Emei Qigong combines both Buddhist and Daoist thought and practices, with the Daoist elements addressing the health of the physical body and the Buddhist elements focusing on spiritual advancement. Chan is a branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism that was brought to China in the early 6th century by Bodhidharma, an monk from India, and subsequently influenced by Daoist teachings. It became the primary form of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang (619-906 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) dynasties. The sixth lineage holder of Chan Buddhism, Huineng, is known as the Sixth and Last Patriarch. The five surviving schools—including the Linji school, the dominant Chan sect in China—all trace their lineages to him. The Linji school, which emphasizes sudden enlightenment, was founded by the monk Linji Yixuan during the Tang dynasty. Emei Qigong traces its Buddhist elements back to Linji. In the 12th century, Chan took root in Japan, where it is called Zen.
Bai Yun, founder of Emei Qigong
Emei, the “Lofty Eyebrow Peak,” is the highest and holiest of China’s four sacred Buddhist mountains, and the Golden Summit Monastery is at its highest point. In 1227 CE, a Daoist monk who lived on the mountain made a pilgrimage to the summit. There the monk meditated and fasted while spiritual masters guided his path toward wisdom and enlightenment. When he broke his fast, he took the name “Bai Yun,” or “White Cloud.”
The enlightened monk combined the more than 3,600 schools of thought, philosophies, and techniques that had been taught to him by his teachers and created a comprehensive system of health called the Emei Linji School of Qigong—or Emei Qigong for short. The Linji school is the largest Chan Buddhist sect in China. Emei Linji Qigong includes Buddhism, Karma, Kanyu, acupuncture, herbal medicine, Daoist and Buddhist Qigong, Taiji, extra sensory perception (ESP) diagnosis and treatment, iron body, martial arts, and more. This system is devoted to maintaining excellent health and treating disease while attaining the highest levels of spiritual development.
In a pure vision, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, a great spirit of Emei Mountain, told Grandmaster Bai Yun to take the teachings and pass them down, lineage holder to lineage holder, master to master, in order to help future generations.
Grandmaster Bai Yun chronicled the sacred knowledge in a book called “The Emei Treasured Lotus Canon” lest it be forgotten or misinterpreted. This book has been held in a Beijing museum for safekeeping.
Yong Yan, 11th lineage holder
Up until World War II, a succession of enlightened Buddhist monks led the Emei Qigong school. Each monk in his turn was given the title zongshi, or “lineage holder.” Under their guidance, in the privacy of the monastery and out of public view, the integrity of the knowledge and sacred practices of Emei Qigong was maintained and deepened for more than 700 years. But in the mid-20th century, the 11th lineage holder, Grandmaster Yong Yan, had a vision that caused him to change the protocol for succession. He foresaw the destruction of the great Golden Temple monastery and the pillaging of sacred Emei Mountain. Therefore, Grandmaster Yong Yan mandated that the position of lineage holder alternate between and be shared by a monk and a chosen layperson. The lay lineage holders would be charged with making the knowledge of Emei Qigong available to the public, while the monk lineage holders would be charged with ensuring that the knowledge remained intact and pure for future generations.
Zhou Qian Chuan, 12th lineage holder (lay)
The years before and after World War II were a time of great political and social turmoil in China, and living conditions became nearly intolerable. During this time, while Grandmaster Yong Yan was traveling from mountain to mountain, he met Zhou Qian Chuan, a major general in the army who was also a Western medical doctor. Major General Zhou had serious internal cracking in his liver caused by the violent vibrations of a bomb that had exploded very close to him. He had sought help from famous Western medical doctors and no one could heal him. Grandmaster Yong Yan befriended the major general, treating and curing his disease with the healing methods of Emei Qigong.
Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, the major general decided to leave all his responsibilities to become a monk and to serve this great man who had restored his health. Grandmaster Yong Yan refused his request to become a monk but allowed him to come to Emei Mountain to study under him. Zhou Qian Chuan studied under and served Grandmaster Yong Yan for 13 years, and then the grandmaster ordained him as the first layman to receive the title lineage holder. So it was that Zhou Qian Chuan became the 12th lineage holder of Emei Qigong. Grandmaster Yong Yan then left Emei Mountain and went to southwest China, to the Kangding area. And as he had foreseen, monks were imprisoned or killed, and many of the monasteries on the mountain were destroyed, including the Golden Summit monastery.
The newly ordained Grandmaster Zhou stayed on Emei Mountain but often came down and traveled to the Kangding area to assist people and offer them relief as they suffered through the war.
Ju Zan, 12th lineage holder (monk)
When World War II ended, Grandmaster Zhou went to Beijing to seek the Supreme Buddhist Abbot Ju Zan, whose position in Chinese Buddhism is similar to that of the Dalai Lama’s in Tibetan Buddhism. Abbot Ju Zan knew of the great Emei Qigong system through visions, and he was prepared for Grandmaster Zhou’s arrival.
Abbot Ju Zan studied with Grandmaster Zhou from 1950 to 1958, with the monk learning everything that Grandmaster Yong Yan had taught Grandmaster Zhou. Grandmaster Zhou then ordained Abbot Ju Zan as the monk 12th lineage holder, and they shared the lineage holder position together, according to Grandmaster Yong Yan’s vision.
China’s Cultural Revolution began in the mid-1960s, and Grandmaster Ju Zan was wrongfully imprisoned for eight years. In prison, he meditated and saw the future of Emei Qigong. He was released in the early 1970s.