Meeting the Grandmaster...
At 106 years of age, Yang Mei June had to be carried to the dinner table. I sat opposite her. Her body was frail. But her voice and spirit were strong. This diminutive lady – under 5 foot tall - had the most incredible story...
Yang Mei June was born at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1912). She only narrowly survived the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) by pretending she was dead, being consequently buried alive and later digging her way out. She later survived persecution during the Cultural Revolution (1966 –1976). What made her survival more crucial, was that Yang Mei June was the 27th Grandmaster of the Da Yan (Wild Goose) Qigong system. She was highly respected in the Qigong and Internal Martial Arts circles.
After the violence of the Cultural Revolution, Yang Mei June decided to go against tradition and open this skill to the public for the well-being of everyone. Students came to her from far and wide, for she, and only she, held the accumulative knowledge of the twenty-six generations of Grandmasters that lived before her.
The Daoists, The Kunlun Mountains & The Wild Goose
Some time during the ancient Jing Dynasty (265–420 C.E.), Daoist monks living high in the Kunlun Mountains (on China’s southern border with Tibet), developed a system of health & healing called Da Yan (Wild Goose) Qigong. The Daoists closely observed and followed the ways of nature and were inspired by the Bar-Headed Geese, which also inhabit the Kunlun Mountains.
These geese are extraordinary. They migrate some 2,000 – 3,000 miles over the Himalayas. They fly higher than Mount Everest - they’ve been recorded @ 33,000 ft - in tail winds of up to 100 mph! Their lungs recycle their breath, so that every available bit of oxygen is used. These geese are long lived, stay together through all seasons and mate for life.
The monks drew on the qualities, character and movements of these birds, devising a set of exercises which integrated Daoist knowledge of nature, principles of the Dao, medicine, martial arts, and their insights into the mind-body gained through years of empirical science and deep meditation. In time, the Kunlun Da Yan Qigong system grew to include over 70 different sets of exercises, both dynamic (Dong Gong) and still / meditative (Jing Gong).
Over 1,800 years, these skills were refined and passed down in secret through 27 generations of Grandmasters. And so it was, at the age of 13, a young Yang Mei June was told by her Grandfather, Yang De Shan (then the 26th Grandmaster), that she would be the next to inherit the title. They trained in secret during the early hours. In the line with tradition, Yang De Shan asked Mei June not to teach her skills until she reached 70 years of age. And so it was that in the late 1970’s Grand Master Yang began to teach publically in Sun Wu Man Park, Beijing.
In 2000, Grandmaster Yang entrusted her close student and subsequently my teacher Chan Kim Fung with the job of overseeing the worldwide dissemination of Wild Goose Qigong, including setting up the Da Yan Qigong Association in the UK. That same year, I started training Wild Goose Qigong daily.
Sadly, it was only a few weeks after my meeting Yang Mei June in 2002 that she passed away on this day (July 23rd), at the age of 106. Through her, thousands of people in various parts of the world now practice this ancient art. Many of these, like me, have overcome chronic illnesses and regained their health through regular practice. Later that year, I became an instructor for the Da Yan Qigong Association.
Spreading Your Wings...
So - my fellow Qigong practitioners, students and seekers - I invite you right now to Gong. Today, spend a little more time honouring the legacy of the late Grandmaster Yang Mei June and all those Masters before her, that have carried this system forth into the world. Go spread your wings. I believe in you. You are part of this Qigong blossoming, and the world needs you.
Blog author, Gregg Wagstaff pictured above with Grandmaster Yang Mei June, Master Chan Kim Fung (left) and Master Wang Tai Li (right). Beijing, May 2002, Da Yan Qigong Headquaters.