Tai Chi Chuan and Health

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Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby LIB » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:34 am

Hello,

I have two questions. These may have appeared somewhere before on this forum, so excuse me if I missed them.

Anyway, Tai chi chuan was originally designed, it seems to me as a martial art. How has it become used as a health maintenance practice now? It seems it was designed for martial art purposes originally. This question seems even more relevant if we consider that many known Tai chi "Masters" died young. I am thinking specifically of Yang Chen Fu, but there were others who died young too. How come they couldn't take care of their own health with Tai chi?

These are kind of strong inquiries, but I hope someone can illuminate this topic. I would be very appreciative.

Thanks,

LIB
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby John the Monkey mind » Fri Jun 07, 2013 6:13 am

LIB wrote:Hello,

I have two questions. These may have appeared somewhere before on this forum, so excuse me if I missed them.

Anyway, Tai chi chuan was originally designed, it seems to me as a martial art. How has it become used as a health maintenance practice now? It seems it was designed for martial art purposes originally. This question seems even more relevant if we consider that many known Tai chi "Masters" died young. I am thinking specifically of Yang Chen Fu, but there were others who died young too. How come they couldn't take care of their own health with Tai chi?

These are kind of strong inquiries, but I hope someone can illuminate this topic. I would be very appreciative.

Thanks,

LIB


Taiji is a martial art Yang Chen Fu made it a little easier to learn cutting out jumping kicks and some use of power from the form as he could see the terrible health of his countrymen and he wanted to build up their health.
In my personal experience Taji is very good for building you up if you have poor health. I take your point about some masters died relatively young by modern standers.

I think most of it is down to poor living conditions and or appalling lifestyles. Lots smoked and probably many of them not just tobacco given social habits pre-cultural revolution of the circles they moved in.
Others who came latter had to live in terrible conditions under communism. A lot of Sun Lu-t'ang students starved to death. Although Sun Lu-t'ang himself lived till 93 and his daughter lived till 90. Although Yang Chengfu died young looking at him you can draw conclusions why


Image
Image from 1918


Image
One from a book publication in 1934.
Lifestyle may have been a factor.

His son Yang Shou-chung lived till 75 and given had to flee his home and live in a unhealthy city that's not to bad going. Hu Yuen Chou lived to the age of 91.

Actually going by longevity of the masters Hung Ga would seem more of a life prolonging art. Grand Master Lam Cho lived to 102 and his teacher Lam Sai-wing lived till over 80 and for his day that was unusual given he was born in the 1860's.

Image
Grand Master Lam Cho
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby LIB » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:06 am

Thanks for those insightful comments. You are probably right that political, social and economic factors played a role in the length of life of these Tai chi masters. Since we were not there, it would be hard to imagine the social forces at work, health condition and access to good food.

Still, as I understand it, and that is not saying much since I am just learning, Tai chi seems to have come out of Taoism, at least in part, based on the balance of yin and yang. It would seem that some of these Tai chi masters didn't lead such a balanced lifestyle, which seems odd. But who am I to say. I am just wondering.

Also, although not so knowledgeable myself, I understand that Tai chi in its original form, whatever that may be, for example Chen style, was done faster and with kicks for martial purposes. Now it is mostly done slowly for health. I don't understand how this change took place. Then again, I know most martial artists had to be adept at medical practices because there were no doctors around, especially if you sustained an injury.

It seems that the health benefits claimed in Tai chi could be done by many kinds of exercises if done slowly with focused intent on listening to the mind body connection.

Thanks for your input. Greatly appreciated.

Kind regards
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby John the Monkey mind » Sat Jun 08, 2013 4:24 am

LIB wrote:Also, although not so knowledgeable myself, I understand that Tai chi in its original form, whatever that may be, for example Chen style, was done faster and with kicks for martial purposes. Now it is mostly done slowly for health. I don't understand how this change took place. Then again, I know most martial artists had to be adept at medical practices because there were no doctors around, especially if you sustained an injury.

It seems that the health benefits claimed in Tai chi could be done by many kinds of exercises if done slowly with focused intent on listening to the mind body connection.


If you look at China at that time you will see the Chinese were very weak due to drug addiction. There wore doctors but people needed an exercise to do to build up strength. The martial focus was striped out to help make it accessible even to people who had been greatly weakened. It may also have been striped out to give the Yang's and their favored students the edge over the people they were teaching.

