Dao Yin

A painted scroll on display at the Hunan Provincial Museum and known as the Daoyintu found in tomb three at Mawangdui in 1973 and dated to 168 BC shows coloured drawings of 44 figures in standing and sitting postures doing Tao yin exercises. It is the earliest physical exercise chart in the world so far and illustrates a medical system which does not rely on external factors such as medication, surgery or treatments but internal factors to prevent disease.

The images include men and women, young and old. Their postures and movements differ from one another. Some are sitting, some are standing, and still others are practising Daoyintu or exercising using apparatuses.

Translation of the texts covering the document show that the early Chinese were aware of the need for both preventative and treatment based breathing exercises. The exercises can be divided into three categories:

  1. Postures of bodily exercises such as stretching arms and legs, leaning over, hopping, dancing, breathing exercises and using various equipment such as a stick and a ball.
  2. Imitating animal behaviour such as dragon, monkey, bear and crane.
  3. Exercises targeted at specific diseases.