Animal Frolic

Animal Frolics Qigong: The Crane, The Bird
An Ancient Chinese E
xercise Regimen for Nourishing Life (Yangsheng)
For Fitness, Fun, Increased Vitality, Inner Peace, Good Health and Longevity

Qigong (Chi Kung) Internal Energy Cultivation Method, Chinese Yoga, Chinese Stretching and Healing Exercises (Daoyin)
Wu Qin Xi: Five Animal Frolics

Introduction     Bibliography     Links     Movement Names

Lessons     Quotations     Cranes     Correspondences

Cloud Hands Blog     Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu    Five Animal Frolics Chi Kung

Research by 
Michael P. Garofalo


© Valley Spirit Qigong, Green Way Research, Red Bluff, California, 2003-2013
By Michael P. Garofalo, M.S., All Rights Reserved.







Frolics of the Five Animals

Bear     Tiger     Monkey     Deer     Crane     Dragon     Animal Frolics













Crane or Bird Frolic


The Crane develops balance, lightness and agility. 
The Crane cools and relaxes your whole body, balances the heart-energy, gently stretches your ligaments, and releases your spine.
The Crane exercises strengthen the Heart organ system and benefits the circulation and lungs. 
The Crane must be light and soaring, calm and tranquil.  Avoid heaviness and clumsiness. 
The Classic says, "the Crane is graceful, standing like a pine.  It opens its wings and soars into the clouds.  Spreading its wings, it lands, poised on one leg.  Its qi rises and sinks with no sense of heaviness." 

Correspondences and Alchemical Associations of the Crane



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Bibliography, Links and Resources
Crane (Bird, Stork) Frolic



Alphabetical Index to the Cloud Hands Website

Ancient Way to Keep Fit.   Compiled by Zong Wu and Li Mao.  Translated by Song Luzeng, Liu Beijian, and Liu Zhenkai.  Paintings by Zhang Ke Ren.  Foreword by Kumar Frantzis.  Bolinas, California, Shelter Publications, 1992.  211 pages, glossary.  ISBN: 0679417893.  Outstanding illustrations by Zhang Ke Ren.  The Five Animal Frolics are beautifully illustrated on pages 68-80.  

Animal Frolics Qigong: Bibliography, Links, Lessons, Resources, Quotations, History 

The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu: The Secrets of Kung Fu for Self-Defense, Health and Enlightenment.  By Wong, Kiew Kit.  Charles E. Tuttle, 2002.  215 pages.  ISBN: 0804834393.  Chapter 9, pp. 102-118, Shaolin Five Animals: Training of Mind, Energy, Essence, Speed and Elegance.  Sifu Wong created a 36 Movement Five Animal Frolics form for this book.  The five Shaolin animals are the dragon, snake, tiger, leopard, and crane.  VSCL. 

The Bear Frolic: Bibliography, Research, Links, Notes, Lessons   

Bird Frolic.  UTube Video, 2:02 Min.  Performed by Anson Rathbone, 2007.  As taught by Deguang at NESA's Medical Qigong Class. 

Chinese Healing Exercises: The Tradition of Daoyin.  By Livia Kohn.  University of Hawaii Press, 2008.  268 pages.  ISBN: 0824832698.  History of Daoist health practices.  Five Animal Frolics, pp. 57-70.

Cloud Hands Blog

Cloud Hands Website: Qigong and Taijiquan 

Correspondences and Alchemical Associations of the Crane

Correspondences and Alchemical Associations of the Animals of the Five Animal Frolics Qigong 

The Crane Frolic:  Bibliography, Resources, Lessons, Notes

"Crane Frolic Daoyin," by Michael Garofalo, 2009, Lessons and Instructions. 

The Deer Frolic:  Bibliography, Lessons, Links, Resources, Notes, Lore

The Dragon Frolic: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons, Notes, Lore

Dragon Qigong  

Drawing Silk: Masters' Secrets for Successful Tai Chi Practice.  By Paul B. Gallagher.  Third Edition.  Fairview, North Carolina, Total Tai Chi, 2007, 1988.  245 pages.  ISBN:  9781419663127.  The Five Animal Frolics are covered on pp. pp. 214-215.  

The Effect of Precaution against Sub-health of the Health Qigong Wu Qin Xi.  Chinese Health Qigong Association.  2008. 

Eight Section Brocade Qigong   By Michael P. Garofalo.  History and purpose of this popular chi kung practice.  Descriptions for each of the eight movements, health benefits, comments, variations, extensive links and bibliography, resources, quotations, animated .gif photographs of the movements, and charts.  This file is updated on a regular basis as I add new material, links, notes, and resources.  A.K.A:  Baduanjin, Pa Tuan Jin, Eight Silken Treasures, Ba Duan Jin, Pal Dan Gum, Ba Duan Gin,  Pa Tin Kam, Otto Pezzi di Tesoro, Acht Delen Brokaat, Les Huit Exercices del la Soie, Eight Silken Treasures, Brocade Qigong, Wudang Brocade Qigong, Silk Treasures Qigong, First Eight Buddha Lohan Hands. 

The Essence of Shaolin White Crane: Martial Power and Qigong.  By Yang, Jwing-Ming, PhD.  Jamaica Plain, Massachusettes, YMAA Publishing Center, 1996.  A variety of approaches to qigong are taught in this book: stationary, moving, hard and soft styles of Shaolin White Crane Qigong, pp. 111-240.  Glossary, 336 pages.  ISBN: 1866969353.  VSCL.    

Five Animal Frolics Qigong: Bibliography, Resources, Lessons, Links, Quotations, History

Five Animal Frolics: A Form Workbook.  A Complete Qigong Program for High Energy, Vitality and Well Being.  By John Du Cane.  St. Paul, Minnesota, Dragon Door Publications, 2002.  Second Edition, 2002.  121 pages.  Spiral bound notebook.  100 photographs.  No ISBN.   VSCL.    

Five Animal Frolics Qigong: Crane and Bear Exercises.  By Franklin Fick., 2005.  120 pages.  ISBN: 1411627768.  Online Text  VSCL.  Crane Frolics on pp. 27-66. 

Green Way Research.    Red Bluff, California.

Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language; Symbols, Secrets and Metaphor.  By Swami Sivananda Radha.  Foreward by B.K.S. Iyengar.  Spokane, Washington, Timeless Books, 1987, 1995.  Index, 308 pages.  ISBN:  0931454743.  MGC.  A wonderful book filled with lore, myths, symbols, stories, and metaphors about various yoga postures. Yoga postures that embody aspects of birds (pp. 180-225) include the Swan (Hamsasana), Crane (Bakasana), Eagle (Garudasana), Peacock (Mayurasana), and Cock (Kukkutasana).  

Light on Yoga (Yoga Dipika).  By B.K.S. Iyengar.  New Yor, Schocken Books, 1966, 1976.  ISBN: 0805210318.  

History of the Five Animal Frolics 

Massage - Self-Massage, Patting 

The Monkey Frolic: Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons, Notes, Lore 

Nature Spirits: How to Create Relationships the Nature Spirits of Animals

Qigong Essentials for Health Promotion.  By Jiao Guorui.  Translated by Jiao Tielan.  Beijing, China Reconstructs Press, 1988.  ISBN: 750720100.  ASIN: B000B6TA54.  The Animal Frolics are discussed and explained on 190-236.  The text includes illustrations (line drawings).  VSCL. 

Relaxation (Sung, Song, Shoong), Effortless Action, and Qigong    Links, bibliography, quotes, and notes.  By Mike Garofalo. 

Ripening Peaches:  Daoist Studies and Practices.  Taoist scriptures, bibliography, Quanzhen Daoism, Neidan, gardening, tea, history, qigong/daoyin, readings, etc. 

Sacred Circles

Serenity Qigong: The Crane Frolic.  Instructional VHS, 41 minutes.  Instruction by John Du Cane.  Dragon Door, 2000.  ASIN: 0938045202.  "A longevity program for agility, balance, energy and flexibility. 1,800 years ago the father of Chinese medicine, Hua To, developed a stand-alone longevity system called The Five Animal Frolics. Practiced ever since by millions of Chinese, this delightful combination of dynamic movement and tranquil posture releases energy, restores balance and promotes peace of mind. Born from the marriage of shamanic dance and the Chinese medical study of energy systems, The Animal Frolics offer a complete self-care toolkit of accessible techniques to transform your health and well being. In Serenity Qigong, John Du Cane guides you through the Crane Frolic, helping you develop better balance, flexibility and a relaxed, flowing energy. Learn to move with a new confidence, grace and strength and welcome each day with greater peace of mind." 

Serenity Qigong: An Instructional Guide to the Crane Frolic

Shaolin White Crane Hard and Soft Qigong.  By Yang, Jwing-Ming.  Instructional DVD, 190 minutes. 

Six Taoist Healing Sounds   Research by Mike Garofalo. 

The Spirit of the Five Animals: Shaolin Martial Arts.  By Tak Wah Eng.  Bo Law Kung Fu Federation, 2005.  171 pages.  Simple descriptions, with black and white photographs, for each animal form:  Dragon, Tiger, Leopard, Crane and Snake.  VSCL. 

Standing Meditation (Zhan Zhuang) 

Subject Index to the Cloud Hands Website

Summer Months:  Quotes, Poems, Sayings, Lore

Taoist Qigong for Health and Vitality.  A Complete Program of Movement, Meditation, and Healing Sounds.   By Sat Chuen Hon.  Foreword by Philip Glass.  Boston, MA, Shambhala Pubs. Inc., 2003.  Notes, 174 pages.  ISBN: 1590300688. VSCL.  The healing sound for the Heart in this book is "Ho" and is described on pp. 71-83. 

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

The Tiger Frolic:  Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons, Notes  

Valley Spirit Qigong, Red Bluff, California.  Instructor: Mike Garofalo, M.S. 

The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing.  By Kenneth S. Cohen.  Foreword by Larry Dossey.  New York Ballantine Books, 1997.  Index, notes, appendices, 427 pages.  ISBN: 0345421094.  One of my favorite books: comprehensive, informative, practical, and reasonable.  The Crane Frolic is described on pp. 201-205.  VSCL. 

Way of the Staff

Ways of Walking: Poems, Quotes, Sayings, Bibliography, Links, Lessons, Resources 

Wild Goose Qigong: Links, Bibliography, Quotes, Notes     

Wu Qin Xi (Five Animal Frolics): Chinese Health Qigong.  Compiled by the Chinese Health Qigong Association.  Beijing, Chine, Foreign Languages Press, 2007.  102 pages, includes an instructional DVD.  ISBN: 9787119047799.  VSCL.

Yi Jin Jing Qigong (Muscle/Tendon Changing Qigong): Bibliography, Links, Resources, Lessons.   By Mike Garofalo. 






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Postures, Routines, Names of Movements
Crane Frolic



Paul Gallagher, "Drawing Silk," 1988

Crane Breathing
Crane's Beak 
Crane Spreads Both Wings  
Crane Squat 
Crane Stands on One Leg 
Crane Spreads Wings Behind 
Crane Walk: Arms Forward and Push Back Palms  
Crane Walk: Arms Open Sideways and Return to Dan Tian  
    ("Crane Prepares to Soar Aloft")
Crane Walk: Arms Open Sideways and Press Behind   
Crane Walks Along the River Bank, Spreading Wings Forward and Back 
A Variation with Raised Knee 
Flying Crane 

"Drawing Silk: Masters' Secrets for Successful Tai Chi Practice."  By Paul B. Gallagher.  Third Edition.  Fairview, North Carolina, Total Tai Chi, 2007, 1988.  pp. 1-9, 214-215.  


Kenneth Cohen.  "Way of Qigong," 1997. 

Crane Stance 
1.  Standing Crane  
2.  Crane's Beak 
3.  Crane Flaps Wings 
4.  Crane Squatting 
5.  Crane Stands on One Leg 
6.  Crane Spreads Wings 

"The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing."  By Kenneth S. Cohen.  New York Ballantine Books, 1997. The Crane Frolic is described on pp. 201-205.


John Du Cane.  "The Five Animal Frolics Workbook," 2002. 

