Qi-Gong Master Xin Yan deployed fancy US lawyers to threaten Elisabeth Bik, demanding apologies and retraction of her blog and PubPeer posts about his “research”. Which is strange, because the Master’s External Qi powers should be strong enough to turn Bik into a newt or at least into a salt pillar. But then again, it is the online bit and bytes which the Qi-Gong Master wants to banish, and it seems his Qi is incompatible with internet digitalisation and only works analogously, e.g. via telephone. Or lawyers.
Welcome to a new Smut Clyde post!
Bik’s crime was to have been sceptical about Qi-Gong master’s powers of zapping cancer cells from a distance. She is guilty of failing to show appropriate respect to the Dr Xin Yan on her blog, on PubPeer and even on Twitter.
Bik even dug through Dr Yan’s papers to figure out what that mysterious technique was with which he smote hapless cancer cells in their dishes. Turned out, the Qi-Gong Master deployed his personal External Qi:
Bik explains: “Here is how YXL-EQ works:
The Qigong master will take the cancer cells to a private room, and will do something secret. So secret that he can only do it in a locked room. Then he will give the cells back. And voila – they are dead.“
Bik was disappointed:
“if one single researcher claims that he – and only he – can use Qi to kill off cancer cells, he should be willing to share how they do that. If it happens behind closed doors, scientists have every reason to be suspicious.
But what is most bewildering is that there are at least 7 peer reviewed, Pubmed-indexed papers based on this mysterious technique.
Seven sets of peer-reviewers and editors who were not paying attention to the methods and reproducibility.
So now, Smut Clyde tries to have me sued by the same Qi-Gong Master. Or maybe just beaten up by his externally Qi-controlled Shaolin thugs. Don’t forget:
“Dr. Yan was the “houseboy” and Apprentice to Master Hai Teng ~ last Abbot of the Shaolin Temple ~ from the age of 6 to 16 before leaving monastic life to go to medical school.“
I can read your mind like a magazine
I see where you’re at
I know what you mean
By Smut Clyde
Qi-Gong Master Xin Yan (QGM-YX) can override fundamental physical principles, at a distance, by projecting beams of Qi Power… enough to change the radioactive-decay rate of Americium-241, for instance. I envisage him as resembling Emperor Palpatine.
His Qi Energy is versatile: it can also denature enzymes to destroy their catalytic function, and conversely it can restore that function to an enzyme sample that had been denatured by time. It provided sustenance for a disciple who went without food or water for months on end (with other disciples to testify that no food was consumed surreptitiously), to the extent that she gained kilograms of weight just by talking with the Master by telephone. Evidently communication with the Master still required telephony, at least in 2002. Nevertheless, he is unable to change the mind of Elisabeth Bik at a distance, to persuade her to retract and apologise for her negative assessment of his academic publications.
External Qi in Harvard
When you cut through the academic bodyguard of verbiage protecting these papers, several address QGM-YX’s ability to kill cancer cells of various cultivars, at a distance, by projecting Qi power. In a series of PubPeer threads [below, in red], Dr Bik criticised them in on the epistemological grounds of their absence of crucial details and their irreproducible nature (other contributors provided further critique, focusing on more familiar PubPeer topics like RT-PCR manipulation). She only ventured into the shallow end of Messianic grandiosity, thoughtfully leaving some for me, e.g. the radioactivity fantasy.
Even so, QGM-YX or some of his co-authors resorted to bumptious, censorious legal thuggery – taking on a law firm to hint at a meritless but costly lawsuit. The firm’s intimidation letter didn’t specify which author or authors felt defamed, which complicates the question of what should be covered in the apology it demanded from her.
It is hardly newsworthy that QGM-YX makes preposterous claims about super-powers… that is what cult leaders do. The willingness of academic journals to publish his self-promoting absurdities is perhaps more surprising. Piffle, for instance, about the millennia-long antiquity of Qi-Gong as a medical modality, and of its recognition within Chinese medical practice.
