Meditation's roots are similar to that of the original medical practices where they began long ago. The form of meditation in Chinese medicine is called Qi Gong, or energy exercise.
Qi gong is typically a quiet meditation, where the practitioner controls his breath while maintaining postures to align his qi for the desired effects. The purpose of each qi gong varies, and usually incorporates a process aimed at slowly opening up the body's channels to build up qi.
Qi gong originated very shortly after the Yi Jing or Book of Changes was written around 1122 B.C. This book covered the three natural energies that are heaven, earth, and man. Most of the qi gong during this time consisted of breath training, which is discussed in many classic books including the Nan Jing.
Buddhism made its way into China during the Han Dynasty, and changed the meditation and qi gong work that was being practiced in China at that time. The style of mediation was called Chan, or Zen Buddhism, and was then merged with the traditional Taoist pieces that preceded it. Qi gong training was more religious based, with goals of attaining enlightenment or Buddhahood. These religious meditations were put in place for the practitioner to escape the cycle of reincarnation. The level of work done during these religious qi gong were deeper and more strenuous than most other meditations that came before, or after them. Advancements were made on the theory of qi circulation through the body because of the work of these practitioners.
Qi gong began to take a different direction during the Liang Dynasty. This was initiated by Da Mo upon visiting the Shao Lin temples; he devised new qi gong to strengthen the weak monks. Martial qi gong was born with the development of Yin Jin Jing (Muscle/Tendon Change Classic), Xi Sui Jing (Marrow/Brain Washing Classic), and Eighteen Hands of Lohan. Later, Zhang San-Feng created Tai Chi Chuan – a system that further added to the practice of martial qi gong. In the 16th and 17th centuries, another style of meditation was developed called medical qi gong. This evolved because of the advancements with qi theory and acupuncture.