Crane Stance
1.  Crane Breathing 
2.  Crane's Beak 
3.  Crane Flaps Wings 
4.  Crane Squat 
5.  Crane Stands on One Leg 
6.  Flying Crane  
7.  Crane Spreads Wings Behind  
8.  Crane Walk  
9.  Crane Walks Along the River Bank 
10.  Crane Takes Off from the River Bank 

"Five Animal Frolics: A Form Workbook.  A Complete Qigong Program for High Energy, Vitality and Well Being."  By John Du Cane.  St. Paul, Minnesota, Dragon Door Publications, 2002.  The Crane Frolic is described, including photographs, on pp. 8-35. 


Franklin Fick.  "Five Animal Frolics Qi Gong: Crane and Bear Exercises," 2005.

Crane's Beak with the Hand
Crane Stance
1.  Windmill Crane 
2.  Breathing Crane I
3.  Soaring Crane I, II and III  
4.  Squatting Crane I and II (Crane Washing Itself)    
5.  Breathing Crane II  
6.  Stepping Crane I and II 
7.  Crane's Beak in the Mud 
8.  Circling Crane  
9.  Basic Crane Posture
10.  White Crane Spreads Wings  
Crane Stance 

"Five Animal Frolics Qigong: Crane and Bear Exercises."  By Franklin Fick., 2005.  Crane Frolics described on pp. 27-66. 


Anson Rathbone.  "Five Animal Frolics: Bird," 2007

1.  Take to Flight  
2.  Dive 
3.  Look at Tail  
4.  Dry Your Wings

Bird Frolic.  UTube Video, 2:02 Min.  Performed by Anson Rathbone, 2007.  As taught by Deguang at NESA's Medical Qigong Class. 


Chinese Health Qigong Association.  "Wu Qin Xi," 2007

1.  Stretching Upward
2.  Flying Like a Bird

"Wu Qin Xi."  By the Chinese Health Qigong Association, 2007.  The two Crane Frolics exercises are described on pp. 79-95. 


Michael Garofalo.  "Crane Frolic of the Five Animal Frolics," 2009

Crane Stance
1.  The White Crane Spreads Its Wings    
2.  The Red-Headed Crane Delights In Seeing Its Mate    
3.  Grandmother Crane Shakes the Dust from Her Wings  
4.  The Sandhill Crane Glides Down to Land Along the Platte River   
5.  The Wise Crane Hears the Healing Sound for the Heart 
6.  The Crane Opens and Closes Its Wings


Cloud Hands Blog





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Lessons, Instructions, Practice, Suggestions
Crane Frolic


Michael Garofalo.  "Crane Frolic of the Five Animal Frolics," 2009


Crane Stance
1.  The White Crane Spreads Its Wings    
2.  The Red-Headed Crane Delights In Seeing Its Mate    
3.  Grandmother Crane Shakes the Dust from Her Wings  
4.  The Sandhill Crane Glides Down to Land Along the Platte River   
5.  The Wise Crane Hears the Healing Sound for the Heart 
6.  The Crane Opens and Closes Its Wings


"Crane Frolic Daoyin," by Michael Garofalo, 2009, Instructions. 

I began my study and practice of Taijiquan and Qigong in 1986, and Yoga in 2001.  Over the years, I learned the Crane Frolic from numerous instructional media (DVD or VHS), books, from instructors, and from personal practice.  I have been teaching Taijiquan and Qigong since 2000, and yoga since 2004, in Red Bluff, California.  In 2008, I attended a two-day Five Animal Frolics workshop taught by Kenneth Cohen in Sacramento, California.  I have elsewhere provide some general comments about the practice of the Five Animal Frolics.  I have also provided a Disclaimer about the practice of Qigong and Taijiquan. 

A careful review of all the available electronic media and books on the Crane Frolics showed me that no two teachers teach the same Crane Frolic exercise forms (techniques, postures, movement sequences), nor do they give the movements the same names, nor do the total number of movements in a Frolic set remain the same.  Some stand in one place and do the exercises, others move forward as they perform a set a of exercises.  Therefore, I've chosen movements from various teachers that appeal to me the most, and have given my reasons for so choosing in the explanations and instructions that follow below.  In general, 1) I've not chosen very physically demanding exercises to help with creating feelings of calmness, ease, grace, and serenity that the Crane Frolic is supposed to engender, 2) nearly all the exercises chosen require some balancing effort, and 3) crane lore and crane behaviors in the wild were a factor in choosing and naming the exercises I have chosen so as to help with "pretending" to be a crane, or "becoming" a crane as shamans try to do.   

Many people who do the Animal Frolics Qigong only do two movements for each animal, repeat the movement 2-3 times, and then do the next Animal Frolic.  This would require 10 movements (5 Animals with 2 movements for each Animal), for a total of 20-30 repetitions.  A very good example of this method of exercising is the Wu Qin Xi set from the Chinese Health Qigong Association. 

In my private home practice, most of the time, I like to do just one Animal at a time.  I practice the Crane Frolic movement set as described below, 5 movements; and with 4 repetitions of each movement, twice to each side. 

I do favor some spontaneity, freedom, and flexibility in choosing what Animal Frolic(s) to practice each day, and how to practice the Frolic.  Consequently, my private home practice is varied.  Depending upon my interests, time available, mood, and what healing modality I feel is most needed by me, I feel free to play around with combinations and repetitions.  We human beings, unlike our wild animal neighbors, are more varied and creative in our activities and responses to our environment.  In some sense, we are "wilder" (i.e., more unpredictable, spontaneous, uncontrolled, liberated, unnatural, chaotic) than all other animals, wild or domesticated. 

When I teach the Animal Frolics, I teach one animal at at time, appropriate to the season, and just teach that one animal frolic set with explanations and commentary relevant to the specific wild animal, healing benefits, history, Five Elements, healing sound, seasonal aspects, natural history, etc.    

All the Crane Frolics teachers do speak of the same general mind-body principles to follow while doing the Crane Frolics Daoyin (Qigong) exercises: calmness, slowness, relaxed (sung), balanced, deliberate, taking on and expressing the characteristics and nature of cranes, inner awareness, deep breathing, concentrated mind, not forcing (wu wei), playfulness, lightness, flying, awareness of energy movement in the body-mind, serenity, delight ...


