The Baduanjin (simplified Chinese: 八段锦气功; traditional Chinese: 八段錦氣功) is one of the most common forms of Chinese qigong used as exercise. Variously translated as Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements and others, the name of the form generally refers to how the eight individual movements of the form characterize and impart a silken quality (like that of a piece of brocade) to the body and its energy. The Baduanjin is primarily designated as a form of medical qigong, meant to improve health. This is in contrast to religious or martial forms of qigong. However, this categorization does not preclude the form's use by martial artists as a supplementary exercise, and this practice is frequent.
This exercise is mentioned in several encyclopedias originating from the Song Dynasty. The Pivot of the Way (Dao Shi) (c. 1150) describes an archaic form of this qigong. The Ten Compilations on Cultivating Perfection (Xiuzhen shi-shu) (c. 1300) features illustrations of all eight movements. The same work assigns the creation of this exercise to two of the Eight immortals, namely Zhongli Quan and Lu Tung-pin.
It is also mentioned in popular tales during the Song. Stories Heard by Yijian (Yijian Zhi) by Hong Mai (1123-1202) details a story about a practitioner who is shocked to learn that practicing this set "may lead to premature death." This is conveyed to him by his helper, who is a "Daoist sage in disguise."
The exercise was later expanded from eight to twelve movements over the centuries and was described in the boxing manual Illustrated Exposition of Internal Techniques (1882) by Wang Zuyuan, a famed practitioner of the Sinew Changing Classic set.
Nineteenth century sources attribute the style to semi-legendary Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei, and describe it as being created as a form of exercise for his soldiers. The legend states he taught the exercise to his men to help keep their bodies strong and well-prepared for battle. Martial historian Prof. Meir Shahar notes Yue's mention as a lineage master in the second preface of the Sinew Changing Classic manual (1624) is the reason why he was attributed as the creator of Baduanjin qigong.
"All Chi Kung exercises are intended to improve health, increase energy, revitalize the body and mind, prevent or control disease, tone the internal organs, improve balance, reduce stress, boost the immune system, remove toxins, tone the muscles and tendons, uplift mood, contribute to longevity,
and provide an integrated mind-body practice leading towards enlightenment and harmony with the Tao. Take some confidence in this promise, "Every person who uses Qi cultivation methods consistently experiences some form of health improvement and personal access to greater energy and power"