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Eighteen Lohan Hands

Many have asked us about the famous Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands. They were taught by the great Bodhidharma in 527 CE to monks at the Shaolin Monastery in China when this First Patriarch of the Shaolin arts found the monks weak and often sleepy during mediation, which is the essential path towards enlightenment.​

The Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands are fundamental Qigong exercises that can bring tremendous benefits if they are practiced as Qigong. Over the years, we have successfully used selections from the Eighteen Lohan Hands to help many people overcome illness, including so-called incurable diseases.​

But if they are practiced as physical exercise, which is often the case nowadays, naturally the practitioner will only get the benefits of physical exercise. The crucial difference between Qigong exercise and physical exercise lies not in the outward form (which can be the same for both types of exercise), but in the internal dimensions of energy and mind. If one does not know what these internal dimensions are, it is unlikely that he (or she) has practiced Qigong, although he may have performed the outward form for years.​

At the Shaolin Monastery, these Eighteen Lohan Hands evolved into a Kungfu set called “Eighteen Lohan Fist”, which forms the prototype of Shaolin Kungfu today. Nevertheless, the Eighteen Lohan Hands continued to be practiced as Qigong exercises.

Because of its long history, there are many versions of the Eighteen Lohan Hands being taught today. Shown below are the Eighteen Lohan Hands taught in our Shaolin Wahnam Institute. The illustrations are reproduced from a manual used more than 10 years ago by our Qigong students.


1. Lifting the Sky

This pattern is also found in many other kinds of Qigong. This is not surprising because Lifting the Sky is one of the best of all Cosmos Qigong exercises. Lifting the Sky promotes Qi flow in the whole body, corrects posture, helps relax, promotes confidence, heals Hemorrhoids and Migraine.

Lifting the Sky
Shooting Arrows
2. Shooting Arrows

The holding of the hands is in the “One-Finger Zen” hand form, which is a typical Shaolin hand form. If you see someone holding the hand in the form of a fist with one finger sticking out, you can reasonably conclude that he has not learnt it in a proper way from a Shaolin Master. Shooting Arrows promotes health of the lungs and eyes.

Plucking Stars
3. Plucking Stars

These illustrations can only show the outward form of Qigong. Once again, I wish to stress that Qigong form alone is not authentic Qigong. Authentic Qigong is the art of energy management, and the form is just a tool or means to implement energy management. If you merely perform Qigong form, you are only doing physical exercise. If you wish to learn energy management, you have to learn from a master or at least a competent instructor, not just from WebPages, videos or books. Plucking Stars promotes health of the stomach system, upper and middle body, eyes and kidneys.

Rotating the Cosmos
4. Rotating the Cosmos

If you think that this exercise is just for loosening your neck muscles, you are thinking of it as a physical exercise. As an authentic Qigong exercise, it is used literally to cleanse your head and nervous system. Of course you have to learn such advanced skills from a Qigong Master, not from a physical education instructor. Rotating the Cosmos promotes health of the neurological system, nervous system, nerve cleansing, heals allergies and AIDS.

Thrust Punch
5. Thrust Punch

Besides developing powerful punches for martial art, this exercise massages and strengthens your heart. Correct breathing and making the appropriate sound are necessary for obtaining the desired effect. It promotes health of the heart and eyes, heals back pain, develop courage.

Merry Go Round
6. Merry Go Round

If you wish to revitalize yourself without having to take pep pills, this Qigong exercise may help you. It stimulates your Water energy at your Ming-Men, or Gate of Life. Merry Go Round promotes health of the stomach, spleen, kidneys, liver. Heal sexual disorders, Lumbago, and Tinnitus.

Carrying the Moon
7. Carrying the Moon


Many of our students love this exercise the most. It makes you look and feel young, and enhances your nervous system. You can have these benefits only if you can generate a shower of Qi or vital energy down your body with this exercise. It promotes health of the nervous system and back. Purifying and cleansing effect. Carrying the Moon corrects slipped discs and promotes sexual enhancement.