Crane Stance

Stand up straight and tall.  The heels touch and the feet and toes are angled out.  The hands are in a "Crane's Hand" or "Crane's Beak" position (mudra): the sides of all the fingers are gently touching one another and curled towards the palm, the thumb is drawn towards the fingers and gently touches the middle finer, the wrist is bent and curled gently inward towards the forearm, the overall feeling is relaxed, soft, and graceful.  Hold the hands in the center of the waist at the  Elixir Field (Dan Tian), with the palms up, tips of the fingers touching.  Look straight ahead.  The vison is wide-angled, diffused, with the eyes half open.  Relax (Sung) the body and mind.  Bring the attention to the heart area.  One should feel relaxed, joyful, and calm.  Project outwards an Inner Smile of contentment, peace, and satisfaction. 


1.  The White Crane Spreads Its Wings  

This posture is one familiar to all Taijiquan players, since all Taijiquan forms include this posture, although its execution varies by Taijiquan styles.  In the Yang Style of Taijiquan it is called:  "White Crane Spreads Its Wings," or "White Stork Cools Its Wings," 白鵝亮翅, Bai E Liang Chi

I have seen large birds, white egrets, sit on a post by my pond and open their wings on hot days to cool themselves. 

Step out with the right foot to the diagonal (45°) to the right side and gently place the right ball of the foot (Bubbling Springs Point) on the ground with the right heel up (right empty stance).  Weight is in the back left leg.  Sink and root into the entire left foot.  Raise the left hand to the left side, above the head, hand open, left palm facing forward.  Lift the left arm up and out, rising, stretching the left lats and deltoids.  Lower the right hand to the right hip, hand open, right palm facing down.  Look to the left side, head turned about 45° from center.  Breathe in as you do this movement.  Consciously, purposely, or imaginatively work to move bodily energy (Qi, blood, feeling) from the center of the body up to the upper left fingers and down to the Bubbling Springs Point in the right foot.   

Exhale as you lower the hands back to the navel in the area of the Elixir Field (Dan Tian, Hara, Manipurna Chakra) and return to the crane stance and face forward again.  Consciously, purposely, or imaginatively work to return bodily energy (Qi, blood, feeling, Ki, Prana) back towards the center of the body in the lower abdomen as you exhale and lower the left hand.   

Repeat the same exercise movement to the left side (left toe stance, right hand high, left hand at side) as you inhale; then exhale and return to center position and the Crane stance. 

The arm that lifts high is the opposite arm of the foot extended forward (left foot forward then right arm high). 

Note that in Yang Style Taijiquan the lower palm faces downward rather than forward in this Crane Frolic movement. 

Repeat the exercise movement, alternating between the left side and right side, from 4 to 8 times. 



2.  The Red-Headed Crane Delights in Seeing Its Mate  

Lift both arms up to the sides until they are both above shoulder level.  The hands take the shape of the Crane's Hand they move above shoulder height.  (The ladies in the pictures below are not using the Crane's Hand, but otherwise exemplify the posture desired when hands and knees are raised to the highest levels.) 

As the arms raise up, lift the left knee up until it is about at hip level.  Breathe in as you lift both arms up.  Pause for a moment at the highest point and look forward as if recognizing your mate or weetheart in a group.  Then lower the left leg and arms simultaneously as you exhale.  As the hands come down to the sides of your thighs, bend the knees slightly and dip down a little.  Then raise the arms up again as you lift the right knee up to hip height.  Inhale as you rise, exhale as you lower down.  Alternate the raising of arms and one leg for 4 to 10 repetitions.   

The height to which you will raise your knee depends upon your balancing skills, coordination, strength, confidence, and degree of skill.  Do try your best to raise the knee upward and draw your foot off of the floor. 

Folklore favors the idea that Cranes mate for life.  Some scientific research indicates that they do mate monogamously for long periods, but may change mates after a long period of time - serial monogamy.   Keeping the same mate means that their partner is special, recognizable, identifiable, and can be spotted in a group of Cranes feeding in a marsh or flying in formation during migration. 





3.  The Grandmother Crane Shakes the Dust from Her Wings  

a) From the Crane Stance step out with the right leg at an angle, placing the heel gently on the floor.  Lean back as you raise your arms up the sides of the body.  As the arms are raised upward the palms face downward and the fingers are spread open.  Inhale as you raise your arms and lean back. 

b) Begin to shift the weight forward into right leg and flatten the right foot as you draw your hands in a downward and inward arc towards the center of your body.  As the arms move down, turn the hands so that the palms are facing upward when you reach about waist level.  Exhale as you move the arms downward.  Some people might need to bring both fee together at this point so as to be able to balance well enough to perform part c) of this movement sequence. 

c) Shift all the weight into the right leg.  Begin to raise the arms forward and upward to above shoulder height, palms up, fingers open, arms out to the side.  As the arms raise the left knee is drawn upward until it is at about waist height.  Inhale as you drawn both arms and the left knee upward.  Look forward. 

d) Draw both arms down and back as you lower your left knee and step backward to the starting position.  Step back with the right foot to return to the starting position and a Crane Stance.  The hands return to Dan Tian level.  Exhale as you move from c) to d). 

Repeat the same movement sequence above (a-d) to the opposite left side (i.e., stepping out to the left side at an angle, leaning back and raising arms, drawing right knee to waist, then steeping back). 

Instead of stepping back in part d) you could bring the foot back to alongside the other foot.  Then turn the body slightly to the left and begin a repetition of parts (a-d) to the opposite left side.  You would need room for moving forward.  

The model I have used for this movement is identical to the movement performed by Anson Rathbone in his Bird Frolic, #4 Dry Your Wings.   



4.  The Sandhill Crane Glides Down to Land Along the Platte River    

Step forward with the right leg.  Place the weight evenly into the right foot.  Gradually lift the arms to the side and slightly backward, palms facing down.  Gradually lift the left leg into the air, and point the left toe.  Balance on the right foot.  Lift the head slightly and look forward.  Inhale as you lift the left leg and lift both arms up.  Hold in the upward position for a few moments.  Then, exhale as you draw the left leg back down to the floor, and draw both arms down to the sides of the thighs.  As you exhale, imagine yourself as a Crane gliding downward, lowering and angling your wings to slow your descent, getting your feet ready to land on the muddy ground by the riverbank of the Platte River.   

With our breathing in we lift to flight.  With our breathing out we prepare to land on the riverbank.   

Repeat the same movement to the opposite side: left leg on ground, right leg lifted, arms out to the side and back.  Alternate back and forth from side to side. 