The ymaa 108 form has kicks and is still done with speed and fa jing (explosive force, you see it in Chen style) at times and at higher levels.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0J6A7T3laI

The Saber and sword forms also still have jumps/jumping kicks. I think most of the martial stuff is still in the traditional Taiji but you have to dig for it a bit.

I have only been doing it a bit over three years and now Taiji is a martial art for me. The 108 form is full of martial applications with every posture having many possible applications. It depends how you train your Taiji.

The videos are below are all Yang 108
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZXsTsKz8vI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NagW6BImF8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD0LH09D0Vo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Etvn0wmBkaU
This video below is Yang 24
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLIFyxLVl7Q

Some people even train Taiji for ground fighting.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGTxDEa92B8
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby yeniseri » Mon Jun 10, 2013 2:24 pm

There are many variables in health and jingqishen principles relates to both genetic and environmental factors influencing health. We cannot change what we inherit (genetics) but our choices in life allows for greater longevity and choices.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Monsoon » Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:22 am

If you look at China at that time you will see the Chinese were very weak due to drug addiction. There wore doctors but people needed an exercise to do to build up strength. The martial focus was striped out to help make it accessible even to people who had been greatly weakened. It may also have been striped out to give the Yang's and their favored students the edge over the people they were teaching.


I just want to add some clarity to this. The sweeping generalisation about drug addiction is just that, sweeping (and as such untrue). Although there have been opium issues it is irresponsible to suggest that 'the Chinese' were all afflicted with it.

Before the cultural revolution there is not a lot of evidence (that I can find) to suggest that hordes of people were out every day practicing tai chi. In fact, given the level of secrecy ascribed to the various families it seems unlikely to have ever been a mass population thing.

After the revolution it is true that the government created the shortened form and encourage people to get out there and get on with it. Masses of people practicing in the parks is a relatively modern phenomenon.

The above is a simplified account, but the bones are there.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby brer_momonga » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:34 am

Monsoon wrote:
If you look at China at that time you will see the Chinese were very weak due to drug addiction. There wore doctors but people needed an exercise to do to build up strength. The martial focus was striped out to help make it accessible even to people who had been greatly weakened. It may also have been striped out to give the Yang's and their favored students the edge over the people they were teaching.


I just want to add some clarity to this. The sweeping generalisation about drug addiction is just that, sweeping (and as such untrue). Although there have been opium issues it is irresponsible to suggest that 'the Chinese' were all afflicted with it.

Before the cultural revolution there is not a lot of evidence (that I can find) to suggest that hordes of people were out every day practicing tai chi. In fact, given the level of secrecy ascribed to the various families it seems unlikely to have ever been a mass population thing.

After the revolution it is true that the government created the shortened form and encourage people to get out there and get on with it. Masses of people practicing in the parks is a relatively modern phenomenon.

The above is a simplified account, but the bones are there.


indeed. all very good points to keep in mind. with tai chi and kung fu, we have the tendency to romanticize a past where the general public felt it was their duty to practice these arts daily to promote peace and self-mastery.

squalid living conditions are one thing, but I've seen people in rural areas of developing countries keep themselves cleaner with just a vessel of water than people who have access to all manner of modern convenience.

daily effort and consistent practice of healthy routines goes a long way.

people can get lazy when they become successful - even if they got to where they are from lots of hard work. some grandmasters hung out in the backroom and smoked and drank or whatever while the senior students did all the teaching. I think you'll find that most styles have dark secrets and both students and masters who let themselves go. this is not to say they should not give them respect, but be aware of life's many challenges. the same thing happens in companies both large and small. any executive or foreman is susceptible to ennui.

look at celebrities, how many of them lose themselves in the celebrity lifestyle. Yang Cheng-Fu was a celebrity.

this is not to say that all of the masters who died early passed from the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices and personal neglect. bad things happen to good hard-working people, movements are tested by tragedies.

I think they serve as a reminder to keep us diligent in our own training.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby John the Monkey mind » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:49 pm

Monsoon wrote:I just want to add some clarity to this. The sweeping generalisation about drug addiction is just that, sweeping (and as such untrue). Although there have been opium issues it is irresponsible to suggest that 'the Chinese' were all afflicted with it.



I was not implying everyone was an addict just that the Chinese as a people or ἔθνος were weak due to the habit. This weakness is mentioned in a large number of martial arts manuals written at the time as well as almost any western history on the subject or accounts from the time, "sick man of Asia". How is it "irresponsible to suggest" this? Is historic fact irresponsible?

