In reviewing research abstracts on external Qi healing abilities, Dr. Yan Xin’s apparent ability to change cells in petri dishes at a distance stands out from most of the research that shows no effect from distance Qi emission therapy. Since I’m interested yet skeptical, it’s time to take a closer look at Yan Xin Qigong.
Searching PubMed for Yan Xin Qigong research pulls up 4 abstracts. All are on cancer cells, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and one study showing effects on cancer cells but not normal cells. All 4 studies (if they were indeed 4 different ones and not just different writeups of one or two studies) were done at the Chongqing Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chongqing China. This already throws up the red flag for bias, as 99% of studies from China report positive results. ”Yan X” is listed as an author of each study, along with others. As this is the same person who is being tested, this is also not hopeful.
The abstracts don’t tell anything useful about the methodology, such as how far away Dr. Yan Xin was from the cells, if the petri dishes were covered or open, who was observing him, etc. There isn’t a link to the full research paper either, so essentially we are just left having to trust that the methodology was sound and trustworthy. Since the claim is such an important one (proof of external Qi transmission would revolutionize science and medicine), verification in a highly controlled setting is essential.
Looking at the main Yan Xin Qigong site, we see quotes attributed to President George Bush from 1990 and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, who apparently declared August 19th to be Yan Xin Qigong day. I could find no independent verification that Colorado has a Yan Xin Qigong day, nor that Pres. Bush ever said “Dr. Yan Xin is a sage of our times.” I did find that I’m not the first person to question Yan Xin Qigong’s claims and quotes. This site has an interesting report about studies of external Qi on cancer cells.
Dr. Yan Xin’s “about me” page has links to photos with politicians and says great things about him, such as he’s the “foremost living representative of qigong.” Of course, getting politicians to pose for pictures with you or say nice things about you isn’t proof of much other than the nature of politicians.
Yan Xin Qigong is described as a cult on this site:
Yan Xin QiGong - There may be many meditation techniques and spiritual paths to good health and super powers but according to the Yan Xin Qigong society none of them are as effective as Yan Xin QiGong. What is nice about the Yan Xin QiGong society is that they make their pseudoscientific claims explicitly, so it is easy to identify them as a cult. They claim that their leader, Yan Xin, is something akin to a superman. He can heal the sick by his magic, he can alter the physical properties of matter and even, according to University of Texas professor of electrical engineering and QiGong practitioner, San-qi Li, make cameras fail when they try to take his picture.
Yan Xin’s favorite gimmick is to fill an auditorium with followers and “emit QiGong.” The people will start to swing and sway and dance about as this special energy flows out of Yan Xin and into the audience.. How does he do this? External QiGong artists plant stooges in the crowd who are the first to start gyrating. Soon the credulous audience begins to join in like a big Pentecostal free-for-all.
This is not definitive proof of fraud or that Yan Xin Qigong is a cult, but it does warn us to be more suspicious, as “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Many of the Yan Xin Qigong group links I found are dead or missing.
The BC Skeptics wanted to test Dr. Yan Xin’s claims in 1990, but were rebuffed as he isn’t interested in “low-level testing.” See here:
The B.C. Skeptics were similarly frustrated when they issued a challenge to be scientifically tested to the Qigong master Yan Xin during his North American tour in 1990. Yan’s associate, Wu Xutian, wrote saying that the skeptics only remained dubious because they had never seen a real Qigong master in action, but he declined to show them what his supposedly real colleague could do. In his letter of rejection addressed to Dale Beyerstein, Wu condescendingly dismissed the skeptics challenge: “. . . Dr. Yan Xin and I are not interested in the very low level test which was very popular in China ten or fifteen years ago. He is busy on some cooperating research subjects with several important organizations in U.S.” Wu suggested the skeptics should be content with some “scientific” papers by Yan which he enclosed. As usual, the claimed effects of Qigong were extremely unlikely by conventional scientific standards but were not published in peer-reviewed journals of any international scientific standing.
An article about the emergence of Falun Gong and Qigong Fever credits Yan Xin Qigong with starting the modern external Qi healing craze in China:
The appearance of the Qigong fever started from the arising of “Qigong master” Yan Xin. In July 1984, Sichuan Workers’ Daily reported about Yan Xin treating patients with “exterior energy” in clinical practice, attracting attention from all aspects. In 1986, Yan Xin made a series of experiments that changed the molecular structure of some substance by using “the exterior energy of Qigong” at the department of chemistry and the department of biology of Tsinghua University, creating great sensations at once. News appeared on the front page of Guangming Daily, with an extra-long title: The scientific research coordination group of Qigong of Tsinghua University finds out after observation that the induced change in physiological effect is the cause for the curative effect of Qigong, and this discovery shows that the Qigong research in China has reached the level of molecules over the level of cells. Shortly afterwards, medias such as the People’s Daily (overseas edition), the English edition of China Daily, and the Wen Wei Post of Hong Kong quickly spread the news to the whole world. Yan Xin apparently became a “living immortal” and “modern Jigong” (Jigong was a legendary monk who helped people with his magic fan), holding ten-thousand people lectures with energy around. And the tide of Qigong fever swept through China since then.
