The History of Qigong: Masters and Their Exercises

The History of Qigong: Masters and Their Exercises

I’ve been thinking of writing Qigong or maybe history of qigong, like where it started, what type of qigong and who is the most popular or the oldest and so on.

Today I’d like to present Wuqinxi, one of the most popular and also oldest among the ones currently practiced and its creator, Hua Tuo, the grandfather of traditional Chinese medicine like Hippocrates in Western.

1. Hu Tuo and his Wuqinxi

“Flowing water does not rotten and rolling stone doesn’t gather moss.”

Hua Tuo (? – 208) was a renowned physician during the Eastern Han Dynasty and Three Kingdoms era of China. He was described as looking like “an immortal who had passed the gates of this life” and “a man with the complexion of a youth and a snowy beard.” The Book of Later Han records Hua Tuo as the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery. He used a general anesthetic combining wine with an herbal concoction called mafeisan ( “cannabis boil powder”).


Hua Tuo also developed acupuncture and devised the Wuqinxi (“Frolics of the Five Animals”), an exercise to enhance health, based upon the movements of five animals: tiger, deer, bear, ape, and crane.


Unfortunately, Cao Cao, a warlord and the Chancellor of the Eastern Han Dynasty whom he served, executed Hua Tuo, which resulted in the loss of his invaluable writings on medical science. Although Hua Tuo’s apprentices Wu Pu, Fan E, and Li Dangzhi, partially succeeded his legacy, some historical records indicate his accomplishments permanently lost.


Hua Tuo watched very closely the shape and movement of each animals ; tiger, deer, bear, ape, bird and made wuqinxi – frolics of the five animal as a whole body exercise and fundamental movements of Chinese martial arts.

His apprentices, Wupu and Fanya practiced Wuqinxi faithfully and Wupu lived 90 years with good hearing and clear vision and Fanya even 100 years.

And frolics of the five animals are still helping all the Chinese people to strengthen the body and prevent disease today with popularity.


Below do we have pictures of Wuqinxi : from right to left- Tiger, Bear, Deer, Ape, Bird.

Then you might ask “Why five animals? Can’t it be six or eight animals?”

Hu Tuo put the fundamental universal energy – wood, fire, earth, metal, water – in this five animal movements so that as people practice this day by day, they will nurture the univeral energy and become the universe. Chinese people think that humans are the small universe and function like the Universe.

Five element ‘Wuxing’ in Chinese philosophy represents five energies which consists of the Universe or nature and these animals correspond to Five elements ; Bear (Wood), Bird(fire), Ape(earth), Tiger(Metal), Deer(water)

Wuxing is also the flow of Nature; therefore 5 animals’ movement is that of Nature or Universe

So in those movements, the law of universe is contained, through which the person in Wuqinxi becomes the universe. Our body is the small universe and this small universe moves with the greater universe in unison.

Wuqinxi makes us more harmonious and balanced so that we really feel moving and living with the Universe

Then how is the body’s reaction? And what will people experience at the beginning.

Keeps yawning, tearing, or flatulence, all these are the signs of bad energy accumulated in the body coming out.

We now know who made this wonderful exercise and how it was made and what is the main idea of Wuqinxi.