I prefer moving forward as I shift from side to side.  However, if room does not permit, then step back with both feet into the Crane Stance before stepping out to the opposite side. 


Hatha yoga practitioners know a variation of this movement as "Warrior Three" (Virabhadrasana III) or "Balancing Stick."  In the yoga version, both arms are extended forward as far as possible with the palms touching.  The extended position, balancing on one leg, is held for 20 to 30 seconds (B.K. S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga, 1966, p.74).  The Crane Frolic method is more like a Vinyasa or Flowing style of yoga, coordinated more with breathing pace without extended holding in a static isometric posture for longer periods of time.    

Over 500,000 Sandhill Cranes migrate to the Platte River in Nebraska from Canada each year. 

We do see many gaggles of Canadian Geese in the winter months that migrate from as far as Alaska to the warmer climate and muddy rice fields of the North Sacramento Valley in California.  However, I've never seen any cranes migrate to our area. 



5.  The Wise Crane Listens to the Healing Sound for the Heart  

The use of one of the Six Healing Sounds is a common practice in Daoyin (Qigong) practice.  The Daoist healing sound He is use to heal the heart and small intenstine, and is associated with the summer months.  The Crane Frolic is intended to heal the heart, calm the mind, draw out a serene spirit, and be a summertime favorite.   

I use the technique described by Daniel Reid as follows:

"Start in a relaxed Horse stance.  Bring your hands slightly forward so that he palms are facing each other at thigh level.  Focus attention on the point between the eyebrows [Upper Tan Tian] and on the point midway between the nipples [Middle Dan Tian], in order to open up these vital energy centers, then shift attention to the centers of the palms and the tips of the little fingers.  Commence inhalation and, as you begin to raise your hands up and out to the sides, turn the palms so that they face towards the back, and extend the little fingers outwards as far as possible to activate the heart meridian.  When your breath is full and the hands reach shoulder level, commence exhalation through the mouth, aspirating the syllable her in the top of the throat (He is pronounced as 'her' but without the final 'r', with mouth open, tip of tongue pressed against lower teeth, and syllable aspirating in the top of the throat on exhalation.), while slowly lowering the hands back down the sides with little fingers relaxed.  Visualize hot Fire energy streaming up and out of the heart with exhalation.  When the breath is empty and your hands are back down in the front, pause to relax, then begin the next cycle on the next inhalation."
-  Daniel Reid, "The Complete Book of Chinese Health and Healing," 1995, p.223

Don't strain when breathing on the inhale or exhale.  Some recommend and demonstrate a fairly loud sounding of the healing sound, while others recommend a very soft or nearly silent sounding of the healing sound.  I favor a soft, gentle, and quiet but audible sounding of the healing sound on the exhale.  Experiment!  Try!  What works for you?  What do you feel comfortable with doing? 



6.  The Crane Opens and Closes Its Wings

Begin in the basic Crane stance with the hands at the waist.  The legs are separated with a shoulder's width.  Stretch the fingers open.  Inhale as you lift both hands up the center of the body, fingers pointing forward, arms about 24" apart.
As the hands reach the neck begin to move both hands to the side, upwards, and backwards.  Spread the arms as far apart as you can and to either side of the body as you lift both arms high above the head.  Draw the arms up and back as you gently bend backwards.
At the same time as the arms are lifted up and back, try to lift both heels off the ground, and come up on your toes.  Look up at the sky with your head drawn back. 
As you begin to exhale, gently draw the arms forward and down, straighten the back, look forward, and move the arms down to the waist. 
Repeat for 4 to 8 repetitions in a gentle, slow, calm, deliberate, and smooth manner. 

This movement is found in the Wild Goose Qigong (Dayan Chi Kung) routine.  Refer to "Wild Goose Qigong" by Hong-Chao Zhang, pp.20-21. 
Back-bending while standing with the arms lifted above the head and with the hands touching is a commonly used hatha yoga posture called Anyvittasana.   
This exercise is a hyperextension of the back, stretching of the latissimus dorsi muscles of sides of the upper back, a stretching of the upper rectus abdominis, engaging the pectoralis major, and a tensing of the trapezius muscles in the upper back and neck. 
This movement opens up the Middle Dan Tien (i.e., 中丹田, Zhong Dantian, middle elixir fields, cauldron) of the esoteric body system explained in Chinese Qigong (Yoga); or, analogously, opens the Heart Chakra (Anhata) of Hatha Yoga.  Exercise of this area in the front of the body helps heal disturbed emotions, calms the spirit, strengthens the heart and lungs, and opens the Heart-Soul to the grace of light energy. 
The wide-spread arms held up high help establish a feeling of opening up, freeing oneself, and uplifting one's mood and spirit. 
You often see this ritual body posture in Christian revival meetings as a kind of "Saying Hallelujah" posture.
If the movement was done forcefully and with power and quickly it would be the flapping of the wings of a powerful bird like a Crane or wild Goose or for a human bodybuilder the performance of incline dumbbell flys. 






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Crane Frolic and Crane Lore



"The Crane must be light and soaring, calm and tranquil.  Avoid heaviness and clumsiness.  The Classic says, "the Crane is graceful, standing like a pine.  It opens its wings and soars into the clouds.  Spreading its wings, it lands, poised on one leg.  Its qi rises and sinks with no sense of heaviness."  Commentary:  The crane is light and ethereal, and excels in flying.  It is elegant and graceful, as if roaming the clouds or chasing the moon.  While standing, it raises itself proudly like a lofty blue-green pine, standing eminently without moving.  While practicing the Crane, one must have the far reaching attitude of the Crane extending its wings through layered clouds without the slightest constraint.  The attitude must be soft and supple, refined and leisurely.  If the intent is heavy, the qi can easily stagnate and if the qi stagnates, the energy flow throughout the meridians cannot be harmonized."
-   Paul B. Gallagher, Drawing Silk  



"The bird exercise involves imitating a crane, traditionally regarded in China as a symbol of calmness, litheness, and longevity.  In the practice of this exercise, you should imitate a crane standing upright, with its beak uplifted and displaying a carefree and contented mood, as well as the relaxed manner with which it flaps its wings.  Protrude the neck and stiffen the back to drive the flow of Qi upward when raising your arms.  Contract the chest and relax the abdomen to drive the flow of Qi downward to Dantaian in the lower abdomen when bringing your arms togetther downward.  The bird exercise can promote circulation of Qi and blood in all the meridians and improve the motility of all the limbs."
-  Chinese Health Qigong Association, Wu Qin Xi, p. 79 