Driven by the “Yanxin effect”, various schools of Qigong sprang up for the moment just like mushrooms after rain, and all kinds of “Qigong masters” made themselves up and go on the stages one by one. For example, there were the “Middle Gong” of Zhang Hongbao, the “Fragrant Gong” of Tian Ruisheng, the “Central Gong of the Nature” of Zhang Xiangyu, the “Huilian Gong” of Chen linfeng, and the “Intelligent Gong” of Pang Ming, etc. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the big tide of Qigong came in such a menacing manner that tens of thousands of enthusiastic followers were attracted to it, the mind-set of some being quite similar to the star fans today.
It looks like Dr. Yan Xin is certainly a popular fellow based on his claims, and would probably hate to see them disproven. This is a good reason why research that he coauthors is suspect.
Here’s a first-person account of a Western student of Yan Xin Qigong. Dr. Yan Xin claims that he can emit Qi from a cassette tape recording of him emitting Qi. More red flags. But if that is true, it would be easier to study his Qi emission, just put the tape player next to the petri dishes!
The next phase of the session was listening to an audio recording of one of Dr. Yan Xin’s qi-emitting lectures. These are lectures in which Dr. Yan Xin emits qi to those in the audience and he tailors each lecture to his specific audiences “needs” as he “senses” them and as well qi can be transmitted by the audio recording. I have serious reservations about the ability of qi to be transmitted by audio tape, however, as I have now been practicing qigong for a long enough time to sense or feel the manifestation that is called qi, I must admit that I did “feel” a strong qi presence or effect that was not there before or after the tape was played.
Another student promotes the Yan Xin Qigong system and has written about it. Here we learn that Chunyi Lin was a studen of Dr. Yan Xin. Chunyi Lin is the founding “Master” of Spring Forest Qigong, which started my recent trail of reviews looking for scientific evidence of external Qi healing abilities.
Here are some amazing and far-fetched claims, which put a new book on my wish-list:
Dr. David A. Palmer’s new book: “Qigong Fever: Body, science and utopia in China” (Columbia University Press, 2007) gives further details about the efficacy of Yan Xin’s qigong. The Chinese military had qigong master Yan Xin actually put out a vast forest fire! Master Yan Xin also went to the U.S. White House eight times to give energy treatments to President Bush, Sr., which gives some explanation to Bush’s paratroop jump in his 80s! Master Yan Xin continues to do mind-blowing medical healing experiments in collaboration with western-trained scientists—studies published in peer-reviewed international neuroscience journals.
In 1999 there was a big crackdown on qigong in China against Falun Gong and several other practices that had huge movements, larger than the Communist party. At this same time Yan Xin’s chi-emitting lectures were stopped and his international community stopped selling Yan Xin’s meditation tapes, unless a lengthy training course was first completed. There is even claim now that the Chinese military has developed a secret post-apocalypse qigong weapon, which we can guess is probably based on their national treasure: Supermaster Yan Xin.
That author reveals the “highest technology of all technologies” of Yan Xin Qigong:
The Yan Xin Secret of visualizing the third eye focusing energy on the hands which are then held to reflect that energy back into the stomach enables a free energy feedback system to keep building up the energy of the practitioner. The Yan Xin Secret works because of the complimentary opposite principles of natural resonance using asymmetric number—something I’ve explained in detail in other articles.
In the research world, anecdotes are not regarded as evidence. There is a saying “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Here is a curious Master Yan Xin anecdote:
Here is an amazing story of one of the greatest Qigong masters of the seventies, Yan Xin.
A husband of a woman who was complaining of severe headache and with a blood pressure of 170/90mmHg sent his daughter to look for Master Yan Xin and refer her mother’s condition. But, instead of visiting the Patient he used the daughter to treat the mother. He started the treatment by asking the daughter to remove her watch. He then poured a glass of tap water and asked the girl if she was willing to drink it (In china, it is uncommon to drink cold water from the tap). The daughter immediately agreed and drunk it. After that, Master Yan Xin sent her back home and instructed her to check her mother’s blood pressure once she got home. They were amazed to find out that the mother’s blood pressure went down to normal at 100/80mmHg and the headache was gone as well.
Accordingly, the rationale of asking the girl to drink the tap water was because he already energized it using his own chi and used the daughter to carry and transmit it to the mother. Water was used because of the fact that body is composed of 65 percent water. Also, it is one of the simplest molecular structures, and based on scientific researches the simplest molecular structures are the hardest to change. Finally, the purpose of taking off the watch is to prevent it from blocking the energizing process.
