Five Animals Play Qigong (Wu Qin Xi)

Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong 

Five Animals Play Qigong (5 Animal Frolics, Wu Qin Xi) is one of the oldest and most well known styles of Qigong in China.  It was first recorded in Chinese historical books approximately 1800 years ago.  One of the famous Chinese medicine practitioners of the time, by the name of  Hua Tuo, practiced this style and is credited for being the originator.

Practitioners of Five Animals Play Qigong live long healthy lives, in many cases up to 100 years or more.  They retain their teeth, hair, good skin colour and eye sight.  There are many records of long living Qigong practitioners in China, dating back thousands of years.

There are approximately 80, let's call them 'sub-styles' of Five Animal Play Qigong that developed over the long history.  They all imitate the same 5 animals, being monkey, tiger, bear, deer and crane, yet all are practiced quite differently.  Some of them were kept secret to the practitioner and the group who practiced it.

Many other styles of Qigong that evolved from Five Animal Play, but do not imitate the five animals, carry different names such as "Guo Lin Qigong"  (also known as "Walking Qigong").

Some of the 'sub-styles' of Five Animal Play Qigong have dropped from common practice, or you could say are on the list of 'endangered species'.  Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong was one of those styles that almost disappeared, but is now one of the most popular styles in China.

Soon after the Second World War, the Chinese Government undertook to revive many styles of Qigong.  Without their initiative, many styles may have been lost altogether.  Some of the styles revived were practiced by old men in some remote mountain areas of China or were practiced within families.  This effort made these various styles available and for the benefit of others.

Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong was saved, compiled and readjusted by Liang Shifeng who is a major Qigong master from a southern province of China, called Guangdong in the early 1980s.  At that time no matter how impressed Liang Shifeng was when he first discovered it, he was not aware initially of the power of the style and it was only after putting it into practice and by teaching others, that it became apparent that it had the ability to render some seriously ill practitioners for the better.  Soon after, it became one of the most popular styles in China and continues so in many provinces to this day.

Liang Shifeng found that it was unique in many ways, compared to other styles:

Very easy to learn and practice, the movements came spontaneously, and healing would occur naturally and quickly in most cases.  Some people would even manifest hidden psychic abilities, such as healing with their own Qi (life energy), seeing auras, being able to read other people's minds, distance healing, seeing through solid objects, being able to predict the future and similar.  It was found that some of these abilities could come quite quickly, within days or weeks for some exceptional practitioners, although such manifestations usually occur after months or years of practicing.

Some of the common phases of Spontaneous Five Animal Play Qigong:

One has to learn how to relax and concentrate on certain points of the body.  It is perfectly acceptable to practice either standing up, sitting or even lying down if they cannot stand.