- “External Qi therapy of Chinese medicine has long been one of the medical practices in China and is under management by the Chinese health authorities ”
- “External Qi therapy of TCM has long been one of the medical practices in China and is under management by the Chinese health authorities .”
- “External Qi therapy of TCM has long been one of the medical practices in China and is managed by the Chinese health authorities .”
- “External Qi therapy has been used as one of the medical practices in China for thousands of years and is under management of the Chinese health authorities .”
- “External Qi therapy of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has long been one of the medical practices in China and managed by the Chinese health authorities .”
Also of interest is the participation of co-authors from well-regarded institutions, to lend their reputations to the whole basket of bobbins. Institutions like Harvard Medical School; School of Medicine, UCSD; University of Oklahoma; National Institute on Aging at NIH…
Co-authors Delia Wolf and Gerald Wolf of Harvard Medical School shared a surname. I do not know if the former is the same as Delia Wolf-Christiani (currently Associate Dean for Regulatory Affairs & Research Compliance at Harvard School of Public Health), for the latter’s academic website does not list her publications. Professor Wolf-Christiani has not yet replied to an emailed query, but because her responsibilities include “Research Integrity Officer”, I am confident that she supports Dr Bik’s work and has signed the Open Letter backing her right to criticise junk science spouted forth by charlatans.
Update by LS: it is the same Delia Wolf! A earlier version of her institutional profile in Harvard used to list her papers with Xin Yan, see backup below.
The Men Who Stare at Goats
To make sense of all this, we have to go back to that benighted decade, the 1980s. A generation of US academics were open to researching “psi phenomena”, and a corresponding sense permeated the US Intelligence community that a Gullibility Gap behind Russia could not be tolerated. $cientologists like Targ and Puthoff had convinced the highest military echelons that their status as Operating-Thetan Clears meant that anything was possible. Uri Geller was eventually dismissed as a grifter, but it speaks volumes that people took his bullshit seriously enough to test him. So this was the time of CIA Remote Viewing research to weaponise clairvoyance, when Men were Staring at Goats. Sylvie Coyaud remembers it well at Ocasapiens; if you don’t, W*k*pedia has the Cliff Notes version.
Meanwhile in China, local enthusiasts grafted the ESP / Psi-power tradition onto Chinese roots. We read that
In 1990 they belatedly founded the Journal of Somatic Science as a vehicle for their work, with support from Qian Xuesen (engineer, scientist, undoubted genius, expert in fluid dynamics and other rocket-science-related disciplines). The editorial staff of JoSS overlapped with Ziran Zazhi, the Journal of Nature. This background is accessible through the Stargate Collection at the CIA online Reading Room because the Company hoovered it all up in the course of that Psi-curious zeitgeist.
In broader Chinese politics and culture, all this was a culmination of the 1980s Qi-Gong Bubble. That was a kind of backlash from the Cultural Revolution (or an extension of it): a period of renewed interest in ancient traditions of mystical fraudulence, hitched to post-capitalist human transcendence. Little remains of it now apart from the Shaolin-Monks Travelling Circus-show, and the gravity-defying feats of swordsmen in wuxia movies. At the time, though, according to the self-proclaimed heirs to the traditions (passed down through an unbroken succession of Taoist-temple abbots), reviving them was the key to restoring the Middle Kingdom to global pre-eminence. “Modernity and Millenialism in China: Qigong and the Birth of Falun Gong” (Palmer, 2003) is my main source here, though Palmer words it in more of an academic register.
Michael Shaman: “When I took this picture in Beijing, Dr. Yan had been called back to China from a 3 year exile to the United States to treat the then close-to-death Chinese premier Deng Zhou Ping. Both Eastern and Western medical Doctors had given up on Deng’s survival and enemies of Qigong brought Dr. Yan back to China in the hopes of discrediting him and Medical Qigong.