I began to see that among my students, the emaciated and weak began to fill out

Yang Lu-ch'an giving a fair description of opium addicts and the positive affect Taiji had for them I would say.
http://www.amazon.com/Essence-Applicati ... ng+chengfu

Image

The amount of opium making it into China was shocking. Read this UN report on it.

http://www.unodc.org/documents/wdr/WDR_ ... rigins.pdf

The UN report estimates that in the USA 30% of Chinese adult men were addicts during c1890's and the numbers were higher in Asia.

There may have been up-to
200 millions Chinese drug addicts at peak time and 30 millions Chinese drug death
(200 million may be a total over a few years as I can't find the original source for this although given the amount of opium being moved it is possible.)

http://www.skycitygallery.com/hk/hk.html

The trade was at its height around 1880 and the population of China at the time was recorded as 368,000,000

http://www.populstat.info/Asia/chinac.htm

Below is a lower estimate from the time. I think this number is clearly low and doubt they could have accurately formed an estimate at the time and given Mao treated around 10 million in the 50's when the amount of opium being shipped was much, much lower it seems highly unlikely they are accurate.

Lin Ze-xu (1785-1850), modestly estimated the number of his countrymen addicted to the drug to be 4 million, but a British physician practising in Canton set the figure at 12 million


http://www.victorianweb.org/history/emp ... wars1.html

Long after the height of the trade in the 50's there were at least 10,000,000 addicts in China.

The Mao Zedong government is generally credited with eradicating both consumption and production of opium during the 1950s using unrestrained repression and social reform. Ten million addicts were forced into compulsory treatment


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium#Recr ... e_in_China


So we could be talking about up to around half the men among the population being affected directly as users (a high maximum but clearly it is reasonable to suggest that over 30% of men were addicted as the UN report indicates). So it is in fact accurate to say "If you look at China at that time you will see the Chinese (ἔθνος) were very weak due to drug addiction.".

Do you dispute this data is at least representative of the problem and probably close to the true horror of the situation or can we agree that the Chinese (ἔθνος) were genuinely very weak at that time due to drug addiction among the population? The Chinese may not have been "'all afflicted with it" but up to half of the men were and I doubt a single individual was not profoundly affected by it given the slowing of productivity and the difficulty an addict in the family would create.

If you dispute this please back your assertion up.

Image

If you accept the data can we also agree that my statement was not a "sweeping generalisation" and therefore not " untrue".

I also never suggested that "hordes of people were out every day practicing tai chi", only that the promotion of health was the motivation for simplification.

I wish that worthy individuals with the highest aspirations will use it for the purpose of self-strengthening. Let us encourage each other as fellow countrymen.


Yang Chengfu

http://www.amazon.com/Essence-Applicati ... ng+chengfu
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby LIB » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:44 pm

Thanks for the historical background. That is very interesting, but sad at the same time. My whole point was how did Tai chi become a sudden health based routine from a martial art. Of course, lifestyle, the social and physical environment and genetics play a role too. However, you quote from Yang cheng fu's book, that Tai chi can be used to strengthen those who were even addicted to opium. Still, it is not clear what or how Tai chi was changed to make it more suitable for health applications. Of course, medical Qigong is used for health, but Tai chi? I am certainly not denying that it is good for health. I a, just wondering how it became that way.

Thanks again,
LIB
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Monsoon » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:18 am

Fair points... except I think we are talking past each other. You (John) are talking about a specific snapshot in time, whereas I was referring the known history of tai chi. The misinterpretation is, as usual, all mine.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby John the Monkey mind » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:34 am

LIB wrote:Thanks for the historical background. That is very interesting, but sad at the same time. My whole point was how did Tai chi become a sudden health based routine from a martial art. Of course, lifestyle, the social and physical environment and genetics play a role too. However, you quote from Yang cheng fu's book, that Tai chi can be used to strengthen those who were even addicted to opium. Still, it is not clear what or how Tai chi was changed to make it more suitable for health applications. Of course, medical Qigong is used for health, but Tai chi? I am certainly not denying that it is good for health. I a, just wondering how it became that way.

Thanks again,
LIB


Yes its a very sad chapter in history. The change was not to make it better for health as it already was good for health. The quote was from Yang Chengfu's book but a quote of his grandfather Yang Lu-ch'an before it was modified and presumably when he was teaching more or less Chen style.
The Yang Chengfu modifications as I understand it were to make the form more accessible to people who were not in grate health not to make it better for health as such.

