According to the Lingshu 靈樞 (Numinous Pivot) section of Huangdi neijing 黃 帝內經 (The Inner Canon [of Medicine] of the Yellow Emperor), the Yellow Emperor (said by legend to have reigned c. 2698–2599 BCE) read all the remedy literature, and distilled from it five methods of treating illness. The first of these was Daoyin xingqi 導引行氣 (Guiding and stretching and moving qi). This article traces the history of the daoyin exercise traditions involving animal impersonation from pre-Qin China to the present day. It uncovers a tale of transformation, on the one hand indicative of the therapeutic power invested in animals in early Chinese culture, and on the other of a practice sufficiently plastic to lend itself to unarmed combat and community sports-an emblem at once of self-determination and conformity.
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