Instead, Dr. Yan was able to keep Premier Deng alive for another year and a half, essentially living off of Dr. Yan’s bioenergy (Qi). This precipitated the “legalization” of Qigong under the Chinese “Sports Authority” (with all its problems since), and changed the course of the World.“
“Qigong Fever” is the extended book-length version, while Cramer (2020) covered the same ground in “The Rise and Fall of Qigong”. This whole occult movement is relevant to my interests, and it requires great self-control on my part to avoid quoting from those authors at length.
It was a heady time for magicians and messiahs, when high-concept conmen realised that there was no limit to the guff they could spout, if they couched it in terms of antiquity and cultural superiority. Who could turn down the promise of the Movement’s leaders to transform the entire Chinese population into super-powered super-humans, using only meditation and rhythmic Qi-channeling exercises? So in the academic debates on the validity of Somatic Science and the existence of ‘Exceptional Powers’, the skeptics were routed, because the believers had all the political clout.
Healing Sessions for Bush and Clinton
Which brings us to the hero of this story, as “Qigong ‘masters’ struggle to survive“:
“Another “qigong master,” Yan Xin, who boasted that he could put out forest fires and change the trajectory of missiles had up to 2 million disciples.“
Now cultural-supremacy cults are natural partners to kleptocrats and authoritarians (as seen in Russia, where the resurgent Stalinist relics climbed into bed with the Orthodox Church theocrats). Party leaders hoped to domesticate the Qi-Gong movement and co-opt it to shore up their Mandate from Heaven. Conversely, cult leaders realised that collaboration with government was the pathway to status and self-enrichment.
This rapprochement went tits-up in the 1990s, though, when Zhang Hongbao of the Zhong Gong school outgrew his jackboots and decided to infiltrate the Party rather than serving it. So there came a crackdown. Wall-posters turned unfriendly; skeptics were allowed to debunk Qi-Gong magic as a cheap charade of conjuring tricks; it was safe to mention the corruption and the sexual predation.
Li Hongzhi didn’t help when he came along in the early 90s with his Falun Gong branch of the movement, again challenging the government’s legitimacy. QGM-YX may not be a weatherman, but he has Qi Power to inform him which way the wind blows, and he rebased himself in the US to build a new following. This was fertile ground for reasons already covered. Global Times wrote in 2013:
“Online search results show that Yan Xin, who went to the US in 1990, still keeps promoting his spiritual therapy in Western countries, giving lectures and writing research papers. But his website yanxinqigong.net has not been updated since 2002.“
With the background sketched in, we can return to the foreground in the form of previously-undiscussed Xin Yan papers -, but there will still be distractions and digressions, so do not relax yet. According to Xin Yan fanboys:
“Of additional note, Yan Xin provided multiple healing sessions for George H.W Bush and Bill Clinton during their tenures as Presidents of the USA, as well as the ex-premiere of China“
So by 2002 there already existed IYXQGA, the International Yan Xin Qi Gong Association, and the American New Medicine Association — the institutional affiliation of recurring co-authors Jun Wang and Hua Shen. And the American Biology Engineering Science Research Institute, which was a collaboration with Yuhay Tse Fong, manufacturing a dietary supplement XY99-5038 (a.k.a. Qi Nutrition Powder, a.k.a XY-S, a.k.a. XY Yang Sheng Su) according to Fong’s family herbal recipe. Which is to say, tread carefully for we have strayed onto the turf of the Food Supplement industry.
“XY99-5038 is one of Yan Xin Life Science Technology serial products originally named “Yan Xin Qigong Nutrition Powder.” It contains many kinds of all natural and non-toxic plants, and is processed, monitored and provided by Prof. Yan Xin (a world-renowned Traditional Chinese Medicine specialist and a Chief Physician certified by the Ministry of Health of China) using Yan Xin Life Science Technology with reference to an ancestor recipe from Yuhay Fong’s family. It is prepared and produced under the care of Yuhay Fong, a senior research scientist, at the American Biology Engineering Science Research Institute utilizing modern bioengineering technology referring to the refining methods handed down from her ancestors.