I would guess that Taiji first become so near exclusively focused on health after the communist take over when martial focus was strongly discouraged and the simplified 24 form was composed.

Still if you go into the history of the YMAA's Taiji you will find that Grandmaster Kao, Tao started studying Taiji in the 1940's for heath reasons at the prompting of his mother who did not want him learning the martial side although he evidently enjoyed the martial aspect and did study it extensively. So by the 1940's it seems likly that Taiji was being advertised as a healthy art over a martial art.
http://ymaa.com/articles/ymaa-taijiquan-lineage

Grandmaster Kao, Tao's teacher Yue, Huanzhi was famous for his Fajin and had a fight with a Japaneses challenger although reluctantly. So perhaps we can see a gradual evolution through the early 20th century towards a health focused rather than martial focused art.

Grandmaster Kao, Tao the teacher of Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming is still alive and was born in 1932.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby yeniseri » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:53 pm

One can always tell who does their work in CMA circles regarding the historical context of many of the personages of the era. 95% of all CMA people (taijiquan usually) will never know the true health status of Yang Chengfu when he died? This should not detract from his skill or importance but it is an excellent gauge of astute observation and learning intent 8)
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby John the Monkey mind » Thu Jun 13, 2013 2:52 am

yeniseri wrote:One can always tell who does their work in CMA circles regarding the historical context of many of the personages of the era. 95% of all CMA people (taijiquan usually) will never know the true health status of Yang Chengfu when he died? This should not detract from his skill or importance but it is an excellent gauge of astute observation and learning intent 8)


Its not polite to be to explicit about Yang Chengfu's health. I will just leave it at lifestyle although I have come across stories that are more explicit. His fate is not a true reflection of his skill or a good indicator of the worth of Taiji.
Last edited by John the Monkey mind on Fri Jun 14, 2013 3:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Josh Young » Thu Jun 13, 2013 10:10 pm

In my own study the historical emphasis has always been that of health with the martial qualities pertaining directly to health.

I do not understand the original question. Upon what basis is the assumption made that TCC was designed as a martial art alone? How is that even possible?
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby brer_momonga » Fri Jun 14, 2013 8:52 am

Josh Young wrote: Upon what basis is the assumption made that TCC was designed as a martial art alone? How is that even possible?


+1
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Josh Young » Sun Jun 16, 2013 9:28 pm

i see a confusion here of the taiji forms with the system.

A change in form does not change the system.
To practice the form is not to practice the system.

The only real change is the modern claim that the system ever put the martial before the health.
To practice taijiquan forms for health does not mean you practice taijiquan.

Being able to cook doesn't make you a chef.
Doing a healthy thing does not mean you are a healthy person.
Being able to fight does not make you a martial artist.
being able to hit hard does not mean you understand taijiquan
being able to convince others does not mean you are right

The emphasis was always health, the history shows this very clearly.
Yang Luchan was observed to practice slowly and was said to have gone to Chen village to use taijiquan to heal himself of an illness and that his martial skill was secondary to this.

Taijiquan is not a martial art, it is a Dao based health oriented lifestyle that has martial teachings in the system:

Song of the Real Meaning of Taijiquan

1. “No shape, no shadow” (無形無象).

2. “Entire body transparent and empty” (全身透空).

3. “Forget your surroundings and be natural” (忘物自然).

4. “Like a stone chime suspended from West Mountain” (西山懸磬).

5. “Tigers roaring, monkeys screeching” (虎吼猿鳴).

6. “Clear fountain, peaceful water” (泉清水靜).

7. “Turbulent river, stormy ocean” (翻江鬧海).

8. “With your whole being, develop your life” (盡性立命).
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby LIB » Thu Jul 11, 2013 6:29 pm

Thanks for the many interesting posts. I read in Dr. Jwing Ming Yang's long extensive book on Tai chi chuan in several places that Tai chi was originally a martial art. Thus my question on where and when the health aspect was promoted. It has been implied here that Yang Luchan's interest was health. That information must come from a source I havent read. The Chen style seems to have been martial. Anyway, I suppose since Tai chi is based on Taoist principles, this would also include health. Exercise in general is good for one's health.

Thanks again for everyone's response.

Sincerely,
LIB
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Dvivid » Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:15 am

Not a black and white issue, so both answers are correct.