It appears that all of the books and tapes of Yan Xin Qigong are off the market. China apparently cracked down on Qigong cultism after Falun Gong got so crazy (the founder is virulently anti-gay, racist, mixes beliefs in aliens and demons, predicted the end of the universe then said he single-handedly prevented it, and is a very politically motivated person, so I’m not going to go out of my way to defend him). At this point, it looks like either “Master” Yan Xin is a fraud who got cracked down on, or he is the Super Post-Apocalyptic Qigong Weapon for the Chinese Military. Hmmm… I wonder which is more likely.
Here’s a page that copied and pasted some other Yan Xin claims, including one that Dr. Yan Xin changed a laser beam from 2000 kilometers away! Published in a Chinese journal, of course:
(4) MEASUREMENT OF THE EFFECTS OF EXTERNAL QI ON THE POLARIZATION PLANE OF A LINEARLY POLARIZED LASER BEAM
(This paper was published in Ziran Zazhi (Nature Journal) in Chinese, Vol. 11, pp. 563-566, 1988)
Conclusion: The external Qi emitted by Qigong master Yan Xin at 7km, and 2,000 km, caused up to 12% changes in the intensity of a He-Ne laser beam. The intensity changes corresponded to a rotation of the polarization plane of the laser beam of up to 7 degrees. The result represents a new Qigong phenomenon.
What about the claims that Dr. Yan Xin worked with Western instututions? Going back to his website, he claims to have worked with the University of Illinois on research. He provides a photo:
Oh, I see… He went to a laboratory at UI to talk to someone, and had a picture taken. That proves everything (not)!
Most of the Yan Xin books are unavaialble, but I found a review of one by Kevin Chen, the researcher I previously criticized for (intentionally) poor design and deceptive abstract writing.
We learn a few important things about the lab studies of Dr. Yan Xin here:
For example, in the study of the effect of EQ on the radioactive decay rate of Am241, the qigong master did not have to know how to change the half-life of Am241. Perhaps all he needed to do was enter into the qigong state and have his intention change the reading of the radioactive decay rate. This result could be achieved through a variety of means, such as affecting the advanced reading equipment (this has happened frequently in EQ studies), adding additional material or particle (from the air) to the layer of Am241, or changing the relative position of the tested Am241 within its container without touching it. This later possibility would call upon the qigong master’s remote psychokinetic capability. Most qigong researchers in China could not agree with Prof. Lu’s conclusion regarding the EQ effect on the half-life of Am241. Their objection was that if the half-life of a substance really changed (regardless of how, where or when), when measuring it with the same technique, the result should be constant and should not vary after the EQ emission has ended. The implication of change correlated with the timing of EQ suggests that the temporary change that was measured most likely occurred in the reading only, and not within the matter itself. Many scientists suspected the possibility of slight change in the relative location of the tested Am241 during qi emission or under EQ in- fluence (without physical contact), since Dr. Yan had asked observers to leave the room in most of the studies in order to fully concentrate his intention. This example brings up another weakness of physical signal detec- tors of EQ in general—the specificity of the physical detector is usually very poor. A slightly wrong measurement can easily lead to erroneous conclusions. The more complicated or more sensitive the equipment used to detect weak physical signals, the more likely it can be interfered with by the EQ emission; therefore, there is a greater chance of an error occurring in the related conclusion.
The important points are that Dr. Yan Xin asked the observers to leave the room “so he could concentrate.” This is the same Dr. Yan Xin who did “Qi healings” on stage in front of thousands of people! Then the changed radioactive decay apparently didn’t actually happen in the radioactive sample, and *may have* just been from a change in the detection equipment. Some Chinese scientists didn’t agree that test showed anything useful. From this review we learn that Kevin Chen is a Qigong practitioner and apparently believes in Dr. Yan’s ‘psychokinetic’ abilities more than the good chance that he tampered with the test equipment after getting the observers to leave the room. If Dr. Yan got the observers to leave the room for his cancer cell studies, we can throw them all out as anywhere near reliable. In fact, we can just do that now.
From all of the evidence reviewed online, there is no reason to believe that Dr. Yan Xin actually has external qi healing abilities. His claims to have done research with credible western institutions are shown to be photo opportunities of him having a conversation with someone in a lab. Pubmed’s record of his published research shows 4 studies in China co-authored by Dr. Yan Xin himself. We have one document showing that he asked observers to leave the room during a study, and the results of the study suggest that the detection equipment was tampered with while the sample didn’t have any meaningful change.
Yan Xin’s claims include being able to emit qi through audio recording on a cassette tape as well as heal a mother through charging tap water given to the daughter to drink. When approached by a Canadian science group to test his claims, he dismissed it as “low-level” and wasn’t interested.
Yan Xin Qigong shows many signs of being a cult, and Dr. Yan Xin shows many signs of being a charlatan. It appears China has cracked down on him and his publications in their effort to reduce Qigong cultism. The other option is that he’s a Top Secret Super-weapon being hidden by the Chinese military.
Unfortunately, this leaves us once again with no credible evidence of External Qi Healing abilities, yet more suggestive evidence of fraud and misrepresentation in the energy healing world.