The Five Animal Qigong  by: Jusuf Hariman

The Five Animal Qigong

By: Jusuf Hariman*

I recently spent five weeks in the People's Republic of China to explore the age old Chinese therapeutic exercises:  QIGONG, which in the past was closely related to Chinese martial arts. The trip was reported in the August 1982 edition of the AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGY (Hariman, 1982a). I further quoted Dr Ho Guo Liang from the Chinese Medical College at Guangzhou, who explained that there are two types of Qigong: INTERNAL Qigong and EXTERNAL Qigong. The former, in turn, is divisible into the ACTIVE and PASSIVE type. In the west, the most well known of the active type is TAI CHI CHUAN, whilst for the passive type: MEDITATION.

I really saw a lot in China and met quite a few authorities in the field of Qigong. None of the active type of internal Qigong intrigues me more than the FIVE ANIMALS PLAY QIGONG.  In this article, I wish to describe the Five Animals Play Qigong in such a way, so that western educated clinical psychologists, clinical psychiatrists and the like can explore it and test it out clinically and experimentally.


According to tradition, the first formulation of the Five Animals Play was due to the celebrated surgeon Hua-to of the Han dynasty (2nd century A.D.) who was the first to use anaesthetics in scrapping the poison from the arm of Kuan-ti, the god of war and patron of the Ch'ing dynasty (Berk, 1979 p 57).

Hua-to first experimented with the idea of the Five Animals Play when he discovered that animals appeared to possess a SPONTANEOUS SELF-HEALING CAPACITY, which can be activated and systematically utilized through certain RITUALS and MOVEMENTS.  The method has subsequently been refined by succeeding Chinese doctors - a process which continues nowadays.

During the Five Animals Play the practitioner not just imitates the movements of tiger, bear, deer, crane and monkey, but, most significantly, he assumes each animal's personality in turn. Indeed, from the phenomenological point of view, the practitioner BECOMES THE PERSONALITY HE ASSUMES.

Hua-to further discovered that the assumption has CURATIVE EFFECTS in accordance with the personality assumed:

"TIGER" :..........: Lung (breathing system), chest.

"BEAR"  :..........: Kidney.

"DEER"  :..........: Liver.

"CRANE":......: Heart (Blood Circulation).

"MONKEY":...: Stomach.

(:.........: = has the power to cure diseases related to)

Also, during the process, the practitioner's awareness of himself (psychologically and physically) will be so heightened that, if he properly lets go, his fingers and hands will automatically and spontaneously manipulate the appropriate acupuncture points. He will also behave in the curative way.

One of my informers (1) related the following incident: A man came with a crutch, due to injury in one of his knees. During the Five Animals Play, he slapped the injured knee over and over again, and so very hard, that "we were all afraid that this will aggravate the condition. On the contrary, we actually witnessed a gradual improvement. After, say, a month had passed, he was able to walk without a crutch".

In the People's Republic of China, the Five Animals Play is said to be useful for all kinds of condition (psychological and physical). It is used either as a sole modality or an adjunct to other therapies (acupuncture, western medicine, etc), as the situation determines.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the Five Animal Qigong also has DIAGNOSTIC VALUE. If the practitioner's health is 100% o.k. he will carry out the assumption in the correct order. Otherwise, there is something wrong.

A word of caution. It is strongly held that the Five Animals Play must be studied only under the direct, one-to-one personal instruction of a knowledgeable master, as 1/1000 of the population is so susceptible, that wrong instruction can do considerable psychic harm. I was given, as an example, of someone who did it all by herself and was not able to stop the assumption properly. She is now in a mental asylum, and is out of touch with reality most of the time.

The Five Animals Play is studied in the various institutions in the People's Republic of China. In Guangzhou, it is extensively researched, for instance, in THE GUANGZHOU PHYSICAL CULTURE INSTITUTE, under the direction of Mr Liang Shi Feng, a famous Qigong master. The research is systematic, and highly sophisticated instruments, even by western standards, are used. I was privileged to be invited a few times to visit the institute.


If I am correct, the traditional Chinese doctors who refined the Five Animal Qigong didn't proceed in accordance with the methods of MODERN EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY. But, this does not mean that their way is arbitrary and unscientific.

