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The Cultural Transfer of Chinese Health Practices: Qi Gong in a Western Psychiatric Setting

Qi Gong, a Chinese way not only to improve ones health, has arrived in Western psychiatric clinics for a longer time. However, there is still a great lack of knowledge about the goals and methods of this practice among the medical staff as well as the patients. As a teacher of Qi Gong, you are confronted with difficulties arising from Western ignorance and/or prejudices as well as from the cultural implications in its transfer.
In my presentation I discuss some of these problems. Especially, I focus on the relevance and consequences of philosophical concepts underlying the practice of Qi Gong. For instance, there is the concept of Qi which has several levels of meaning, depending on the metaphysical, physiological or psychological context. In all these aspects Qi seems to be a sublime matter or an energetic foundation that constitutes the cosmos, regulates the body function etc. But Western medical science (Biomedicine) is not able to handle such an approach. So, how could a practice like Qi Gong be integrated in a Western medical setting? It seems there are three levels of the transfer of a cultural practice:
First: Transmission of cultural concepts depends on translation. Linguistic transmission is already a difficult task. Beyond this, you have to take the specific contexts and intentions of translation as well as historical and cultural contexts into account.
Second: Philosophical explication of cultural concepts often remains deficient in practical contexts. In Qi Gong Qi will experienced in movements. You will get the meaning of Qi, when you practice. In other words, you have to do what anthropologists call „participant observation“ or better „participant experience“, as Elisabeth Hsu suggests.
Third: To transfer the meaning of such a culture specific notion you have to integrate this notion into a Western framework, that is, you have to find a language, which can mediate between both traditions.

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