The Newsletter 70 Spring 2015

Encoding visual imagery of Ki Suryŏn exported to the West

Victoria Ten

This essay examines the iconography of an instructional DVD of GiCheon, a contemporary Korean mind-body discipline. Cultural practices such as these, commonly referred to as qigong in China and ki suryŏn (cultivating life energy) in Korea, are often reconstructed in East-Asian modernity on the basis of ancient traditions. The DVD was produced to support GiCheon adepts and to advertise the practice to potential newcomers. As a practitioner myself, I am familiar with theories of self-cultivation in GiCheon; within this theoretical context I suggest interpreting the video as a ‘decoding’ of the call for self-development within a visual narrative located in the mountains, particularly through the images of water, wood and stone.