Shadows of Mawangdui

Animating the Silk Daoyintu

by Ronald C. Smith & Antonio M. Carmone

Shadows of Mawangdui offers a fresh perspective on a set of drawings on silk called Daoyintu (Exercise Chart), part of a medical library that was unearthed from a Chinese tomb, dated 168 BCE. Substantially damaged, the silk is arguably one of the most enigmatic medical manuscripts found. Its forty-four static images give an intriguing but incomplete view of an ancient health practice, developed at a time when magical and medical concepts coexisted. Daoyin is the ancient forerunner of modern qigong energy work, and many of the manuscript’s original movements can be connected to present-day practices.

Inspired by their taiji quan teachers and drawing on scholarly work on medical and Daoist exercises, the authors offer a highly creative and inspiring interpretation of the images. They show the images, give a detailed explanation, and offer a step-by-step movement guide, complete with descriptive photos. The work is insightful and inspiring, having grown from many years of practice, intuitive analysis, and teaching. Readers are encouraged to work with the exercises along the lines suggested, yet also allow their one unique creativity to unfold as they take their very own path, look within themselves, and find their own meaning in the age-old practice. A powerful guide and engaging presentation for anyone interested in healing, longevity, Chinese medicine, and Daoism.

Contents and Introduction

Paperback: $27.95, plus S&H; PDF file download: $15.00



It is very pleasing to see practitioners of Chinese therapeutic movements engaging with academic history. Smith and Carmoe have produced a marvelously creative reconstruction of ancient world breathing and daoyin, the 2000-year-old stretching and pulling exercises designed to bring together Heaven and Earth in bodily practice. It is a truly great thing to see the silk scroll figures come alive!

—Vivienne Lo, Professor of Chinese History, University College London

Shadows of Mawangdui is a fascinating examination of one of the oldest extant practices of self- cultivation from the East Asian tradition. The authors have done an admirable job in bridging the practical reconstruction of ancient exercises with academic and historical contexts, using a well-balanced approach to the neo-classical rejuvenation of ancient techniques. The book allows readers to experience Daoyin tu practices in a clearly delineated format, as true as possible the original manuscript. It is a must for any student of qigong, Daoist self-cultivation, and medical history.

-Steve Jackowicz, M.Ac., L.Ac., Ph.D. Chair of the Doctoral Program in TCM, University of Bridgeport


Ronald C. Smith (b. 1946), a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, has been exploring ancient Chinese health practices or over twenty years and sharing them with his taiji quan students.

Antonio M. Carmone (b. 1940) is a retired Department of Defense Overseas School educator who began his martial arts journey 55 years ago, delving deeply into Oriental studies, qigong, and acupuncture as a continuing lifetime commitment.