XY-S is one of the XY Yang Sheng Su serial products prepared from natural nontoxic plants according to a formula provided by Dr. Yan Xin, a renowned traditional Chinese medicine specialist. It was treated with Yan Xin life science technology and manufactured through modern bioengineering techniques. Case-based studies conducted in different countries showed that XY-S treatment achieved typical results for many types of cancers with little or no side effects.“
Confusingly, XY-S is described elsewhere in this oeuvre as a refinement of Qi Nutrition Powder, or an alternative item within the same range of herbal products. Or XY-S is the range, instead of XY Yang Sheng Su being the range (where ‘XY Yang Sheng Su’ was trademarked in 1999 by United States Biology Research Center LLC, another instantiation of Yuhay Fong). It is confusing. See, I warned you that there would be digressions.
Perhaps they’re all the same
I am dwelling on the dietary supplement (or supplements) because advertisements for it (or them) feature in the References of [1, 7-12], to buttress claims that the impalpable Projected Qi Energy can extend life and cure cancer…
- This formulation has proven to be effective without side effects for certain degenerative disorders and also shown to delay aging process in many case-based studies [12–15].
- Long-term clinical observations and ongoing studies have shown that patients with cancer and other medical conditions have received significant beneficial effects from the exposure to external Qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ) which originated from TCM, and in some cases conditions of cancer patients have even been dramatically improved (Fong, 1997; Ming, 1988; Wang & Zhu, 1997; Zhang, Zhao, & Zhang, 1997).
- Long-term clinical observations and ongoing studies have shown that external Qi of Yan Xin Qigong that originated from TCM has positive effects on patients of various diseases including cancer [6–10].
- Long-term clinical observations and ongoing studies have shown that the external Qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ-EQ) has positive effects on patients of various diseases including cancer [24-28].
- Long-term clinical observations and ongoing studies have shown that patients with cancer and other medical conditions received significant beneficial effects from exposure to External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ-EQ) without noticeable side effects [8, 9].
- In the past three decades, positive effects of external Qi of Yan Xin Qigong (YXQ-EQ) on patients including those with cancers have been observed in many long-term and ongoing clinical studies and described in numerous case reports [9-13]
To be fair, the other two citations in this recurring block of text are to a pair of promotional tracts. To be even fairer, we learn from  that a herbal decoction counts as a form of impalpable energy because the product was activated or potentiated by QGM-YX providing an intercession (at a distance) of Qi Energy. Perhaps it doesn’t matter whether XY99-5038 and XY-S and Qi Nutrition Powder and XY Yang Sheng Su use the same recipe, if the botanical ingredients have no efficacy on their own.
“XY99-5038 for these experiments was made and supplied by American Biology Engineering Science Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA), and the external qi of qigong were added by Dr. Yan Xin.“
This was before journals came up with the concept of “Conflict-of-Interest Declarations” for authors to ignore.
Magic PBS buffer
Now it may be that my desire to disentangle the separate contributions of botanicals and Qi is misguided, reflecting my reductive, dualist mindset. Even so, if I had purchased a supply of Qi Nutrition Powder, I would like to know whether Qi potentiation is required for it to confer its benefits, and if so, whether that is part of the standard production process or requires a separate transaction. I would also wonder whether Magic Water, transformed by the Master’s Qi, would be just as beneficial. Apparently it is. A supplementary experiment in  introduces us to Magic Water, or rather Magic PBS Buffer:
“Previous studies have shown that YXQ-EQ treated [Phosphate-Buffered Saline] (named as YXQ-EQ water or YXQ-EQW), YXQ-EQ treated cell culture medium, and YXQ-EQ treated natural nontoxic plant extracts (XY99-5038 and XY-S) possess some biological effects of YXQ-EQ, including anticancer, antiviral and antioxidative activity [9, 11, 12, 20, 29, 30]. Therefore, we examined whether YXQ-EQW and XY-S could inhibit the growth of HT-29 cells.“
To add to the confusion, activation with Qi Energy was not mentioned in , which used the same ‘retinal neural stem-cell’ paradigm as  to explore the neuroprotective properties of YX-S and / or YX99-5038. This paradigm also featured in . It was the area of expertise of frequent co-authors Feng Li and Wei Cao* from the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Oklahoma and Garrick Lee from National Institute on Aging, whose funding came from projects on age-related vision loss.
