Friday, 24 November 2017

FTY-2: Defining Yangsheng

24 November 2017

Baidu Baike (encyclopedia) defines yangsheng in this way: 原指道家通过各种方法颐养生命、增强体质、预防疾病,从而达到延年益寿的一种医事活动。现代意义的“养生”指的是根据人的生命过程规律主动进行物质与精神的身心养护活动. Translated into English, the term 'originally refer[s] to the Taoist medical practice of maintaining their lives, enhancing physical fitness, preventing diseases through various means to achieve longevity... [but] in the modern sense it refers to the physical and spiritual activities of nurturing one's body and mind in accordance with the laws of human life process.'

Quite obviously, neither of the two definitions from Wiki Baidu is clear and accurate enough. For one thing, yangsheng is not only a practice. Second, it is true that Daoism and Traditional Chinese Medicine have contributed most to yangsheng since ancient times, but gongfu practitioners, rich and high class people, including kings and emperors, may also have played an important historical role in the activity. Third, spiritual health could be no less, if not more, important than physical health. Fourth, what does 'the laws of human life process' exactly mean? - this phrase seems rather vague.

Since 'longevity' is a natural result of yangsheng, this theoretical component should be excluded from its definition as in the modern definition given in Baidu. Also, yangsheng involves a great deal of knowledge and even expertise. This being so, I would define yangsheng as follows: Yangsheng is a system of knowledge and practice concerning the attainment of one's physical and psychological well-being. As such, yangsheng is at once a socio-natural science and an art.

In fact, psychological, mental or spiritual well-being has a dialectic relationship with physical, physiological or bodily well-being, and may often prove even more significant than the latter to our holistic health. If fitness or 'health' is the key concept in physical well-being, its counterpart in psychological well-being should be 'happiness' or positive mentality. I will elaborate along these lines in my future footnotes to yangsheng.