Script for Ba Duan Jin

My practice group uses music with instructions to do the Eight Brocades. Pan Huai found the script and gave me both Pinyin and a translation (which I have amended slightly to follow English usage in martial arts as I know it). Here’s how it goes:

jiàn shēn qì gōng bā duàn jǐn
Health Qi Gong Eight Section Brocade

yù bèi shì
Preparing form

Yu bei shi is an instruction for every form, so it’s a good bit of vocabulary to know. When you hear it, step left.

zuǒ jiǎo kāi bù ;yǔ jiān tóng kuān ;qū xī xià dūn ;zhǎng bào fù qián
Step left to shoulder width, bend the knees and sink down; hold the hand in front of the belly, palms facing in

Some of these words are already familiar: Zuo is left, Jiao is leg, Kai is open, bu is stance. Qu is bend, xi is knees. Zhang is palm. Bao is embrace.

zhōng zhèng ān shū ;hū xī zì rán ;xīn shén níng jìng ;yì shǒu dān tián
Body centered and straight, relax; breathe naturally, calm your mind and facial expression, focus your mind on the Dan Tian

Hu xi is breathe; hu is exhale and xi is inhale.

liǎng shǒu tuō tiān lǐ sān jiāo
Two Hands Reach up to the Heavens to regulate San Jiao

The first exercise i the set. San Jiao is the “triple burner” — a concept in Chinese medicine that refers to the generation of heat within the body. The instruction for this first movement is simple: lift the arms with fingers interlaced, then lower them to the sides. We do the movement six times, but the script ends on the last “Lift up,” after which the arms are lowered to the starting position for the next exercise (which is crossed hands).

shàng tuō 、xià luò
Lift up, Lower [the arms] down (6 repetitions)

zuǒ yòu kāi gōng sì shè diāo
Draw the Bow to Shoot the Eagle

Script for the second exercise. Gong is bow. Bing bu is feet together. We do this one three times on each side. Again, the last bing bu is omitted and instead you take the position for the next exercise  (feet together, sink down, right hand palm-down, left ready to lift).

dā wàn 、kāi gōng 、bìng bù
Cross the wrist, draw the bow, feet together (3 repetitions on each side)

diào lǐ pí wèi xū dān jǔ
Raise hand on each side to adjust the Spleen & Stomach

Instruction for the third exercise. Shang is upwards, xia is downwards. These words occur in a lot of instructions and forms; good to know. Again, 6 reps–three on each side–and the last xia luo is omitted. Move to position for the next exercise, which would be with both hands down, level with the ground, palms down.

shàng jǔ 、xià luò
Lift up, lower [the hand] down (3 repetitions on each side)

wǔ láo qī shāng wǎng hòu qiáo
Look back to [relieve? prevent?] Five Fatigues and Seven Illnesses

The name of this fourth exercise has been translated so many ways. As best I understand it, the looking backward, then turning forward, has an added connotation of forgetting, releasing, leaving behind. Shang means wound or injury, but here, may also refer to seven emotions: happy, angry, sad, worried, startled (nervous?), frightened, laughing. So maybe the idea is to look back, then leave it all behind. Put it all behind you? As a way of achieving peace and balance. I like this idea.

qǐ shēn 、hòu qiáo 、zhuǎn zhèng
Stand up, turn head back, turn to front (3 repetitions on each side)

Zhuan (turn) is a good word to know, as is shen (body). Zhuan shen (turn body) is an instruction that occurs frequently in Tai Chi. We’re told to stand up because in the starting position the knees are bent; they should be bent upon returning to front. The last zhuan zheng is omitted and the starting position for the next movement is both palms facing in.

yáo tóu bǎi wěi qù xīn huǒ
Sway the Head and Shake the Tail to get rid of the Xin-Huo

I’m a little mystified by Xin-Huo. Xin is heart and Huo is fire; Xin-Huo is heart-fire. But I wonder: is that heartburn???

shàng tuō 、xià àn
Lift up, press down

This last is the instruction for getting into position (stepping out to ma bu).

yòu qīng 、zuǒ xuán 、yáo tóu 、bǎi wěi ;zuǒ qīng 、yòu xuán 、yáo tóu 、bǎi wěi
Lean right, swing left, sway the head, shake the tail; Lean left, swing right, sway the head, shake the tail (3 repetitions)