"The "Bird Play" is also called the "Crane Play". It imitates the shape of a crane to show its light, comfort, and open movements. Crane is a bird that is agile, long life, and good at flying. The feature of a crane is its competence yet with a light, peaceful, and cozy attitude. It loves to turn its head to look at back and has a very strong ability to balance its weight. When doing the "Crane Play", your two arms need to imitate the flying movement and focus your attention on "Qi-Hai" acupoint. "Qi Hai" is an important acupoint in the Jen meridian. It can generate Qi. Thus, this play can circulate Qi and blood to the whole body; unclog meridians, and exercise sinews, bones, and joints. This will increase the Qi and blood supply to the head, adjust the functions of the heart's and brain's blood vessels, enhance the functions of heart and lungs, and strengthen waist and kidney. This play is suitable for the high blood pressure, heart-crown, and stroke patients. Also it can cure shoulder infections."
-   Five Animal Frolics


Cloud Hands Blog


"In Japan the crane was known as 'the bird of happiness' and was often referred to as 'Honourable Lord Crane'.  In China the crane was the 'Patriarch of the feathered tribe'.  The Chinese saw the crane's white standing for purity, the red head for vitality (and also connected with fire).  The birds were associated with fidelity because they paired for life.  They were also symbols of longevity and in both China and Japan were often drawn with pine trees, tortoises, stones and bamboo - all symbols of long life.  Both cultures also associated cranes with good fortune and prosperity so they are often painted with the sun - a symbol of social ambition.  The Chinese believed that cranes ('heavenly cranes' tian-he or 'blessed cranes' xian-he) were symbols of wisdom - the messengers of legendary sages who were carried on their backs in flight between heavenly worlds.  They believed that pure white cranes were sacred birds which inhabited the Isles of the Blest.  The powerful wings of the crane were said to be able to convey souls to the Western Paradise and to take people to higher levels of spiritual consciousness.  The Chinese also saw valuable lessons in the flight of cranes in which the young must follow and learn from their older and wiser leaders.  Ancient Chinese symbolism included the crane with the phoenix, mandarin duck, heron and wagtail as a representation of the five relationships between people.  In many parts of Asia the cries of migrating cranes were a significant signal of the seasons - crops needed to be sown as the cranes departed for their breeding grounds in spring, while their arrival coincided with the harvest in autumn."
-   Crane Legends, Myths and Lore 



"Legend has it that when Bodhidharma arrived at Shaolin [circa 525 CE], the monks practicing there were frail and sickly and fell asleep when they tried to meditate.  He believed that strong bodies and good health would aid their spiritual practices and supposedly taught them three qigong exercises that are still practiced: The Muscle and Tendon Changing Classic (yi jin jing), Bone-Marrow Washing (xi sui jing), and the Eighteen Lohan Qigong (shi ba lo han gong).  There is some disagreement as to whether these exercise were from Indian yogic or Chinese qigong traditions and whether they originated in Bodhidharma's time or later. 
    The movements of the original Eighteen Lohan Qigong (a lohan, or arhat, is one who has reached the stage of nirvana) became the basis of martial training and in time developed into a more complex system of 72 movements.  By the time of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), these has expanded to 170.  These movements were expressed in the Five Styles, which drew upon the fighting styles, characteristics, and spirits of different animals.  The dragon, tiger, leopard, snake and crane (or cock) styles represented the training of spirit, bones, strength, qi, and sinews respectively.  It was said that to truly master this "mimic boxing" (imitating various animals), the human ego had to be set aside, which is also one characterization of the goal of Chan Buddhism."
-  Andy James, The Spiritual Legacy of Shaolin Temple, p. 31



Bear     Tiger     Monkey     Deer     Crane     Dragon     Animal Frolics     Qigong 



"Chinese legend has it that crane lives for thousand years, and tortoise lives for ten thousand years. Even now in Asian countries such as China and Japan, crane and tortoise are symbols of longevity and good health, and represent a sign of auspicious events." 



"The crane is a symbol of longevity, believed by Daoists to live one thousand years and to inhabit the Island of Immortality, where the elixir of immortality is found. The theme of longevity is further emphasised on this panel by the pine tree, lingzhi fungus and rocks. A pair of cranes can also be attributed the meaning of a long marriage as they mate for life. A further possible symbolic meaning is that of literary elegance, and a pair of cranes may be interpreted as representative images of Fuxing and Wenchang, the gods of happiness and literature respectively."
-   Asian Art 





"The origin of Fukien (Fujian) White Crane is derived from a woman known variously as Feng Chi Niang and Feng Qiang Liang who had originally learned Kung Fu from her father Feng Shi Yu (Fung Fei Tze) somewhere in the early Qing Dynasty. Her father had studied at Nine Lotus Mountains Shaolin Temple (which is why Wing Chun White Crane is still considered a Shaolin art today and salutes with the Shaolin salute)."
Fukien White Crane and Karate



"The cranes' beauty and their spectacular mating dances have made them highly symbolic birds in many cultures with records dating back to ancient times. Crane mythology is widely spread and can be found in areas such as the Aegean, South Arabia, China, Korea, Japan and in the Native American cultures of North America. In northern Hokkaidō, the women of the Ainu people performed a crane dance that was captured in 1908 in a photograph by Arnold Genthe. In Korea, a crane dance has been performed in the courtyard of the Tongdosa Temple since the Silla Dynasty (646 CE).

In Mecca, in pre-Islamic South Arabia, Allat, Uzza, and Manah were believed to be the three chief goddesses of Mecca, they were called the "three exalted cranes" (gharaniq, an obscure word on which 'crane' is the usual gloss). See The Satanic Verses for the best-known story regarding these three goddesses.

The Greek for crane is Γερανος (Geranos), which gives us the Cranesbill, or hardy geranium. The crane was a bird of omen. In the tale of Ibycus and the cranes, a thief attacked Ibycus (a poet of the 6th century BCE) and left him for dead. Ibycus called to a flock of passing cranes, who followed the murderer to a theater and hovered over him until, stricken with guilt, he confessed to the crime.

Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and waken.

Also, the word "pedigree" comes from the Old French phrase, "pie de grue", which means "foot of a crane", as the pedigree diagram looks similar to the branches coming out of a crane's foot.

A crane is considered auspicious in China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. It is one of the symbols of longevity and is often represented with other symbols of long life, such as pine, bamboo, and the tortoise. Vietnamese people consider crane and dragon to be symbols of their culture. In feudal Japan the crane was protected by the ruling classes and fed by the peasants. When the feudal system was abolished in the Meiji era of the 19th century, the protection of cranes was lost. With effort they have been brought back from the brink of extinction. Japan has named one of their satellites tsuru (crane, the bird). According to tradition, if one folds 1000 origami cranes one's wish for health will be granted. Since the death of Sadako Sasaki this applies to a wish for peace as well.

Also, traditional Chinese 'heavenly swans' (tian-e) or 'blessed cranes' (xian-he) were messengers of wisdom. Legendary Taoist sages were transported between heavenly worlds on the backs of cranes.

Rumour has it there was a special crane in Tibet, who would answer the most difficult of life’s questions. Little is known of what became of this magical creature. Some legends state that it lives in an old pagoda, high upon a snowy mountain. Some legends say it grew old and died at peace with nature. According to the most believed legend the crane was reincarnated as an origami replica of himself, still offering out sagely advice to all that seek it. It is said that the crane has many friends with him including a gorilla, turtle, fox and bear."
-   Cranes - Wikipedia






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Information, Facts, References



"The annual Spring Sand hill Crane Migration through Nebraska will see about 500,000 Cranes stop over sometime between late February and mid April on the Platte River in Nebraska. They will stay for about 3 - 4 weeks to feed in the cornfields during the day and roost in the shallow waters of the Platte River at night before heading on north to Canada, Alaska, and even SiberiaThey migrate through an 80 mile wide "Flyway" stretch along the Platt River from near Grand Island to west of Kearney, NE. It is estimated that about 80% of the world's population of Sandhill Cranes do an annual migration layover in this area of the Platte River.  An average Sandhill Crane has a wingspan of 5-6 feet, stands about 4.5 feet tall, and weighs about 12 pounds. They usually mate for life when they are between 3 and 6 years old after a lengthy courtship that includes some very elaborate and unusual "dances.""
-   Sandhill Crane Migration 



"Many cranes are renowned for their migratory habits.  They breed in cooler areas and migrate for winter to warmer feeding grounds.  Those which breed in warmer climates do not need to migrate.  Juvenile cranes can fly 80 to 90 days after birth, but migratory types generally start to fly when they begin the autumn migration.  Young cranes learn migration routes as they follow older birds.  Migrating cranes fly in an echelon, a V-formation so that birds following the leader save energy by not having to push aside the air as they fly.  The birds can cruise at speeds up to 70 km/h (45mph) and glide on thermals over considerable distances.  Whooping cranes, for example, travel 4,000km (2,500 miles) in segments of 300 to 500 km (185 to 300 m), with several days en route at staging areas.  Migrating birds are vulnerable to changes in the habitat of their breeding, stopover or wintering areas, and also to collisions with power lines.  When cranes fly they extend their neck fully, while herons fly with their necks folded into an S-shape with their heads held close to their bodies.  Both trail their legs behind.  Cranes usually stay with the same mate all their lives.  They are very gregarious, forming into flocks of thousands of birds.  Flocks of sandhill cranes larger than 100,000 birds are not uncommon.  Cranes can be long-lived - most writers cite an age of 40 to 60 years in captivity but one notes a captive Siberian crane living for 83 years and fathering chicks at age 78.  Some cranes have elongated trachea which loops around in an expanded breastbone to allow them to trumpet very loudly when alarmed, in flight and during dances.  Crane dances are spectacular  - they bow and bob, throw their heads back and trumpet, throw grass, stones and feathers into the air, leap up and parachute back down on their broad wings.  The crane dance is not only associated with mating behaviour - cranes seem to jump for joy!  Cranes sleep on one leg, with the other drawn up to the body and the head tucked under the wing.  Cranes are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet.  In summer they are likely to eat insects, frogs, small fish, small rodents, small birds and berries, and may scavenge dead animals.  During migration  they eat aquatic animals, tubers and roots, and waste grain on farms.  In winter their diet includes small fish, snakes, crabs, clams and wild fruit."
Thousand Cranes Peace Network, Crane Behaviors 




"The Siberian Crane, Grus leucogeranus, also known as the Siberian White Crane or the Snow Crane, is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes.  This species breeds in arctic Russia in Yakutia and western Siberia. It is a long distance migrant. The eastern population winters on the Yangtze River and Lake Poyang in China, the central population at Keoladeo National Park, India (the last Siberian Crane in this population was observed in 2002), and the western population in Fereydoon Kenar in Iran.  It breeds and winters in wetlands, where it feeds on the shoots, roots and tubers of aquatic plants.  This is a large white crane, typically 4.9-8.6 kg (10.8-19 lbs), 140 cm (55 in), and 210-230 cm (83-91 in) across the wings. Large males can exceed 152 cm (60 inches) and weigh over 10 kg (22 lbs). Adults are all white, except for a dark red mask extending from the bill to behind the eye and black primary wing feathers. It has a yellow iris and reddish legs. The male is slightly larger than the female. Juveniles have a feathered mask and buff or cinnamon plumage. The voice is flute-like and musical.  The status of this crane is critical, as it is expected to undergo a rapid population decline in the near future. The wintering site in China holding an estimated 98% of the population is threatened by hydrological changes caused by the Three Gorges Dam and other water development projects. The world population is estimated to be around 3,200."
-   Siberian Crane - Wikipedia


Cloud Hands Blog


"Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds of the order Gruiformes, and family Gruidae. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. There are representatives of this group on all the continents except Antarctica and South America.  Most species of cranes are at least threatened, if not critically endangered, within their range. The plight of the Whooping Cranes of North America inspired some of the first US legislation to protect endangered species.  They are opportunistic feeders that change their diet according to the season and their own nutrient requirements. They eat a range of items from suitably sized small rodents, fish, amphibians, and insects, to grain, berries, and plants.  Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". While folklore often states that cranes mate for life, recent scientific research indicates that these birds do change mates over the course of their lifetimes (Hayes 2005), which may last several decades. Cranes construct platform nests in shallow water, and typically lay two eggs at a time. Both parents help to rear the young, which remain with them until the next breeding season.  Some species and/or populations of cranes migrate over long distances, while some do not migrate at all.  Cranes are gregarious, forming large flocks where their numbers are sufficient."
-   Cranes - Wikipedia



Crane Art - Google Images 

International Crane Foundation

Many Swans: Sun Myth of the North American Indians.   By Amy Lowell.  

