With roots in ancient Chinese culture dating back more than 5,000 years, a wide variety of qigong forms have developed within different segments of Chinese society: in traditional Chinese medicine for preventive and curative functions, in Confucianism to promote longevity and improve moral character, in Taoism and Buddhism as part of meditative practice, and in Chinese martial arts to enhance fighting abilities.
In the 1940s and the 1950s, the Chinese government tried to integrate disparate qigong approaches into one coherent system, with the intention of establishing a firm scientific basis for qigong practice and as part of the political philosophy of the Cultural Revolution. This attempt is considered by some sinologists as the start of the modern or scientific interpretation of qigong.
Through the forces of migration of the Chinese diaspora, tourism in China, and globalization, the practice of qigong has spread from the Chinese community to the world. Today, millions of people around the world practice qigong and believe in the benefits of qigong to varying degrees. Similar to its historical origin, those interested in qigong come from diverse backgrounds and practice it for different reasons, including for exercise, preventative medicine, self-healing, self-cultivation, meditation, and martial arts training.