I have to say I am not so sure what “shake the tail” means. The movement is more like roll the head and swing the tail (which you could use for the English instead). The following is the one-time instruction for lifting the arms and moving the feet back together:

shàng jǔ
Lift up [the arms]

Liǎng shǒu pān zú gù shèn yāo
Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist

shàng jǔ 、xià àn 、fǎn chuān 、mó yùn 、pān zú
Lift up, press down, move the hands to the back, message legs (6 repetitions)

Add one last Shang Ju (Lift up) to straighten, then sink into the starting position for the next exercise (fists chambered at the waist).

zǎn quán nù mù zēng qì lì
Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely (or Angrily) to Improve Strength and Qi

Starting instruction:

bào quán
Clench the fists

攒拳怒目、抓握、回收; 攒拳怒目、抓握、回收;
zǎn quán nù mù 、zhuā wò 、huí shōu ; zǎn quán nù mù 、zhuā wò 、huí shōu ;
Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely, grab and clench the fist, pull the fist back (3 times left and right)

Omit the last hui shou to move into position (neutral standing position) for the last exercise. In the script for the one above, in English it would make more sense to say “punch with the [left or right] fist” rather than just clench.

bèi hòu qī diān bǎi bìng xiāo
Bouncing (7 Times) on the Feet, Toes, Heel to Help Prevent Disease

tí zhǒng 、diān zú
Lift up heels, bounce on the feet (7 repetitions)

The script omits the last dian zu. Remain in that neutral standing position for:

shōu shì
Close form

liǎng shǒu hé yú fù qián
Place your hands on the Dan Tian

tǐ tài ān xiáng ;zhōu shēn fàng sōng ;hū xī jun1 yún ;qì chén dān tián
Relax the body, breathe evenly, Qi goes back to Dan Tian

Ba Duan Jin: Second Four

Continuing with the instructional video, which Pan Huai is interpreting from the Chinese. The second four exercises are described in an earlier post. We are adding details and corrections.


Yao Tou Bai Wei (#5): Having just finished Wu Lau Qi Shang, he has both hands down at the sides, palms parallel to the ground, fingers pointing forward. Swing the arms up and step out to ma-bu-width, as shown in the picture above. He then presses down and braces the hands on the thighs.


We notice that he does not lunge right and left; that is, he does not straighten the leg he is leaning away from. Instead he (mostly) leaves his hips in place to bend over, as shown above. When bending over, he is looking at the toe of the foot he’s leaning over. As he swings to the side, he looks at the heel of that same foot. See what that does to his head below.


Looking from above you can see how he rolls his head at the end to come back up:


Liang Shou Pan Jiao (#6): At the end of Yao Tou Bai Wei, he raises up to the starting position and closes the feet. He begins #6 by pressing down with the hand. At chest height, he turns them palm-up. Notice how high up he does this; he will draw the hands around to the back as high under the arms as he can:


Then, starting as high up on the back as possible, he presses the fingers along the spine and firmly massages downward. He remains upright until the hand have traveled all the way down to the tail bone, pressing firmly on either side of the spine.


Bending over he massages down the backs of the legs down to the feet. This part is a stretch for the backs of the legs. He then reaches forward and stretches the upper body upon rising.


Wo Quan Nu Mu (#7): Sit in horse stance and extend the fist, turning at the waist. Look at the fist. You can see below that his shoulders are well turned aside, which means he is twisting both at the waist and at the neck.


The hand movement is a little complicated. First open the fist, so the palm faces in (in the grab below, I was a bit late; he starts with the palm perpendicular to the ground):


Rotate, so the palm faces all the way out:


Circle the hand as if flat on a wall in front of you, until the fingers point down and the palm faces out.


Then close the fingers over the thumb. This is quite a stretch in the forearm, wrist and fingers.

Bei Hou Qi Dian Bai Bing Xiao (#8): I have nothing special to add to this one except that you stand up as high on the toes as you can.

Ba Duan Jin: first four

Continuing our study of the Chinese official instruction video (Pan Huai interpreting): here are some of the important points and details for the first four movements. I gave an overall description and illustration of all the movements in earlier posts, and those are generally correct. So this information is a refinement.

Qi Shi

Qi Shi: opening position.

Qi Shi: Preparing form. Feet together, toes facing forward. Arms are at the sides, with a little space between the arms and sides of the body, palms facing back. Step left (first releasing the right heel). Open the arms out to about a 45-degree angle*, then sink and hold the hands in front of the dantian (lower belly) with palms facing in, fingertips about 3 inches apart.

