Page 2 - The Mysterious Iron Balls of Baoding
A Little History
The Baoding ball is thought to originate in Baoding, China, a small city in Heibei province. In that town, tye are referred to as "Iron Balls" because they were originally made from solid iron.
In more recent years, the heavy solid ball has been replaced with a hollow, chrome-plated steel model... usually with an sounding plate inside that makes a pleasant tone as the balls are rotated. The balls are still available in solid steel, solid stone, and solid jade versions as well. I have even seen Cloisonne models which must be mostly for display. The hollow chrome balls are by far the most popular and are manufactured by several large factories in China. Several of these modern companies manufacture aerospace products as well.
Although the date of origin is unknown, mass production of the Baoding Iron Ball dates back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and Baoding craftsmen still meticulously produce the majority of the balls we see.
How They Work
As we are told by most salespesons, the balls work on the meridians much like acupuncture or shiatsu massage. According to Chinese traditional medical theory, these meridians (Jingluo) are channels or pathways through which vital energy (Qi) circulates within the body. Acupuncture points are also distributed along these Jingluo meridians. By means of the Jingluo, the ten fingers are connected with the cranial nerve and vital organs of the human body including heart, liver, spleen, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, stomach and intestines. By stimulating these points with the Baoding balls, each meridian is stimulated which in turn can create better circulation of vital energy and blood within the body.
As one Chinese brochure states: (literally) "It can cause the jingluo unblocked and thorough, the vital energy and blood to function in harmony. the muscles nimble, the bones strong, the mind sober, can invigorate the circulation of blood, and can prevent and cure hypertension and various chronic diseases. If you keep on taking exercise every day for months and years, you can get the fine results of keeping your brain in good health with high intelligence and good memory, relieving your fatigue, drowning your worries, and moreover, prolonging your life."
After a week of practice I cannot confirm the above claims, but I did find working with the balls a very rewarding experience.
One Size Fits All?
Today, the Baoding balls come in many sizes--mainly because foreigners also come in many sizes. It is recommended that a person start with a size that can be handled easily, then perhaps work up to the larger sizes. The most common sizes range from a diameter of 35mm to 55mm. The 35mm is small and is usually used by children or an adult less than 5'2". The 55mm is best reserved for either the experienced user or someone who is over 6'2".
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