Modern Interpretaions of the Six Swans.  By Heidi Ann Heider.  

Sandhill Cranes Migrating near the Platte River in Nebraska.  Google Video, 2:37 minutes. 

Swans of the World: In Nature, History, Myth and Art.  By A. Lindsay Price.  Council Oak Distribution, 2003.  196 pages.  ISBN: 0933031815.

Thousand Cranes Peace Network - Crane Lore 

Three White Cranes, Two Flyways, One World

The Twelve Wild Swans: A Journey to the Realm of Magic, Healing and Action.  By Starhawk.  Harper San Francisco, 2001.  352 pages.  ISBN: 0062516698.

Waterfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World.  By Steve Madge.  Illustrated by Hilary Burn.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Reprint Edition, 1992.  ISBN: 0395467268.

Bear     Tiger     Monkey     Deer     Crane     Dragon     Frolics



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Table of Correspondences, Associations, Symbolism
Crane Frolics 




Correspondences and Alchemical Associations for the Crane:

Crane Animal Attributes:  Relaxation, Peacefulness, Calmness, Serenity, Balance
Element:  Fire
Direction:  South 
Season:  Summer
Color:  Red
Yin Organ: Heart
Yang Organ:  Small Intestines 
Energetic Movements:  Rising, Growth, Lifting, Radiating, Dispersing
Temporal Associations:  Late Morning, Noon, Summertime, Age: 30-40 years old 
Healing:  Heart, Circulatory System, Arteries, Large Intestine, Tongue
Healing Sound:  Heart: "Ho".  Sounds like hoo in the word 'hook'."  
Alternative Healing Sounds:  "Haa."  "Hawwwwww."  Inhale "Chu" and exhale "Haa"
Encourage:  Warmth and Vitality (Yang); Love and Patience (Yin) 
Reduce:  Disorganization, Unreliability, Impatience, Blame 
Associations:  Propriety, Order, Joyfulness, Intimacy, Trust. 

The assignment of alchemical and magickal correspondences to the Crane vary amongst practitioners of the Five Animal Frolics, qigong theorists, and Taoist Alchemists.  The following authors have provided tables of correspondences:  Mantak Chia, Kenneth Cohen, Franklin Fick, Mike Garofalo, Alan Graham, Livia Kohn, Joseph Morales, Ken Morgan, Nancy Seeber, Yang Jwing-Ming, and Oberon Zell-Ravenheart

Readers should keep in mind that knowledge of these alchemical and magickal correspondences is of some usefulness to most practitioners.  The true Adepts and playful Wizards will need to pay very close attention to correspondences.  Theses associations have a long history in China and their meanings are part of the mental aspects of the Five Animals Frolics Daoyin practice.  Daily practice of the Frolics, often outdoors, is essential to embody these cosmic principles.     

A wise person will always try to understand the cosmic forces that influence and/or rule our lives: the air we breathe, the sun that warms the earth, the water that sustains all living beings, the plants and animals of our world, the human technology that makes our lifestyles possible, the ideas and values that constitute our spirit.  These forces are symbolized by Air (breath, energy), Fire (sun, hearth), Water (rain, snow, lakes, sea, ponds, wells), Wood (plants, trees, fruit, grains, food), Animals (Deer, Crane, Monkey, Tiger, Bear, Dragon, etc., domesticated animals, food, humans), Metal (technology, science, agriculture, earthly resources), Humanity (persons, family, village, state, society, culture), Spirit (mind, wisdom, Shen, Dao), and the Unbounded (imagination, fantasy, spirits, divine, Wu, Heaven).           

In China, the Five Elements (Phases, Processes, Cycles) are: Earth, Fire, Water, Wood, and Metal.  In the West, the Five Elements (Materials, Substances, Components) are Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Spirit (Aether).   

Here is my current table of correspondences for the Five Animal Frolics Daoyin: 


Animal Element  Season
Deer Wood Spring
Yin: Liver
Yang: Gallbladder
Joints, Tendons
Vision, Eyes
Benevolence/Kindness  Ren
Anger, Shouting 
Patience & Subtlety
Rising, Expanding, Lifting

Sound:  Hsü


Crane Fire Summer
Yin: Heart
Yang: Small Intestine
Blood Vessels
Touch, Hands 
Order  Li
Joy, Laughing
Herbivorous Primarily
Omnivorous Sometimes
Radiate, Disperse, Scatter, Rise

Sound:  He
Monkey Earth Harvest
Yin: Spleen
Yang: Stomach
Taste, Mouth 
Trust  Xin
Pensiveness, Worry, Reflection
Empathy, Sympathy

Sound:  Hoo

Tiger Metal Autumn
Yin: Lungs
Yang: Large Intestine
Nasal Mucus
Whole Body
Smell, Nose 
Integrity Yi
Anxiety/Sorrow, Letting Go

Sound:  Si

Bear Water Winter
Yin: Kidneys
Yang: Bladder
Lower Back
Hearing , Ears
Wisdom  Zhi
Inner Focus
Sensitive Smelling
Gathering, Absorbing
Wavelike, Dropping

Sound:  Chui


I have reflected on and developed my own schemas and correspondences tables.  Readers might want to look at my interpretations of the Trigrams of the I Ching

I also developed a table of correspondences for the Baguazhang Qigong Animals circle walking practices.  In the Bagua Qigong the two "Birds" are the Hawk and Phoenix:








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Animal Frolics Qigong     Deer     Crane     Monkey     Tiger     Bear     Dragon    







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Some contents on this webpage were first posted on the Internet in January 2003 at:

Some contents on this webpage were moved on June 15, 2009 to: 
Animal Frolics Qigong

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This webpage was last modified or updated on May 29, 2013. 



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