Open arms to sides before assuming Qi Shi position.

Open arms to sides before assuming Qi Shi position.

This posture resembles what we call Embracing Horse in Nei Kung, but the arms are much lower. The knees are not bent very much, either. From the side:


Shuang Shou Tuo Tian (#1): The hands travel straight up; there is no outward-pushing. Eyes follow the hands, so when the hands are fully extended, the head hangs back.  Then look forward, which allows an even longer stretch straight upwards. Also, when the hands are released, the wrist is flexed so the fingers point up, until the arms are about level, when the hands can scoop down to starting position.

Hands are flexed when lowered. Lead with the base of the hand, continuing the stretch.

Hands are flexed when lowered. Lead with the base of the hand, continuing the stretch.

Speaking of starting position, each movement ends in position to start the next movement. Qi Shi ends by rotating the hands to a palms-up circle with the arms extended below, ready to interlace fingers and begin Shuang Shou. That movement in turn ends with in cross-hands (a little lower and more level, actually), ready for Kai Gong.

Kai Gong Si She Diao (#2): Lift and separate the crossed hands at chest height, weight centered on the right. Then step out to ma-bu width (this is more than shoulder width). Feet should face front, and not be turned out (which means the tailbone is somewhat tucked).


Extend the left hand and right elbow to stretch at shoulder height. The extended hand is not pointing! It is flexed so the index finger points up. The other hand is not a fist; the fingers are bent at the middle joint (including the thumb), more like a tiger claw.


Look at the extended hand. Then turn to look at the other hand while extending it and shift the weight back to that side. Return to starting position.bingbu

Tiao Li Pi Wei Dan Ju Shou (#3): As described before. The only reminders would be that the high hand is flexed so the fingers are point in (palm up and flat), while the low hand is palm-down, flat with fingers pointing forward.

This is left hand high, fingers pointing to the head.

This is left hand high, fingers pointing to the head.


Sink when bringing down the high hand and straighten the legs while lifting. Finish in sunken position with both hands as shown above, ready for the next exercise.

Wu Lao Qi Shang Xiang Hou Qiao (#4): The key point on this one is not to twist the body or bend the back. The head turns to the side without tipping (very much like Owl turns His Head in Nei Kung), chin remaining tucked, so head is suspended. The head turns, but the shoulders do not, although the chest opens. It is not a twist from the waist.

Not twisted at the waist, back straight.

Not twisted at the waist, back straight.

The arms rotate outward, but are not flung back. The hand turns palm-out, thumbs toward the back.


The instructional video is an hour long. Where all the exercises are shown together, background changes, changing camera positions, even clouds! Obscure the movements somewhat. To watch a demonstration of all the movements in real time (with the same music), try Master Faye Yip’s video, which (unsurprisingly) looks correct in every respect–except for one note…

*Faye Yip does not make a point of opening the arms this way during Qi Shi.

Principles of Qigong

This continues the translation and interpretation of the official Chinese instructional video on Ba Duan Jin (the Eight Brocades). My friend Pan Huai is translating for me as we both study this qigong form.

The following are key concepts for understanding the content of this part of the video and for understanding the practice of Qigong:

  • Yinian—the mind or will that commands Qi.
  • Qi—energy, sometimes also called life force. Vitality.
  • Hu xi—breathing (hu = exhale, xi = inhale).
  • Shen—facial expression, through which inner mood or emotion is visible.
  • Qing—mood or emotion.
  • Xing—outward appearance of the body as a whole; posture, carriage.
  • Jing—spirit; the essence or center of being from which energy flows.

How these concepts relate: Qing, the inner state (mood, emotion), is readable from outside through both Shen (facial expression) and Xing (posture, carriage). Qi (energy) flows from the Jing (spirit) and is directed by Yinian (the mind or will).

Qigong could be described as the practice of directing, at will, energy from the jing (spirit) to the shen and xing (outward expression and posture). The video provides three principles for how to practice Qigong.

principle3Reading the right column first, from the top down:

Rou He Huan Man

Rou means soft or gentle. He (pronounced like “her” without the R) means coming together, combining or coordinating. Rou he can be translated to mean that body movements are soft, gentle and coordinated. Huan means slow. Man is grounded; in Tai Chi, this relates to knowing where the body’s weight is centered. Huan man means standing steadily and moving smoothely, knowing where the weight is centered.