  • During practice, the practitioner will experience involuntary but gentle movements, first slightly but then more exaggerated, until all sorts of things start to happen.
  • The body responds by attending to the injured, damaged and disease affected areas first. For example if a person is suffering from a stiff neck, or sore shoulder, they will spontaneously move in a certain way or massage the right spots that will help eliminate the problem.  In the process of doing so the practitioner manipulates most appropriate acupuncture points even though they have no knowledge of acupuncture.
  • Some would even spontaneously lie on the ground and in this manner manifest a healing behaviour called earthing .  People to whom this occurs, lie on the ground for say 5 or 10 minutes and then afterwards will spontaneously get up and continue the exercise.
  • Some jump, dance, conduct Tai Chi or Kung Fu movements, which they have never done before in their lives.
  • Eventually these involuntary movements stop and the animal movements start to occur.
  • Once these animal movements start to occur in a certain order the practitioner is usually completely cured and his or her energy is in balance.
  • At some later stage the practitioner may experience what s known as a Small Universe or Microcosmic Orbit.  In traditional Chinese medicine terminology, a Small Universe is a microcosm of energy flowing from the coccyx up to the head via the spine then through the front part of the body back to the coccyx again as a continuous flowing energy force that will circulate many times. This signifies mighty energy healing taking place that covers all systems and organs, brain, glands, spine, limbs,... As they say in Qigong "Small Universe heals 100 diseases" ('100' referring to 'all' or 'many')
  • Later the energy will spread into all other acupunsture meridians of the body, altogether 12 of them, and that is known as the Large Universe or Macrocosmic Orbit. The appearance of the Large Universe signifies uninterrupted flow of Qi in all the meridians and the absence of disease. Continuation of practice from now on will lead to longevity and the development of various psychic powers.
  • A higher level, Xu Wu, that can occur while practicing Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong, is where the practitioner experiences a sense of emptiness.  Everything stops, the practitioner feels as though he/she is one with the universe.  Time and space disappear.  The only feeling is of certain acupuncture points pulsating.  Five minutes in this state is equal to one hour of quality sleep.  When in this state to merely think of 5 animals can bring on the 5 animal movements spontaneously, effortlessly and with perfect execution, and these movements can last for as long as the practitioner desires.  Just a mere thought of Small Universe or Large Universe will bring on each requested state.  It is the state of total control of the mind over one's body and emotions. However, to reach this state, normally it takes a lot of practice.
  • There are many other states/phases that may occur and these have varying benefits for the practitioner.  One of the highest ones is known as the Three Entireties and Three Rounds (or Three Cycles).  Once a practitioner reaches this level he/she has the potential to live a very long life, gaining fulfillment and happiness whilst drastically reducing food intake, sleep and the desire for sensual pleasures (or rather the need for but, at the same time, is in constant bliss).

Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong has already saved many lives, maintained many people in a happy and healthy lifestyle and continues to be one of the most popular and powerful styles of Qigong in China.  It's already spread to many other Asian countries and, in recent years, it started coming to the west.

My Experience with Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong

John Dolic is one of the main sources of information for the Qigong Chinese Health articles, he studied in China for nine years and experienced first-hand the various styles of Qigong.

During my stay in China I studied Chinese medicine and practiced many styles of Kung Fu and Qigong.  Due to my interest in Chinese medicine, I was urged to learn as many great styles of Qigong as possible, as it can serve me as an excellent aid in the future treatments of my patients.  Choosing the right styles was not an easy task though.  There were so many fascinating styles to chose from, but some were either too difficult to learn or very time consuming.  So the majority of styles that I chose to learn were the ones most frequently mentioned in Qigong magazines and books of the early eighties China.  Most of them for their effectiveness and practicality, but there were also some others that were highly recommended to me by my Chinese colegues and the people in the know.  Usually, the moment I would finish learning one style of Qigong, I would enroll myself into another one from my list of the "must learn" styles.

One of the first styles I ever learnt was Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong (Wu Qin Xi), however, I didn't practice it at first due to my very busy lifestyle and because I was practicing another style of Qigong that would conflict with this one.  Also, I was pretty fit and healthy and therefore did not have the need to practice anything else to improve on my wellbeing (the condition that I suffered from for three years prior to coming to China was completely eliminated through practicing Tai Chi).  However, from the very beginning I was impressed with the style because I liked the movements that imitate different animals.  At first I didn't think I would be able to do the movements as well as my classmates and teacher (this was before I realised that the movements come naturally and are not learned).  It looks harder than many other styles of Qigong but in actual fact it is much easier.  All one needs to do is focus one's mind on a few acupuncture points on the body (for a few seconds each) and the rest comes without having to consciously remember any steps or movements - making it one of the highest forms of energy exercise from the very beginning.  The energy moves the body spontaneously in the right way according to each individual's health needs.  The closest comparison to what happens is that the 'magic healer' enters the body and does whatever is necessary to be done.  The practitioner usually spontaneously applies Chinese self massage which often includes slapping, hitting certain acupuncture points, moving the limbs in certain ways or doing high-level Reiki-type healing on themselves.

What attracted me to and fascinated me about Spontaneous Five Animals Play Qigong were three things:

1.         It can treat a wide range of diseases (almost anything) in an amazingly short period of time.  The improvement can happen in a couple of sessions and the complete healing in a matter of days or weeks, even though for some serious conditions it may take months.