“XY99-5038 is prepared from several purely natural and non-toxic plants.“
It is good to know that no unnatural plants were used in the preparation of XY99-5038, as that never ends well.
The take-home message of  and  is that these blends of unspecified botanical components, extracted through an unspecified process from unspecified plant species, allow neural stem cells to outlive their usual use-by date and to survive otherwise lethal chemicals when added to their culture medium. Even without the complicating factor of External Qi, the scientific value of so much irreproducible vagueness is open to question.
But before the 2002 Alt-Med Conference, an even more bonkers event took place, calling out for your attention: the First National Conference on Bigu [without food] Manifestation, Health Effects and Scientific Research of Yan Xin Qigong, July 24-25 2000. Held at Pennsylvania State University, through the intervention of Rustum Roy I assume. Gary Schwartz was in attendance to certify its New-Age Bafflegab credentials.
No-one seems to have addressed the most pressing question, does Qi Nutrition Powder count as Food?!? Instead, delegates could listen to edifying presentations on starvation for children, old people and even professors.
This would have whetted their appetite for the Indian / Chinese banquet at the end of Day 1.
Xin Yan was naturally focused on the uniqueness of Qi-Gong Bigu. If he had been interested in precedents, and independent rediscoveries of the same latent powers, there was another tradition of Inedia, in 1800s rural Britain – notably Ann Moore and Mary Thomas. People had to make their own entertainment then. The W*k*pedia entry on “Inedia” covers the Hindu legends of miraculous food-free survival but skips over the Christian tradition, in which the sanctity and spirituality of medieval saints freed them from the demands of the flesh.
Miraculous food-freedom did not linger for long in Xin Yan’s magical repertoire. When Yan et al. cited a talk from the conference in , they revised its title to something anodyne, less redolent of marvels and medievalism: “Collected papers of Yan Xin Qigong scientific research conference at the Pennsylvania State University (pp. 89–99), June 23–25, 2000. New Hope, PA: Amber Leaf Press (to be published)” [it was never published]. Some talks from the meeting did find their way into a special issue of Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, including , , .
In  and , QGM-YX provided his food-substitute Qi at the organismic level and at the cellular level (to cells in nutrient-deficient culture medium) respectively. The authors did their best to reduce the risibility of Bigu by rebranding the central absurdity as ‘YXLST-CR’, in the more plausible context of Calorie Reduction (a popular topic of anti-aging researchers, because a regimen of borderline starvation does extend the life-span of mice and nematode worms). Presenting Bigu as “an improved form of Calorie Reduction” is like “drowning is an improved form of swimming”, but whatever.  is where we learn about the fattening properties of telephony:
“The participant was a 21-year-old female who entered into an YXLST-CR state after meeting Dr. Yan. She was in an YXLST-CR state from October 3, 1987, to February 12, 1988, for a total of 133 days. For 106 days, from October 3, 1987, to January 16, 1988, she did not eat or drink anything except a drink of water on December 29, 1987 (106 days without food and 87 days without water). She weighed 48.5 kg one month before the start of YXLST-CR. Her weight was 48.5 kg on the 10th, 25th, 35th, and 45th day of YXLST-CR, and 50 kg on the 117th day. Without even drinking water, she sometimes gained 0.5 kg to 1 kg after a telephone conversation with Dr. Yan.”
Hume’s approach to miracles comes to mind here, and for this entire body of work. When deciding whether to believe a report of a miraculous event, you should consider which of two explanations is more likely: a miracle did occur, or the witness is deluded or lying.
Perusing the Reddits, we find Xin Yan fanboys citing these papers as an admission that his powers are real, because papers with made-up results would never be allowed.
