While living in Hong Kong, I discovered Qi Gong. My friend Tita and I signed up for a class at the Helena May Club and every Tuesday, we learned this ancient, Chinese form of exercise. I remember being exhilarated with the movements our instructor Lawrence taught us. One of the first movements we learned was called East Rising Sun.
Qi refers to a persons’s vital energy; Gong includes notions of practice, mastery, skill, and accomplishment. Qi Gong is about cultivating and balancing life energy for health and wellbeing.
In The Admiral’s Wife, Patricia Findlay, the present-day protagonist, meets a group of expat friends every week at a park on Bowen Road for Qi Gong followed by coffee and conversation. For Patricia, these outings are an essential part of how she copes with the loss of identity and purpose that plague her. For me, they were a way to explore Chinese culture – I also took Mandarin lessons – and a weekly get together with my friend Tita.
When Patricia had first decided to take qigong, she’d found a website offering ambiguous phrases to describe the ancient practice: “exercises to tap into your life energy”; “finding balance between your spirit and your body”; and, “harmony of earth and soul”. The most meaningful explanation claimed that qigong was body health through gentle movement. She’d thought of it as a way to get in touch with her roots but had quickly found that she enjoyed the invigorating combination of stretching, breathing, and movement.
Within twenty minutes, Patricia arrived at a tiny park carved out of the hillside, where women clustered in small groups around the instructor, Lawrence Tse. Lawrence was tall for a Chinese man, with bulky shoulders and a narrow waist. High cheekbones and thick eyebrows lent an air of distinction to his persona. He stood, feet slightly apart and arms loose, under a Chinese archway where shiny green tiles, sculpted to look like bamboo, framed the top, tilting upwards at both ends as if in supplication to the gods.
Patricia waved at Stephanie and Michelin—two women she’d befriended since starting qigong—and went to stand beside them.
During the first class, Lawrence had talked about the sources of qi—life energy—and its locations in the body. He’d then taken the group through a set of stretches before teaching two exercises: East Rising Sun and Dragon Tunneling Under the Sea, names that evoked Chinese wisdom and ritual. Patricia and her classmates had practiced each one over and over, like monks chanting an ancient prayer. At the end of the hour she’d felt unexpectedly calm. Today, she hoped to feel that same sense of calm.
When I began writing this story, the title was East Rising Sun to honour the enjoyment and sense of calm that came from those Qi Gong classes.
You can check out another post on Qi Gong and the writing of The Admiral’s Wife here.
M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.