There are many different forms of Qi Gong that celebrate the energy of animals, and one of these is called the Five Animal Frolics.

Since Qi Gong originated by observing nature and mirroring its movements, it only makes sense that animals are an important part of the ancient practice. For thousands of years, Taoist sages have looked at various creatures to understand their gifts and learn from their innate wisdom.

In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the foundational principles and history of the Five Animal Frolics.

What Can Animals Teach Us?

Since most people live among fellow humans, it can be easy to forget that other species have their own unique strengths. We see hints of other creatures’ gifts in our housepets — a dog’s keen sense of smell or a cat’s impressive abilities to jump and climb are just two examples. However, it’s rare that we stop and think to ourselves, “what can I learn from the creatures around us?”

In Five Animal Frolics Qi Gong practices, we bring our attention to the characteristics of various animals. Even though we may never grow wings like a bird or gain the strength of a tiger, it doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate their energetic gifts. 

In many ways, the Five Animal Frolics is similar to the Five Elements. In the Five Elements, we seek to learn from the elements of metal, water, wood, fire, and earth in order to cultivate their positive qualities within us. Of course, we’re not going to become fire in the same form you see in your fireplace. However, we can still experience fire’s positive manifestation in human form, which is love and kindness. 

Just like Taoist sages sought to cultivate the qualities of each element, they also tried to learn from the wisdom of animals. There are practices for many animals, but the Five Animal Frolics focuses on just a few. These are the tiger, deer, bear, ape, and bird.

Together, these creatures reflect strength, flexibility, power, and vitality. The Five Animal Frolics Qi Gong practices help us to channel these qualities in our own lives. 

The Origin of the Five Animal Frolics

The Five Animal Frolics originated in ancient China by a Taoist sage and medical practitioner named Hua Tuo. As legend has it, he designed the practice to offer a balanced combination of exercises for each animal. Together, these exercises help us to cultivate health and longevity.

The Five Animal Frolics were an important part of Hua Tuo’s legacy, but he had other strengths as well. As a medical practitioner, he is said to be the first surgeon in China to use anesthesia during operations. In addition, he practiced acupuncture, herbal medicine, and moxibustion. Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy involving various applications of mugwort. 

One of Hua Tuo’s disciples, Wu Pu, practiced the frolics daily and lived to be over 100 years old. He also wrote about his teacher’s lessons in his book, The Five Animals Classic.

According to Wu Pu’s book, Hua Tuo described the fundamental beliefs and intentions behind the Five Animals Frolics practice:

“[the] body must have exercise, but it should never be done to the point of exhaustion. By moving about briskly, digestion is improved, the blood vessels are opened, and illnesses are prevented. It is like a used doorstep which never rots. As far as Tao Yin (bending and stretching exercises) is concerned, we have the bear’s neck, the crane’s twist, and swaying the waist and moving the joints to promote long life. Now I have created the art called the Frolics of the Five Animals: the Tiger, the Deer, the Bear, the Monkey, and the Crane. It eliminates sickness, benefits the legs, and is also a form of Tao Yin.  If you feel out of sorts, just practice one of my Frolics. A gentle sweat will exude, the complexion will become rosy; the body will feel light and you will want to eat.”

Principles of the Five Animal Frolics

In essence, the Five Animal Frolics seek to bring harmony within all of the body’s energy systems. Since most health ailments arise from imbalances, Hua Tuo created these routines to address the root causes of illness. Also, teaching the Five Animal Frolics allowed him to empower his patients with tools for good health.

Another way of thinking about the Five Animal Frolics practices is to imagine different parts of your body finding flow with one another. Instead of experiencing conflicting internal energies, the Five Animal Frolics helps practitioners become one cohesive being. This promotes equilibrium and balance within all parts of the body. 

In addition to cultivating the positive qualities of each animal, the Five Animal Frolics also focuses on meridian lines. Since meridians are like “Qi highways” that allow energy to move around the body, this is an important part of connectedness and balance.

Not surprisingly, the Five Animal Frolics can be described as a fun practice? Although the exercises offer some seriously powerful health benefits, they are playful and light. After all, animals move in some pretty creative ways. 

If you’re interested in learning the Five Animal Frolics practices yourself, be sure to check out our on-demand online course.

Five Animal Frolics Online Course

At Holden QiGong, we’re excited to be offering our on-demand Five Animal Frolics Online Course.

In the course, Lee dives into the lessons that each of the five animals offers, as well as shares powerful Qi Gong practices for cultivating their gifts. 

This is an on-demand online course that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Click on the banner below to learn more about the benefits of Five Animal Frolics Qi Gong and sign up.