“Why would the most reputed universities and scientific journals (Nature, ELSEVIER, Cellular Physiology Cellular Physiology , Molecular Cellular Biochemistry etc…) accept his studies and publish them if they were “pseudo scientific papers” that have never “actually been demonstrated in controlled environments”?“
The respect for Elsevier and Nature is touching, even if the actual journal was Ziran Zazhi, the Journal of Nature.
Anyway, here are the papers. Numbers 6 through 12 were already subject of Elisabeth Bik’s blog.
- “Protective effect of XY99-5038 on hydrogen peroxide induced cell death in cultured retinal neurons”. Yan Xin, Yuhay T. Fong, Gerald Wolf, Delia Wolf, Wei Cao, Life Sciences (2001) [PubPeer].
- “Homeostasis Is Maintained in Yan Xin Life Science Technology-Optimized Caloric Restriction: Physiological and Biochemical Studies”. Xin Yan, Canhui Li, Chao Lu, Wei Chin, Hua Shen, Jun Wang, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society (2002) [PubPeer].
- “Studies on the Fundamental Theory of Bigu (Food Abstinence)—Preliminary Experimental Observations of Cellular Bigu”. Xin Yan, Alexis Traynor-Kaplan, Hongmei Li, Jun Wang, Hua Shen, Zhen-Qin Xia, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society (2002) [PubPeer].
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Life Science Technology Can Revive or Suppress Enzyme Activity of Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase”. Xin Yan, Zhen-Qin Xia, Hua Shen, Alexis Traynor-Kaplan, Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society (2002) [PubPeer].
- “XY99-5038 promotes long-term survival of cultured retinal neurons”. XIN YAN, YUHAY T. FONG, DELIA WOLF, HUA SHEN, MARIAN ZAHARIA, JUN WANG, GERALD WOLF, FENG LI, GARRICK D. LEE, WEI CAO, International Journal of Neuroscience (2002) [PubPeer].
- “Involvement of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and insulin-like growth factor-I in YXLST-mediated neuroprotection”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Marian Zaharia, Jun Wang, Delia Wolf, Feng Li, Garrick D. Lee, Wei Cao, Brain Research (2004) [PubPeer].
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong differentially regulates the Akt and extracellular signal-regulated kinase pathways and is cytotoxic to cancer cells but not to normal cells”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Hongjian Jiang, Chengsheng Zhang, Dan Hu, Jun Wang, Xinqi Wu, International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology (2006) [PubPeer].
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong induces G2/M arrest and apoptosis of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells by inhibiting Akt and NF-κB pathways”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Hongjian Jiang, Chengsheng Zhang, Dan Hu, Jun Wang, Xinqi Wu, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry (2008) [PubPeer] RETRACTED.
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Migration and Invasion of Estrogen-Independent Breast Cancer Cells Through Suppression of Akt/NF-ĸB Signaling”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Hongjian Jiang, Dan Hu, Chengsheng Zhang, Jun Wang, Xinqi Wu, Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry (2010) [PubPeer].
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong induces cell death and gene expression alterations promoting apoptosis and inhibiting proliferation, migration and glucose metabolism in small-cell lung cancer cells”. Xin Yan, Feng Li, Igor Dozmorov, Mark Barton Frank, Ming Dao, Michael Centola, Wei Cao, Dan Hu, Molecular & Cellular Biochemistry (2012) [PubPeer].
- “External Qi of Yan Xin Qigong inhibits activation of Akt, Erk1/2 and NF-ĸB and induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Hongjian Jiang, Dan Hu, Jun Wang, Xinqi Wu, Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry (2013) [PubPeer].
- “YXQ-EQ Induces Apoptosis and Inhibits Signaling Pathways Important for Metastasis in Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma Cells”. Xin Yan, Hua Shen, Hongjian Jiang, Dan Hu, Jun Wang, Xinqi Wu, Cellular Physiology & Biochemistry (2018) [PubPeer].
* Doubts about image integrity led three other Wei Cao papers into PubPeer, independently of the collaboration with Xin Yan.