Cultural Spotlight: Grandmaster Li Rong brings the ancient art of qigong to the 21st century

Photo courtesy of Li Rong

Li Rong has been a grandmaster and trainer of tai chi and qigong for the last 30 years. She is the founder and director of the Tristar Taiji and Qigong Academy in Vancouver. As a part of showcasing talents and the contribution of many in the Asian community, Tristar Taiji has been selected to be part of the ExplorASIAN expo this year.

They will screen a mini-documentary, SHEFU, which focuses on Tristar Taiji and qigong on May 21, 2021. Li Rong answer questions and explain the creation of Tristar Taiji and qigong along with the health benefits associated with its regular practice. This virtual screening will be followed up with a Q&A session with Master Li Rong.

In the beginning

Born in the Sichuan province of China, Li Rong began training in Chinese martial arts at the age of eight. She was trained by many renowned masters such as Zeng Huai Xian, Wang Shu Tian, Men Hui Feng, Kan Gui Xiang, Chen Xiao Wang and Yang Zhen Duo.

When she was new to martial arts, she trained for six hours every single day. This went on to become a practice she would continue for ten years. Li Rong won her first local competition after only six months of training. This victory motivated her to train harder and participate in many more local, national and international tournaments. She is named as one of the 100 most important people in Chinese martial arts.

“There was not too much entertainment [while growing up], and I found friends through training,” says Li Rong, recalling living in a housing complex with a large courtyard where at least 60 children would practice martial arts together after school.

In 1979, she was one of the 300 students accepted by the Wushu department of the prestigious Chengdu University of Physical Education.

After graduating in 1983, she travelled all over China and interviewed over 2000 martial arts masters in the country as a part of research for a book commissioned by the government.

Qigong and the immune system

Li Rong suffered an injury during one of her training sessions and healed herself through the ancient art of qigong.

Qigong, a branch of internal Chinese medicine and has been in existence for over 4000 years. It’s a form of exercise that induces relaxation and energy flow. It stems mainly from using your body – the shoulders, the hips, the knees, and slowly moving energy within your body. As the name would suggest, it focuses on one’s chi, or energy, and which it re-centres through the breath.

“Qigong is about internal movement when your body is externally not moving. You loosen your body and posture in slower motion,” she explains.

After visiting the ancient Sanxingdui archeological ruins, Li Rong decided to pursue qigong and teach it to the world despite it being somewhat forgotten. At Sanxingdui – also known as tristar in Mandarin – she discovered buried statues of this form of art, and it inspired her to create Tristar Taiji in 1992.

Tristar Taiji currently hosts virtual classes where they teach adults up to 80 years old. Even though this art form is native to China, most of her current students are local Canadians, and Li Rong is very happy about the fact that more and more people are learning about what exactly qigong is.

In talking about the many benefits of practicing qigong, including relaxation and stress management, Li Rong explains that it can also help strengthen your immune system. This can be helpful throughout life, but she has found that it is especially helpful now as we battle this pandemic.

“Your mind and in turn your body does not feel trapped, especially now during the pandemic,” she says.

At a time like this, Li Rong explains that practicing qigong can also help an individual feel mentally relieved.

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