Popper's scheme can be illustrated as follows:

P1 ' TT '.EE '.P2; where P1 is some problem, TT is a tentative theory, EE is error elimination by the detection of mistakes in the tentative theory, and P2 is a new problem arising from 'our own creative activity' (Popper, 1968 p 119).

Moreover, Bhaskar (1975) distinguishes between OPEN and CLOSED SYSTEMS, and it has been argued, e.g. by Oatley (1981) and Fielding & Llewelyn (1982), that the scheme can be scientifically applied to the OPEN SYSTEM. During discussions with Chinese doctors I was invariably told that this describes the way of traditional Chinese doctors very well.

Indeed, there has always been the tradition of free discussion, criticism and intellectual honesty in China (Hu, 1959). The first great movement of criticism was represented by Wang Ch'ung (AD 27-ca 100) who said: "When I see truth overshadowed by falsehood my heart beats violently and my writing brush trembles in my hand. How can I remain silent? When I criticise them, I examine them with my reason, check them against facts, and expose their falsehood by setting up proofs". Chu His (1130 -1200), the great leader of the Neo-Confusial movement in the l2th century was reported to have maintained: "Investigate with an open mind. Try to see reason with an open mind. And with an open mind follow reason wherever it leads you. Do not push your own opinion too far forward. Retreat one step back and try to see what the other side has to say. That is the open mind". It. was the spirit of doubt - of what Goethe called "creative doubt" - which initiated, inaugurated, and animated the classical age of Chinese thought, the age of Lao Tzu and Confucious, down to Hencious, Chuang Tzu, Hsun Tzu and Han-fei (Hu, 1963). In concluding his paper: THE SCIENTIFIC SPIRIT AND METHOD IN CHINESE PHILOSOPHY, Hu (I959) wrote:

"Those great Chinese humanists, working with only books, words and documentary evidences, actually succeeded in leaving to posterity a scientific tradition of dispassionate and disciplined inquiry, or rigorous evidential thinking and evidential research - a great heritage of the scientific spirit and method which makes us, sons and daughters of China, feel not entirely at sea, but rather, at home, in this new age of modern science" (p 31).

Wisdom (1974) explains S Freud's methodology as follows:

"Freud seems to have devoted an enormous amount of thought to trying to explain the puzzling elements in what his patients told him. In other words, he did not wait for answers to be presented to him, he seems to have made endless conjectures in an attempt to find explanations, and then sought to apply these and test them. This cast of mind comes out very clearly in his early work STUDIES ON HYSTERIA, and evidence for it is also to be found in the fact that he sought to construct episodes that must have occurred in the past life of his patients - he did not find these, he constructed them, and then tried to check them (e.g. from independent witnesses or diaries or subsequent evidence from his patients that confirmed them) (p 60-61)."

Likewise, the traditional Chinese doctors devoted an enormous amount of thought to trying to improve the Five Animal Qigong. In other words, they did not wait for answers to be presented to them; they seem to have made endless conjectures in an attempt to find improvements, and then sought to apply these and test them, from their patients' reactions, colleagues' feedbacks, and not infrequently, data from self-practice.

Walsh (1982) made the following remark with regard to the importance of studying Asian meditation literature:

"For researchers to begin to acquaint themselves with the Asian literature on meditation. Some of these practices span thousands of years and some of humankind's best minds have devoted themselves to this study. The result has been a voluminous literature, as yet largely untapped by Western researchers, produced by people with far greater experience and knowledge of meditation than most of us now beginning research." (p 81)

The same, I think, can be said about the Five Animal Qigong. Indeed, there has been a voluminous literature; but, unfortunately, by and large it is in Chinese (e.g. Liang, 1981). In fact, I have never seen an article on the Five Animal Qigong, like the one described here, in English.

Five Animal Qigong consists of three step-by-step components:

A. The Opening Ritual:

which is to be done consciously.

B. The Semi-Conscious Part:

which, as the name indicates, is to be done semi-consciously.

C. The Closing Ritual:

which is to be done consciously.

The following demonstration, which I personally witnessed, I was told, is illustrative of the effects of the Five Animal Qigong:

The practitioner is CV, 36 years old, female, married with 2 young boys. She is a harpist at a conservatory in Guangzhou. After the opening ritual, she suddenly assumed the personality of a tiger. At first, I was shocked and frightened, as her voice, behaviour, expression, etc changed radically, pretty much like an actual tiger - very different indeed from her ordinary self which is a pretty, rather shy, person.

