, explained that the meaning of the text was extraordinarily deep and beyond his ability to translate fully. He nonetheless provided a partial translation. The monk found that within a year of practicing the techniques as Pramati had translated, that his constitution had become "as hard as steel," and he felt that he could be a Buddha. The monk was so pleased that he thereafter followed Pramati wherever he went.
The legendary account may spring from two prefaces which accompany the Yijin Jing. One of these prefaces purports to be written by the general Li Jing in 628 during the Tang Dynasty, while the other purports to be written by the general Niu Gao, a junior officer of the Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. However, there are several inaccuracies and inconsistencies in these forewords that cast doubt on the authenticity of the Yijin Jing.
It was specifically the foreword by Li Jing to which Tang Hao traced the attribution of Shaolin Kung Fu to Bodhidharma. Li Jing's foreword refers to "the tenth year of the Taihe period of Emperor Xiaoming of Northern Wei."The Taihe reign period did not occur under Emperor Xiaoming but under Emperor Xiaowen and, in its tenth year (487 CE), the Shaolin temple did not yet exist according to the Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi, which states that the Shaolin temple was built in the twentieth year of the Taihe era (497 CE), though the Jiaqing Chongxiu Yitongzhi was itself compiled much later in 1820. Li Jing's foreword also claims that he received the manual containing the exercise from the "Bushy Bearded Hero" (???, Qiuran ke), a popular fictional character from a Tang Dynasty story of the same name by Du Guangting (850-933).
Niu Gao's foreword mentions the Qinzhong temple, which wasn't erected until 20 years after the date he claims to be writing. He also claims to be illiterate. Dictation could resolve the question of how an illiterate could write a foreword, but it is almost certain that a general of Niu Gao's stature was not illiterate.
During the 18th century, the scholar Ling Tingkan concluded that the author of the Yijin Jing must have been an "ignorant village master".
Matsuda Ryuchi could attest to the existence of the Yijin Jing only as far back as 1827. Lin Boyuan attributes the Yì Jin Jing to the Taoist priest Zining writing in 1624.
In the course of his research, Matsuda found no mention of-let alone attribution to-Bodhidharma in any of the numerous texts written about the Shaolin martial arts before the 19th century.The Yijin Jing appears to be the source for two other popular Qigong forms which are also attributed to various authors. Both the Eighteen Luohan Hands (also associated with Shaolin) and the Eight Pieces of Brocade (Baduanjin) forms seem like abridged versions of Yijinjing sets. The Baduanjin is sometimes attributed to Yue Fei. Of the many versions of all 3 of the above, some also contain forms from the older Wuqin, or Five Animal Frolics of Hua Tuo.
Other sources around the '50s claim that Yijin Jing was born from the farmers and the people working hard on the fields, and that these exercises would help them in their daily work and are derived from that country life style. Although this claim can be easily brought to political reasons, this is still another possibility. Classic Chinese authors tend to insist on the ancient lineage of this practice, but there is no evidence of the connections to Shaolin systems or to a specific routine.
Yijin Jing - The Forms
Number of exercises tends to change, 18 should be the correct one (according to the 18 Arhats), but can vary from 10 to 24, to 30. Today the most respected routine is that of Wang Zuyuan, composed of 12 exercises, and has been adopted by the most authoritative Academies of Chinese Medicine in China. Chang Renxia together with Chang Weizhen proposed an alternative 14 series, which can be of interest for the therapeutic effects he promises. Deng Mingdao presents a version of 24 series, but with another name, Xisui Jing. In fact, another point of crossing is the relationship between the Xisui Jing and the Yijin Jing. Some authors tend to use those two names for the same routine; others keep things separated and invoke different results and different effects on the body; other authors have written different books and created different theories, sometimes not just for the quest of the final truth.
Tradition YiJinJing form demonstrated by ShaoLin Monk Shi DeQuan with illustration.
The 12 Posture Moving Exercise kept to this day is something that Wang Zuyuan learned at Shaolin Monastery on Mount Song. It is somewhat different from the original "Picture of stationary exercise" and "Guide to the art of attack" (as Guangdong sources refers). Some specialists (Liu Dong) refer of a later integration of Yijin Jing, Daoyin, Tuna and Xingqi methods. However Wang's 12 Postures found to be concise through practice and helps to enhance one's physical health. As the name implies, "sinew transforming exercise" is the method to train the tendons and muscles. The exercise is designed according to the course and the characteristics of Qi circulation in the 12 regular channels and Du and Ren channels. During practice, Qi and blood usually circulates appropriately with proper speed and no sluggishness or stagnation. Because of this efficacy, Yijin Jing has existed for centuries as a favorite with the populace and is still widely used in sanatoria and hospitals for therapeutic purposes. Two ancient written and illustrated routines remained, one from Chen Yi's "A collection of Annals" published during the Ming Dynasty and another more recent published in 1882, from "Internal Work Illustrated", that of Wang Zuyuan.
The 12 Posture Moving Exercise most closely describes what is called the 12 fists of Bodhidharma in Many southern martial arts most notably Hung Gar and Wing chun. Ascribing the 12 exercises to 12 animals that Bodhidharma studied after his 9 years of meditation. The exercises were developed based on the movements of the 12 animals. These exercises healed the sickly monks of Shaolin Monastery, and contribute to the many animal based martial arts in China.
Purposes of Yijin Jing
The Yijin Jing is featured in Louis Cha's Wuxia novel The Smiling, Proud Wanderer. In the story, abbot Fangzheng of the Shaolin Sect teaches Linghu Chong (the protagonist) how to use the skills described in the Yijin Jing to heal his internal injuries.