Five-Animal Play

Dancing Butterfly, one of the 18 Jewels exercises

Question 9

Where does the 5 Animal Play rank compared to other Chi Kung arts and skills in our syllabus, like 18 Jewels, 18 Lohan Hands, Self-Manifested Chi-Movement, Cosmic Shower, and Bone Marrow Cleansing?

Sifu Leonard Lackinger


If all other things were equal, with techniques as the deciding factor, the ranking of the chi kung arts or skills practiced in our school from the lowest to the most advanced are as follows.

  1. 18 Jewels
  2. Self-Manifested Chi Movement
  3. 5-Animal Play
  4. 18-Lohan Hands
  5. 18 Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Techniques
  6. Grasping Sparrow’s Tail
  7. Lifting Water
  8. Abdominal Breathing
  9. 18-Lohan Art
  10. Three-Circle Stance
  11. Golden Bridge
  12. One-Finger Shooting Zen
  13. Bone Marrow Cleansing
  14. Cosmic Shower
  15. Sinew Metamorphosis
  16. Small Universe
  17. Phenomenal Big Universe
  18. Cosmic Breathing (Transcendental Big Universe)
  19. Merging with the Cosmos (Transcendental Big Universe)

It is important to take note that the list is arbitrary and there can be changes due to changing conditions.

The phrase, “if all other things were equal”, is a philosophical premiss. In real life, all other things are not equal. Even if we presume all other things were equal, a change of conditions or perspective may result in a change of the order of the list.

For example, in the list above the Three-Circle Stance is considered a step more advanced than the 18-Lohan Art. The condition here is that a practitioner practices all the exercises in the 18-Lohan Art quite evenly, compared to practicing the Three-Circle Stance for an equal length of time, say 5 minutes.

But if we have a different condition, while keeping all other things being equal, like practicing all the remaining 17 exercises of the 18-Lohan Art quickly in 1 minute, and practice a powerful exercise like Reverse Hanging of Double Hooks for 4 minutes, then the 19-Lohan Art will be many steps more powerful, or more advanced, than the Three-Circle Stance. In this case the 18-Lohan Art will be about the same level as Sinew Metamorphosis.

As another example, if we practice Sinew Metamorphosis at the form level, and also practice Golden Bridge at the form level for the same length of time, and all other things were equal, Golden Bridge would be more powerful, or more advanced, than Sinew Metamorphosis. This, in fact, is the condition of most people who practice Sinew Metamorphosis and Golden Bridge. But for us operating at the mind level for both arts, 3 minutes of Flicking Fingers after 2 minutes of going over all the other 11 exercises, is more powerful than 5 minutes of Golden Bridge.

The criterion for listing the arts in the order from the lowest to the most advanced is the amount of energy generated from the arts in an appropriate equal period of time. This corresponds closely to the classification of chi kung into five levels as follows.

  1. Medical chi kung.
  2. Health chi kung.
  3. Intellectual chi kung.
  4. Martial chi kung.
  5. Spiritual chi kung.

Why is chi kung classified in this order? It is because this is the logical order for cultivation and development.

When a person is sick, practicing medical chi kung to get well is his top priority. If he sick and tries to practice intellectual chi kung to improve his mind, or martial chi kung to improve his combat efficiency, is being silly.

When he is free from pain and illness, he should practice health chi kung to promote good health, vitality and longevity so that he can do well in his work, which is a duty to himself and to society. If he neglects his work to practice martial chi kung to excel in sports, or spiritual chi kung to see God, he is being irresponsible. God will ask him to go home to fulfill his duty.

Only after he has done his work well, should be think of enjoying his hobbies, which may be intellectual like composing poetry and playing chess, or marital like sports and games. Intellectual chi kung and martial chi kung will be excellent at this stage. The focus is on mental clarity and a lot of energy. Martial chi kung is of a higher level because the demand for mental clarity and a lot of energy for a warrior is more than that for a scholar.

Having done his work well and enjoyed his intellectual or martial hobbies, he is now ready to return to God. Spiritual chi kung serves his need the best at this highest developmental stage.

This classification – from medical to health to intellectual to martial and to spiritual – is a guideline for special emphasis at different developmental stages. All chi kung, even at the lowest level, is spiritual, i.e. it is a cultivation of the spirit, not just the physical body and energy.

Indeed, the spiritual aspect is very important in medical chi kung. All healing starts from the heart, the spiritual heart.