2.         You don't depend on anyone to heal you because you do it all yourself.  I have heard incredible stories about people who are illiterate and know nothing about medicine that got rid of serious health conditions the medical experts were previously struggling with and could not help or even made their conditions worse.

3.         Everyone was moving differently according to their individual medical needs and no-one seemed to care about how it looked to the onlookers.  But what fascinated me even more was that no-one really paid attention to them anyway, even though it all happens in the park and there are many people passing by.  I soon realised that all these strange pastimes were quite normal in China.

Then after learning and hearing more about what Five Animals Play Qigong can do, I realised that it is much more than just a healing technique.  Healing is only the first step, followed by life enhancement, general wellbeing, longevity, developing incredible psychic abilities and, ultimately, enlightenment.  It all seemed too good to be true.  But when I put it to practice I soon realised that it offered even more than they were claiming.

The first time I ever really applied the techniques was years later when I developed a skin condition called psoriasis, known for its stubbornness and no known cure.  For the first time in my life, I tried helping myself with Qigong and I must honestly say that I was very skeptical about it even after hearing all the amazing stories about how it helped many other people.

I used to feel that bad luck always followed me and therefore had lack of faith in it helping me.  Luckily I was wrong, even though at first it seemed that I was not going to make it.  It took me three days to start moving spontaneously, ie what the Chinese call "Fa Gong", but once it came and I started to involuntarily move, I simply could not believe it was happening to me.  My own body was dancing to the rhythm of the universe.  I felt as though I was drunk yet with a clear and positive mind and endless joy.  I was so happy that I started to laugh, but soon after (about a minute) I started to cry, then followed by anger and fear.  I realised that all these emotions came spontaneously, which was rebalancing my energy, instantly feeling an enormous stress release.  I then started slapping, hitting, massaging various parts of my body, but mostly my left arm, upper back and the inner side of my left leg (yin meridians).  Later on when I analysed my own treatment, I found that the spots that I worked on during my sessions of Five Animals Play Qigong were the most sensitive and the most correct pressure points to treat my condition with, according to traditional Chinese medicine healing methods.  I was so amazed that all this happened automatically without me having to apply my knowledge of Chinese medicine consciously.  The hardest thing in Chinese medicine is to select a few most appropriate acupuncture points amongst the thousands that exist.

I was so happy about all the experiences I had that I couldn't wait to get up and practice it every morning.  I was enjoying Five Animal Play Qigong so much that I completely forgot about why I started doing it in the first place.  When I finally remembered to check my skin condition I found that it completely cleared within a week, even though it was there stubbornly for 2 months.  That was twenty years ago.

I was in the army at the time and only had the early mornings available to practice, I also had to hide in order to avoid interruptions and surprising any passers by.  At one stage, a senior officer observed me when I was in a fairly deep level of meditation (Xu Wu).  The officer was concerned about my condition, he called me - no response. Called me again - same thing. He approached me and even tapped me on the shoulder to see if I was OK but I was totally oblivious.  I was told later about this occurrence from another officer, a friend of that one, so I decided to find a secret place for me to practice my Qigong.  The best place I found was behind a morgue after midnight, I was totally sure that no-one was going to disturb me and I was going to disturb no-one.  It felt like whenever I was about to practice my Five Animal Play Qigong, I was Clark Kent about to change into Superman.

I continued practicing Five Animals Play Qigong for about 6 months but later, as I became increasingly busy, I was forced to gradually stop it all together.  The next time I started practicing it was about a year later when I developed appendicitis.  After my excellent results with clearing my psoriasis, I was very confident about using the same approach to help with this problem.  Also, the severity of my appendicitis made me find the time to practice.

I knew that in China they treat this condition without surgery by practicing Qigong and using Chinese herbs or acupuncture.

