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What is the Ba Duan Jin?

The Ba Duan Jin is one of the most common traditional Qigong forms and is a daily practice for monks at the Shaolin Buddhist Temple.

For 1,500 years, the daily practice of Ba Duan Jin Qigong has been a tradition for monks at the Shaolin Buddhist Temple in Henan, China.

The various translations of the name include the Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight Silken Movements or Eight Silk Weaving. The translations refer to the silken quality produced by practicing this Qigong form to the body and the body’s Qi.

The Ba Duan Jin consists of eight movements that promote health and longevity for both young and old. The movements activate and benefit the twelve meridians and internal organs, so this Qigong form is an excellent addition to your daily regimen.

The movements in the Ba Duan Jin are suitable for both beginners and experts. And they are appropriate for people of all ages and levels of fitness. A practitioner can also practice this routine seated, making it suitable for anyone with physical impairments or mobility issues.


Several encyclopedias from the Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 AD) mention the Ba Duan Jin. The Ten Compilations on Cultivating Perfection from 1300 AD features illustrations of all eight movements.

Sources from the nineteenth century attribute the Ba Duan Jin to the Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei. Scholars believe that Yue Fei created the Ba Duan Jin as a form of exercise to keep the soldiers solid and fit for battle.


The Baduanjin consists of eight separate exercises, each focusing on a different physical area and qi meridian. As this is a prevalent Qigong form, there is some variation in how people practice the Ba Duan Jin, but the following order is the most common.

Two Hands Holding up the Heavens

The first movement of the Ba Duan Jin balances the energy in the internal organs by stimulating the “Triple Burner,” aka “Triple Warmer” or “Triple Heater” meridian. The practitioner’s hands move up the body’s centre through the Lower, Middle and Upper Burners in the body’s abdomen, then push upwards overhead.

Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Eagle

The second movement focuses on the waist area, specifically the kidneys and spleen. But it also realigns the back muscles and the spine and strengthens the arms, abdomen, back, and legs. The practitioner stands in a horse stance and mimics drawing a bow to shoot an eagle.

Separate Heaven and Earth the Bow to Shoot the Eagle

In the third movement, the practitioner presses their hands in opposite directions. One hand moves upward to hold the heavens, and the other pushes downwards towards the earth. This action of having the hands switch positions stimulates the stomach and opens the chest for better breathing.

Wise Owl Gazes Backwards

The fourth movement of the Ba Duan Jin targets the neck and eye muscles. The practitioner stretches the neck to the left and the right in an alternating fashion.

Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

The fifth movement regulates the function of the heart and lungs by removing excess heat (or fire) from the heart via the lungs. The practitioner starts by squatting in a horse stance. They then place their hands on their thighs and then alternate twisting their torso to look behind on each side.

Two Hands Hold the Feet

In the sixth movement, the practitioner alternates between stretching upwards and bending forward to hold their toes. This movement strengthens the kidneys and the waist. More critically, lengthening the spine promotes the circulation of freshly oxygenated blood to the brain.

Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely

The purpose of the seventh movement is to increase general vitality and muscular strength. The practitioner squats in a low horse stance and alternates punching with each fist.

Bouncing on the Toes

The final movement of the Ba Duan Jin is to “smooth out” the Qi after practicing the first seven movements. The practitioner takes a breath, raises their heels, exhales sharply, and drops them to the ground.

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