Liu Zi Jue first appears in a book called On Caring for the Health of the Mind and Prolonging the Life Span written by Tao Hongjing of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420 - 589). A leading figure of the Maoshan School of Daoism, Tao was renowned for his profound knowledge of Traditional Chinese Medicine. "One has only one way for inhalation but six for exhalation" he writes in the book.  Zou Pu'an of the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) was a major contributor in terms of theory and practice to the transmission of the exercise through his book, The Supreme Knack for Health Preservation - Six-Character Approach to Breathing Exercises. No body movements accompanied the Liu Zi Jue exercises until the Ming Dynasty (1386 - 1644) when Hu Wenhuan and Gao Lian wrote books on the subject. For instance they both included in their books the summary of Liu Zi Jue for dispelling diseases and prolonging the life span, which combines controlled breathing with physical exercises.

The practice is based on the five phases () and comprised of two key components or methods. The first is the practice of the six sounds 噓 (Xu), 呵 (He), 呼 (Hu), 呬 (Si), 吹 (Chui) and 嘻 (Xi) which correlate to the Organ systems of Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidney and Sanjiao respectively. The second focuses on extended vibrations where required to internally massage and heal the organs.  

The organ systems are also known to have an emotional representation and the practice of the healing sounds also helps to nourish and balance such emotional energy. The emotions associated include the Liver transforming anger into generosity or kindness, Heart transforming impatience into love and joy, Spleen practice transforms worry into openness and fairness, Lung helps grief and sorrow transform to courage, Kidney helps reduce fear and transforms it into gentleness or wisdom, whilst the Sanjiao helps the body to regulate metabolism and working mechanisms between all the organs.  


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