Daoyin, or "xingqi," is a kind of callisthenic exercise combining breathing with bodily movements mimicking animals. Dao means to regulate qi, or vital energy, by guiding its flow in the body. Yin means to limber up the body and limbs through physical movements.
"Epigraph on Circulation of Oi, " an inscription on a piece of jade of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), shows that people at that time already knew how to nourish qi and guide its flow in the body. Monographs on daoyin began to appear in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24). The daoyin diagrams painted on silk, unearthed from Tomb No.3 of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) in Changsha, Hunan Province, are the earliest extant and most complete paintings on ancient callisthenics. The paintings depict in colour 44 persons of both sexes and different ages doing daoyin movements of various descriptions, Hua Tuo, a famous physician of the Period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280), adapted over I 40 daoyin routines into five groups of movements mimicking tigers, deer, bears, apes and birds to create a set of exercise called Five Animal Play. By the Song Dynasty (960-1279), daoyjn had developed into baduanjin (eight-section brocade), which has remained popular to this day. Other exercises like wenbaduan and yijinjing, which appeared in the Ming (1368-1644) and Oing ?1644-1911) dynasties, are a blend of qigong and massage.
Daoyin exercises have proved very effective in prolonging life. Dougong, a blind musician during the reign of Emperor Wendi of the Western Han Dynasty, kept practising daoyin until he died at the ripe old age of over 100. Sun Simiao, a noted medical expert of the Tang Dynasty (618- 907), performed doayin three times a day and lived to an age of 110. Lu You, a celebrated scholar of the Song Dynasty, was still going strong when he was well over 80. No wonder daoyin was called an art for achieving longevity in ancient times.