Taijiquan was developed as a daily Daoist moving meditation regimen to develop both the internal energy and external health of the practitioner, which could then be utilized for longevity, fighting, or pursuit of enlightenment. The movements are in the form of martial techniques as monks needed to defend themselves and others regularly.

This indigenous Chinese art was likely a response to similar arts being trained at Shaolin and other Buddhist temples, such as the Vajra form which dates back to about 550AD. Buddhism and 'outsider culture' were outlawed at several times throughout history, resulting in Buddhists hiding as Daoists, and health/martial regimens being absorbed into indigenous Chinese systems.

(To be fair, indigenous health regimens of Dao Yin, Tu Na, and Yangshenfa pre-exist the Buddhists arrival, going back to at least 4th century BC)

Later in the early 1900s, "Taijiquan" slowly became more health-oriented under government pressure. Martial arts were outlawed several times, so that people would not be likely to rise up. At the same time, masters did not want to give the deep family secrets to the government, so the forms were adapted to exclude the martial side.

In 1956, the government stepped in to promote martial arts as a way to promote Chinese culture and health, resulting in the 24 forms. it is based on Yang style and still has martial applications, if you have a good teacher. In 1976, the 48 form was created.

But the Chinese keep flip flopping about the arts, and want to promote the wushu side, without the spiritual/energetic aspects, ie the Cultural Revolution.
"Avoid Prejudice, Be Objective in Your Judgement, Be Scientific, Be Logical and Make Sense, Do Not Ignore Prior Experience." - Dr. Yang

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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Josh Young » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:04 am

Perfect comments David.

Material like the Vajra stuff doesn't seem to originate with Buddhism but goes further back to the establishment of temples of Vishnu across asia well before Buddhism, when Buddhism spread later the martial arts and Yoga practices associated with it were already in place in temples in places like Laos, Burma, Thailand, Java, China etc. Likewise When Buddhism spread it largely incorporated the previous deities of the temples, which is why Indra and manifestations of him play such a huge role in temple statues in Buddhism, such as in China. The role of the Vajra and the changes it took on over time in cultures provides insight into this, its appearance in China likewise predates the appearance of Buddhism.

Dao Yin and other similar yoga practices are much older than Buddhism.

My point here however is that the role these practices played, in any culture where they are found is multifaceted, and health is a huge part of it. One cannot divide the martial from the health, and in many ways the spiritual likewise cannot be divided.

As for the Chens, their art focuses upon health a great deal, they were land owning pharmacists and farmers with a vested interest in maintaining health and treating various conditions. The Chen art is incredibly martial, but its primary emphasis is health, even as a martial art, for the Chens of old were not martial artists but largely laboring farmers who had to maintain their health to maintain their lives, also if their art focused upon martial without health they could end up unfit for work. While they had an interest in preventing violence and protecting self and others, this is only to ensure health, in and of this their focus on martial aspects is only a manifestation of their focus on health.

Yang Chengfu saw the tides change in China where Dutch and other European Guns ended up changing the face of martial arts. His Grandfather taught sword to the guard for martial purposes, but Chengfu saw that bladed weapons, once a major factor in battle, had become obsolete. He recognized that the martial role of the art he had been born into had been forever altered, but that the health aspect remained viable. The art was changed to make it more accessible to the public, the methods of teaching changed to allow a focus on the group instead of the student etc. If there is a time when the emphasis became that of health it is during this time, however the martial was not lost so much as obfuscated.

Some say that the art is an ancient immortality yoga that builds a body of light and that this was given to the chens, but pre-dates them. There are legends that say that the reason the Daoist immortals are immortal is their practice of what would later come to be called taijiquan... I have no idea having not met an immortal... yet. ;)

Since I practice Gweilo Style Taijiquan nobody should listen to me though.
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Re: Tai Chi Chuan and Health

Postby Monsoon » Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:01 pm

A rummage around on the internet reveals that the earliest mention of Dao Yin occurs between 200 BC and 8 BC. This is after Buddha and not much older as stated in the above post. Most of the stuff I have read suggest that Daoism as a coherent system draws on practices and ideas from the Warring States period (i.e. post-Buddha), although it could be tentatively argued that some of the practices may well date from earlier in much the same way that I can say my practice of walking dates back to when our ancestors descended from the trees.

I have every respect (at a distance) for your passion on this subject, but it is unreasonable to expect me to believe your (or David's) statements without references that extend beyond what I can find in an online literature search.

The point that Yoga pre-dates Buddhism is well taken and accepted, as with many ancient Indocentric practices.
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