The left column from the top down reads:

Yuan Huo Lian Guan

Yuan means rounded; curved or circular. Huo is relaxed, loose, or nimble. Lian means connected. Guan means in sequence, or strung together. In the practice of Qigong, movements are soft and rounded, and connected in sequence.

principle2The second principle reads (again, starting at the right, top to bottom):

Song Jin Jie He

Song means loose or relaxed. Jin means tight or tense. There is a point of stillness in a movement, like the fullest extension of a stretch, the point where one movement ends and another begins. Or where one repetition of a movement ends and the next begins. Jie He means coordinate, in the sense that the loose, relaxed movement and the moment of tension flow from one to the other in a deliberate way.

The left column reads:

Dong Jing Xiang Jian

Dong is move, or movement. Jing is stillness. Xiang jian means both are present, by turns.

In the video, the looseness and relaxation is described as involving all the layers and aspects of the mind and body. The body relaxes on four levels, from the outside in: skin, muscles, bones, organs. Four aspects of the mind, from the visible outward expression to the deepest layer, are expression (Shen), posture (Xing), breathing, and mood or emotion.

So the practice of Qigong a deep state of physical relaxation together with a calm internal state that is reflected in relaxed breathing, expression and overall body posture.

principle1The third principle reads from the top right down:

Shen Yu Xing He

Shen and Xing are defined above as facial expression and overall body posture, or the carriage. Yu means and; He is come together or coordinate. So the expression and posture should be commensurate; in harmony.

In the left column:

Qi Yu Qi Zhong

I am not typing in accents. Qi occurs twice in this sentence, but it’s two different words here (they have different intonations). The first Qi is the familiar term for energy or vitality. The second is a pronoun referring back to the first part of this principle; it refers to Shen and Xing (expression and posture). Yu means contained in, and zhong means in the middle. Energy is contained within them (Shen and Xing). In the practice of Qigong, facial expression and overall body posture are suffused with Qi.

These principles can be compared  to Yang Cheng Fu’s Ten Important Points for the practice of Tai Chi. The last five points are the most relevant here (eg, stillness in motion, use mind not force, internal and external coordinate, upper follows lower), but as we move closer to the actual descriptions of the Ba Duan Jin forms, we’ll find that some of the first five important points apply as well. That’s next.

History of Ba Duan Jin

My friend Pan Huai is interpreting for me the official Chinese-language instructional video for Ba Duan Jin (Eight Pieces of Brocade), a popular Qi Gong routine. If you know Chinese, you can watch the video for yourself:

photo (46)

The video begins with a brief history of Ba Duan JIn. The earliest evidence of the form was found in the Mawangdui Han Tombs excavated in 1972-1974. The archaeological site is in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province in south-central China. The tombs date from the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC – 9 AD).

The Han Dynasty was a high point in the production of fines silks and brocades, and numerous extraordinary textiles were found in the Mawangdui Tombs. Many of them were painted with intricate scenes, and one of them, called Dao Yin Tu, shows figures exercising.

Dao Yin (or Tao Yin) is an ancient precursor to modern Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Dao Yin is also the name of a modern form of Qi Gong. The Dao Yin Tu (Tu means drawing) shows more than forty exercising postures. At least four of them are similar to postures of what is now known as Ba Duan Jin.


More about the Mawangdui Tombs:

The earliest written record of Ba Duan Jin dates from the Northern Song (pronounced soong) Dynasty (960–1279). The routine is described as well as illustrated. The Song Dynasty documents contain the first written mentions of the name Ba Duan Jin.

Ba means eight, Duan means pieces or sections, and Jin refers to the finest silk, or brocade. Jin has the connotation of a person’s best, most precious and decorative possession. The Ba Duan Jin Qi Gong is composed of eight postures, and the name suggests that this form of exercise is the most valuable thing a person could have.

According to one Song Dynasty source, the exercises were performed at midnight (!). There were both standing and seated versions of Ba Duan Jin. A number of variations on the standing form have evolved over time.

A Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) manual describes the postures of Ba Duan Jin by name and provides illustrations. The figure below, which is from a Qing Dynasty manual, shows the sitting form of Shuang Shou Tuo Tian (Two Hands Hold up the Heavens). A script, which can be chanted, guides the sequence of movements.