At least three things deserve special attention here:

1.         CV c1aimed that under THE SEMI CONSCIOUS PART, her legs, hands, etc moved automatically by themselves, without the control of her will. However, she was not amnesiac - she was able to recall everything that happened. I asked her: "If you did try to stop the movements would you be able to do so?"  The reply: "More often than not, yes, but with great difficulty. We were advised not to do that, for fear that it will cause psychic harm. In fact, if for some reason, I have to stop prematurely, I have to resume the rest of the Five Animal Qigong soon as I am capable of doing so, for same reason". Thus, it would appear, that like the facts of hypnosis, the facts of Five Animal Qigong are more consistent with a single psychic apparatus whose normal functioning is a mixture of automatisms and conscious, volitional activities than with a dual psyche (Bernheim, 1917; Hariman. 1982b).

2.         Prior to the demonstration, CV suffered from SORE THROAT and HEADACHE. During the assumptions, and occasionally in between, her fingers and palms automatical1y manipulate certain acupuncture points and other regions along her throat, face, and other parts of her head and neck. She felt cured afterward. She said that prior to the Five Animal Qigong "noone knows what he will do, and for how long. YOUR BODY KNOWS".

3.         In between the various assumptions, CV imitated a harpist playing it harp. She later confided to me that she and her family would shortly migrate to the USA, which meant that she would have to say 'good bye' to her profession forever. In the eyes of a trained doctor, therefore, the Five Animal Qigong can serve as a 'projective test'. "During the Five Animal Qigong, your current concerns, avowed or disavowed, will be revealed through your movements, expressions and voices".

After CV had been in the 'semi-conscious part' for approximately 30 minutes, she did the 'closing ritual', opened her eyes & smiled broadly. She said she felt much fresher than before.

* HARIMAN Jusuf;


Macquarie Univ., Univ. Syd., Columbia Pacific Univ. (Calif.);

Career: Founder Peak Performance Tech. Assn 2000, Assoc. Ed. Aust. Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis 1980-94,

Founder of the fifth force in psychotherapy (Integrative and Eclectic Psychotherapy),

Founder Journal of Integrative and Eclectic Psychotherapy,

Editorial Consult. CPU Abstract 1988-91,

Assoc. Ed. Aust. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 1981-85,

Columnist Triple A Media Network 1999;

Founding Pres. and Fell. Internat., Academy of Eclectic Psychotherapists,

Hon. Pres. World Assn Eclectic Hypnotherapists,

Writing Fell. and Manuscript Assessor Fellowship Aust. Writers;

1993 Brain Trust Brain Award Nominee,

1977 Dale Carnegie Scholarship;

Ed. Choice Award;


How to Use the Power of Self Hypnosis (English, Spanish, Polish) 1981, 1994,

The Therapeutic Efficacy of the Major Psychotherapeutic Techniques 1983,

Banish That Smoking Habit 1983,

Does Psychotherapy Really Help People 1984,

Stay Calm and Reach the Top 1993, 1995;

129 pblns on mgmt and psychology; m. 1979 Polly Wu (diss. 1990) l s l d; rec. collecting friends;

address. Macquarie Centre, PO Box 1677, North Ryde NSW 2113.


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Hariman, J. A kung fu derived hypnotic psychotherapy. The International Journal of Eclectic Psychotherapy. December 1982 c, 1 (2),  67-68.

Hu, S. The scientific spirit and method in Chinese philosophy, Philosophy East and West, 1959, 9 (1), 29-31.

Hu,.S. The right to doubt in ancient Chinese thought. Ibid, 1963, 12 (4). 295-299.

Liang, SF. Spontaneous "Wu Qing Xi" movements. Qigong, May 1981, 2 (2), 60-72.

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Tohei, K. Aikido in Daily life. Tokyo: Rikugei Publishing House. 1966

Walsh, R. A model for viewing meditation research. The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology.  1982, 14 (1), 69-84.

Wisdom, JO. Testing an interpretation within a session. In R Wolheim(ed): FREUD. Anchor Rooks, 1974.

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