When I recommenced practicing Five Animals Play Qigong I found it was much easier this time because I had returned to familiar ground.  I experienced the same emotions and animal movements and knew that when that occurred the process of balancing had begun.  The only difference this time was that due to my appendicitis I found my hands doing energy healing around the appendix area.  One hand was at the front and the other at the back and it felt as though I had a chain attached to them as my hands moved backwards and forwards.  As my hands moved I could feel things happening inside and felt pain as though my intestines were attached to the imaginary chain.  Then I began producing strange sounds and words that I had never heard of in my life.

All of these experiences were part of the healing process and before I knew it all my symptoms had disappeared after a period of 2 weeks.  Again, I was so astounded at the results that I continued my practice daily for one more year often up to three hours at a time.  On one occasion when I was practicing outside close to a tree my mother was watching, and when I came to the point of imitating a bear, I attempted to climb the tree.  My mother remarked to me afterwards what she saw and that it was so funny to see me doing this.  I at the time remember that I felt absolutely marvelous.

By continuing to practice Qigong I believe that my outward demeanor and attitude improved and I became more intuitive.  These newly developed attributes had become very useful.  On a couple of occasions I could identify people who had psychic ability.  I also found that I could interpret my subconscious much better.  When I was a teenager I was interested in intuition and psychic abilities and tried to use and experience it without any success.  I trailed and used a pendulum technique (ie dowsing) to find out whether I was gifted with some intuitive abilities or not.  The result was very disappointing.  No matter how much I tried the pendulum would not move.

Well, I thought to myself, I better look for something else in life, I'll never develop any psychic abilities.  So it came as a major surprise to me when after only one year of practicing Five Animal Play I happened to check the pendulum again and discovered how, without any effort, it would jump all over the place.  I also found that I can heal others with my own energy (in Qigong terminology it is called 'external Qigong').  After about a year of daily practice I also discovered that I did not need spectacles any more.  I had worn spectacles for seven years previously, but found that I no longer needed them.   To me personally though, some of the greatest benefits I experienced through practicing Five Animals Play Qigong were calmness, a relaxed state of mind, clarity of thought and happiness without reason.

Sometimes practicing Five Animals Play Qigong can be very amusing or can lead to all sorts of funny situations.  I had many in the past, so I shall share a few here.

One interesting anecdote that I relate, is about an experience that occurred when I was practicing Five Animal Play Qigong outside in the open and my sister, who happened to be nearby but was not able see me, got really scared.  What happened was that during the practice, at one stage, I spontaneously made a very loud shout which I now understand came from very deep in my abdomen.  My sister heard it, but she was really not sure where it came from.  After I had finished my session my sister remarked on the strange sound she heard and I had to admit that it was me.  I normally have quite a soft voice, but when I'm in the throes of practicing Five Animals Play Qigong anything goes.  The very strong and loud shout was a manifestation of the energy that can be generated with the practice of Qigong (by the way, I was doing the bear movements when it happened).

In another incident, when I was practicing at my father and mother's home, a friend of the family arrived when I was right in the middle of my practice.  The friend greeted me but when I did not respond in the normal fashion the family friend remarked to my father "What is wrong with your son" to which my father replied "Oh, that's only John doing his Qigong thing".

Another time, I was practicing in a park, a big dog came barking at me and I wasn't sure whether he would attack me or not.  Since I was in the middle of my practice and this came unexpectedly, at first it shocked me, but then, in the split of a second, the energy took over my reaction and I "turned into a tiger".  All of a sudden I felt no fear at all, my knuckles and my whole body went tight and I roared at him.  The next thing I noticed was the dog, scared, ran off.  And me, uninterrupted, continued my practice.

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wu qin xi (Chinese characters)
five-animal play: tiger & crane
five animal play postures
typical crane and bear stance
spontaneous 5 animals play - flying crane
spontaneous crane movement
5 animal frolics chi kung - grounding
wuqinxi - spontaneous laughter
spontaneous laughter

some spontaneous movements that often come during practicing 5 animals play

tiger's claw
bear paw
monkey's hand

some spontaneous hand positions that often come during practicing 5 animals play, each corresponding to a certain animal

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