INTRODUCTION TO CHANWUYI LIFESTYLE MEDICINE
What is Lifestyle Medicine:
Lifestyle Medicine involves the use of evidence-based therapeutic lifestyle therapeutic approaches, such as a predominantly whole food, plant-based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substance use\, and other non-drug modalities, to prevent, treat, and, oftentimes, reverse the lifestyle-related chronic disease that’s all too prevalent.
American College of Lifestyle Medicine
“Lifestyle medicine is the evidence-based practice of helping individuals and families adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that affect health and quality of life.”
Lianov L, Johnson M. Physician competencies for prescribing lifestyle medicine. JAMA.2010;304(2):202-203.
Why Lifestyle Medicine?
“Lifestyle practices and health habits are among the nation’s most important health determinants. Changing unhealthy behaviors is foundational to medical care, disease prevention, and health promotion. The physician’s trusted relationship with the patient, with the support of the family, an interdisciplinary team and the community, is key to improving health behaviors and outcomes.”
American College of Lifestyle Medicine
What is Chanwuyi Lifestyle Medicine
Professor Suiyin Agnes Chan has developed the Chanwuyi Lifestyle Medicine Program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and she has conducted empirical research on this program since 2007. The program was designed based on the traditional Chinese Chan medical concept and incorporated the conventional psychological intervention approach. Thus, it is an eastern-western integrative lifestyle medicine program.
The Chinese Chan medical concept consists of the four core elements, coincidentally similar to the western lifestyle medicine. That is, diet, exercise, stress management and emotional well-being. However, the Chinese Chan has its unique elements within the four core elements of lifestyle medicine.
What Is Chanwuyi?
Chanwuyi (Chan, Wushu, and Healing) is originated from the unique Chinese culture that has developed for more than thousands of years. It is a wisdom of living passed down from the Chinese ancestors to achieve a peaceful mind, a healthy body, and harmonic living. It is also a philosophical model for conceptualizing the world, nature, society, and the self. Besides, it is a practical way of living, which includes suggestions on how we should eat, exercise, treat ourselves and interact with others. In sum, it is a lifestyle that can be considered as a “medicine” to improve one’s physical and psychological health.
In the past, Chanwuyi was solely a Chinese Buddhism practice. It has been studied scientifically recently and empirical evidence has suggested its effectiveness in improving physical, emotional, and cognitive strengths, thus many individuals begin to adopt the practice of Chanwuyi as a lifestyle, regardless of their religious backgrounds. Professor Chan, who is a student of Grand Master Shi Dejian, has incorporated the concept of Chanwuyi into neuropsychological intervention and developed the Chanwuyi Lifestyle Medicine Program of improving cognitive and mental functions.
What is Chan?
Chan means enlightenment, is also known as Zen sometimes (the Japanese pronunciation). In China, it is pronounced as Chan. The purpose of practicing Chan is to obtain enlightenment and a better understanding of nature and the meanings of life, the way of thinking and living. To bring a peaceful mind and stable emotion through training ones’ mind, achieve emotional and physical well-being, and live with peace healthy.
What is Wu?
Wu means Kung Fu/Martial Arts. Kung Fu is a unique culture in China, which makes Chanwuyi a unique lifestyle medicine program that is different from other western programs. The type of Kung Fu in the Chanwuyi Lifestyle Medicine Program is called Nei Gong (i.e., Kung Fu for the internal energy of the body). The purpose of practicing Nei Gong is to strengthen ones’ mind, though, and enhance the circulation of Qi and blood. It is a Chinese method to improve the physical and mental health of individuals and to establish a harmonic society by improving interpersonal relationships.
What is Yi?
Yi means healing and improving. The purpose of learning and practicing Chanwuyi is to prevent or facilitate the treatment of illnesses. The Chan and Wu practice within the Chanwuyi principles has been developed based on the Chinese health and medical concepts; the ways of thinking, eating, and living are developed towards a better lifestyle, hence, freeing oneself from psychological and physical harms.
History for the Development of Chanwuyi
Chanwuyi originated from Buddhism teaching. It is a unique Chinese culture because it was developed based on Taoism, Chan Buddhism, and Confucianism.
Taoism began in 770-220 B.C. (The Spring and Autumn Period to the Warring State Period), developed in ancient China. It emphasizes the realization of the way among the universe, the world, and nature. Its principles can help gain a better understanding of relations between nature, self, and others. The most representative text is the Tao Te Ching that was written by Lao Tsu who was considered as the founder of Taoism.
Chan as a branch of Buddhism was originated in India and was later introduced to China by Bodhidharma who came from India to China in 520 to 527 A.D. Some emphasize Buddhism are consistent with that of Taoism, for example in harmony with nature, the fundamental essences about life. While Buddhism has a stronger sense of love and compassion towards people,
Taoism has a heavier emphasis on training the inner energy.
Confucianism focuses on developing virtues (for example, in aspects of personal living, family relationships, and social justice), and morality on both the personal and legal levels. The core belief of Confucianism is that human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through self-cultivation, self-enhancement, and social enlightenment.
Chanwuyi, thus, is a unique Chinese Buddhism oriented culture that emphasizes mental, physical, and social well-being. Thus, it can be considered as a traditional lifestyle medicine in China.
Nowadays, the Grand Master of Chanwuyi in China is Shi Dejian, the Abbot of Songshan Monastery. He is the 18th successor of Shaolin Chanwuyi who is a discipline of the 17th successor of Shaolin Chanwuyi Master Xingxing. He is also a discipline of the former abbot of Shaolin Temple Shi Suxi. Grand Master Dejian has promoted the Chanwuyi in China for over 30 years and has been awarded as a representative people of an intangible Cultural Heritage of the Henan Province in China in 2019.