Image courtesy of Gueyang Shanren

Image courtesy of           Gueyang Shanren

In 2001, the Taiji and Qigong department of the Chinese National Sports Committee set out to study and standardize Ba Duan Jin. Experts from a number of fields such as physiology and sports medicine participated in the study.

Experiments were conducted to determine which versions of the exercises and also what sequence of postures were the most beneficial and effective. The resulting standardized Ba Duan Jin routine is described in detail in the official instructional video that we’ll be studying in this series of posts.

Next: the essential principles of Qi Gong.

Ba Duan Jin 4

Exercise seven is wò quán nù mù zēng lì qi. Nu mu is angry eye! Wo quan is grasp (or maybe clench?) the fist. Zeng is increase (and li, as we’ve already learned is put in order). Qi here is vital energy (as in Qi gong).


Start in horse stance with both fists chambered. The movement is well described by Rashka. Inhale while punching with the left. Open the hand and rotate. Inhale, clench and withdraw. Repeat on the right. Do this four times.

The movement (one English version) is Punching with an angry gaze. Or Clench the Fist and Glare Fiercely.  The benefit is increasing Qi–vital energy. Rashka calls it Punch with Fierce Glower to Build Strength.

Lastly, the eighth movement is bèi hòu qī diān bǎi bìng xiāo, Dian is jolt. Rise onto the toes, then drop down on the heels with a jolt. In the version I do, rise high, then lower about halfway before dropping the heels. Do this eight times. The benefit: Bing is illness; xiao is disappear. Make illnesses disappear.

Ba Duan Jin 3

The fifth exercise is yáo tóu bǎi wěi qù xīn huǒ. Yao here is shake or rock; tou is head; bai is move; wei is tail; qu is go away; xin is heart; huo is fire. Once again, the first part of the name describes the movement, while the second half describes the benefit. Rock the head and move the tail to get rid of “heart fire” — is this about heartburn???


Cloud Hands gives the name of this one as Big Bear Turns from Side to Side. Master Faye Yip, in her video, rocks from one side to the other and rolls the head. Repeat left and right four times.

Number six is liǎng shǒu pān jiǎo gù shèn yāo. Liang is two or both (hands) and pan is climb; jiao is foot or leg. Two hands climb (down) the legs. And the benefit: gu is strong; shen is kidney; this yao is waist. The two yaos have different accents.


Do eight repetitions of this nice gravity stretch. Doing this exercise just twice a week for the last six months has noticeably improved my flexibility. If you lay your hands along your feet, you can get a nice pull through the heels of the hands.

Ba Duan Jin 1

According to legend, the twelfth century Chinese general and folk-hero Yue Fei, also known as Pengju, created the Eight Brocades and required his soldiers to do the exercises every morning to stay fit for battle.


Exercise 1: The short way to say this (from Wiki) is Shuang Shou Tuo Tian–two (both) hands support heaven (tian). Rashka uses Qing (raise) instead of Tuo. Li means put in order. San jiao is the “triple warmer,” a term in Chinese medicine that refers (according to Michael Garofalo) to the heart, lungs and stomach.


There are quite a few variations of this exercise (and of all the others). I am using the one where you sink down, join the hands palm up in front of the dantien, then lift the hands slowly while straightening up. In front of the face, the hands invert to palm-up, then extend overhead.

Faye Yip follows the hands up with the eye, then looks down before releasing the hands and allowing them to float down. In any case, inhale while the hands rise and exhale as they come down. We’re doing eight of these (the number of reps also varies with different versions).

It’s a matter of choice (and fitness and desired level of exertion) whether to remain standing straight the whole time, or whether to squat, possibly all the way to horse stance with thighs parallel to the ground. I am doing the Yang-y modified squat you see in the two videos, one by Faye Yip the other by Peter Chen:

The Mandarin word for inhale is xiru. Exhale is hu. Breathe is huxi and breath is qixi.

Exercise 2: Kai Gong Si She Diao means open the bow to shoot the eagle/hawk/vulture; diao means bird of prey. This exercise is supposed to benefit the kidney and spleen.

Step left, sinking to horse stance in crosshands position. Look left and point left with the left hand while drawing back the right hand to the shoulder (elbow back). Then look right, extend the right arm, lower the arms, and straighten up.

We do this four times on each side, starting with the left side and alternating. Matoko Rashka describes a rather different version in which you shift from left bow stance to right bow stance. In either case, inhale while “drawing the bow” and exhale while switching sides.