Chi kung may also be classified into three levels:

  1. Chi kung for health
  2. Chi kung for peak performance
  3. Chi kung for spiritual attainment1.

This three-level classification corresponds to the five-level classification described earlier.

Chi kung for health, includes medical chi kung.

Chi kung for peak performance includes intellectual chi kung and martial chi kung.

Chi kung for spiritual attainment is spiritual chi kung.

In our list, 18 Jewels, Self-Manifested Chi Movement, and 5-Animal Play belong to medical chi kung as their main function is to overcome pain and illness. 18-Lohan Hands and 18 Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Techniques are health chi kung, enabling practitioners to have good health, vitality and longevity. In the three-level classification, all of these chi kung arts are health chi kung.

Abdominal Breathing, Bone Marrow Cleansing, and Cosmic Shower are intellectual chi kung, with special emphasis on enhancing mental clarity. Grasping Sparrow’s Tail, Lifting Water, 18-Lohan Art, Three-Circle Stance, Golden Bridge, One-Finger Shooting Zen, Sinew Metamorphosis are martial chi kung, with emphasis on providing a lot of energy.

Grasping Sparrow’s Tail, Lifting Water, and Three-Circle Stance are arts from Taijiquan, which is a scholar’s martial art. Thus, these chi kung arts are also excellent for scholars.

Please bear in mind that saying intellectual chi kung like Abdominal Breathing and Cosmic Shower enhances mental clarity, and martial chi kung like Golden Bridge and Sinew Metamorphosis generates a lot of energy is speaking relatively. All types of intellectual chi kung and martial chi kung enhances mental claity and generate a lot of energy. They are excellent for peak performance.

Small Universe, Phenomenal Big Universe, Cosmic Breathing (Transcendental Big Universe), and Merging with the Cosmos (Transcendental Big Universe) are spiritual chi kung, excellent for spiritual cultivation to the highest level.

Please remember that saying the Small Universe is for spiritual cultivation, and the 18 Jewels for overcoming illness, is speaking relatively, especially in our school where we are so skillful that we may employ a low-level chi kung for some high-level needs, or vice versa. In other words, because of our skills and philosophical understanding, we can use the 18 Jewels, which is regarded as low-level chi kung in terms of techniques, for spiritual cultivation, which is a high-level need. Reversely, we can use the Small Universe, which is high-level chi kung, to overcome illness, which is a low-level need.

The Small Universe is a fantastic art. It is regarded by some chi kung practitioners, though not quite correctly, as the chi kung. Many of our students who had taken a Small Universe course from me, reported that all aspects of their life improved noticeably. This is no surprise if we know that in Chinese to be lucky is known as “hao yun qi”, which literally means “good circulation of chi”. The Small Universe ensures good circulation of chi.

Five-Animal Play and Other Chi Kung in Barcelona 8-11 May 2014

Questions on Five-Animal Play – Overview

The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread Hua Tuo’s Five-Animal Play - 10 Questions to Grandmaster in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.

Five-Animal Play

Students practicing Cosmic Shower in a chi kung class in England

The above question was asked by Sifu Leo in 2014. Just before Christmas on 24th Dec 2018, Sifu Leo and I presented a Christmas gift updating our chi kung and internal force exercises as follows.

Sifu Mark Blohm of Taiwan provided the Chinese characters which appear in the respective webpages on 18 January 2020.

  1. 18 Jewels
  2. Self-Manifested Chi Movement
  3. 5-Animal Play
  4. 18 Lohan Hands
  5. 18 Shaolin Wahnam Chi Kung Techniques
  6. Bone Marrow Cleansing - Skin Level
  7. Grasping Sparrow’s Tail
  8. Lifting Water
  9. Abdominal Breathing
  10. 18 Lohan Art
  11. Three-Circle Stance
  12. Golden Bridge
  13. Toe Breathing
  14. Sub-Merged Breathing
  15. Iron Wire
  16. Bone Marrow Cleansing - Flesh Level
  17. Long Breathing
  18. Forceful Big Windmill
  19. One Finger Shooting Zen
  20. Bone Marrow Cleansing - Meridian Level
  21. Bone Marrow Cleansing - Organ Level
  22. Fierce Tiger Cleanses Claws
  23. Bone Marrow Cleansing - Bone Marrow
  24. Five-Dantian Breathing
  25. Cosmic Shower
  26. Sinew Metamorphosis
  27. Small Universe
  28. Phenomenal Big Universe
  29. Cosmic Breathing (Transcendental Big Universe)
  30. Merging with the Cosmos (Transcendental Big Universe)
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
27th Dec 2018