Nurishing Kidneys
8. Nourishing Kidneys


Ask a typical western doctor, and he will tell you that your kidneys have nothing to do with sex. Ask a Chinese physician, and he will tell you that your kidneys have everything to do with sex. In fact, the Chinese medical term generally used to describe sickness related to sex is Shen-Kui which means kidney injury. Why where the Shaolin monks interested in sex? you may ask. No, the Shaolin monks did this exercise not because of sex, but because Nourishing Kidneys also enhances their intellectual and general vitality.

Three Levels to Ground
9. Three Levels to Ground

As a physical exercise, Three Levels to Ground can make your legs strong and flexible; as an authentic Qigong exercise, it can strengthen your heart system, generate better energy flow, and increase your vitality.

Dancing Crane
10. Dancing Crane


This exercise helps you channel vital energy to your legs. But the benefits are not just for the legs. As the body is interconnected by countless meridians, inducing better energy flow at the legs is sometimes necessary to solve problems in other parts of the body. Someone with kidney stones or a dull intellect may overcome his problem more efficiently if he incorporates this exercise. Dancing Crane also promotes health of the stomach, intestines, spleen, and liver. It heals Endometriosis and promotes elegance.

Carrying Mountains
11. Carrying Mountains


If you wish to have powerful arms, but do not want to undergo tough and rough conditioning, or if you wish to overcome some chronic pain at your back, Carrying Mountains is a useful exercise. It promotes health of the spine, spleen, triple warmer and corrects posture.

Drawing Sword
12. Drawing Sword


Qi Jing Ba Mai or the Eight Wondrous Meridians is often mentioned in Qigong texts but seldom understood. Drawing Sword is an effective exercise to generate energy flow to these Eight Wondrous Meridians. Drawing Sword promotes health of the sciatic nerve, spleen, back and longevity.

Green Dragon
13. Green Dragon Presents Claws

If you suffered from diabetes, had trouble with your digestive system, or often felt worried and anxious, this exercise may overcome your problem. Green Dragon also, promotes health of the liver, fingers, kidneys, limbs and tendons.

Pushing Mountains
14. Pushing Mountains


We have never failed to be amazed by the profundity in simplicity of this exercise. If you wish to overcome your Rheumatism, or to enhance your sex life, or to have internal force for martial art, or to have mental freshness, just to mention a few of its benefits, practice Pushing Mountains.

Separating Water
15. Separating Water


This is an excellent exercise for the heart and the lung systems. It will also give you powerful arms. Separating Water promotes joy and overcome depression.

Deep Knee Bending
16. Big Windmill


Many people will find it hard to believe, but if you perform this exercise correctly and sufficiently, you can develop enough internal force to break a brick without having to lift weights or strike sandbags. Those with Diabetes or problems related to the liver and spleen system, will also find this exercise very useful. Big Windmill also promotes health of the stomach, arms, legs, fingers, toes and feet.

Big Windmill web.jpg
Rotating Knees
17. Deep Knee Bending


Here is another excellent exercise for the lower body. It also opens up the meridians at the legs so that negative energy from other parts of the body can be efficiently drained out into the ground. It promotes health of knees and legs. Enhance balance and sexual performance.













18. Rotating Knees


You may be surprised, but Rotating Knees may help to overcome sex problems, or enhance sexual performance and enjoyment. Strong, healthy knees, obviously, ensures that you will still be agile at eighty and beyond.


Unless you are already well versed in Qigong, even if you can perform these eighteen sets of movements correctly but without affecting the internal dimensions of mind and energy, you will only get the benefits of physical exercise. The illustrations, therefore, are not meant for self practice, but for satisfying curiosity, and perhaps as a means for preserving for future generations what the Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands look like.

You will be mistaken if you think that the mind and energy dimensions are not explained here because we want to keep them as secrets. Even if we explain them here, many people may not believe the explanation. Even if they believe it and follow the instructions, they may not get the desired result. Worse still, and this is a main reason why many masters “keep the secrets”, practicing advanced Qigong without a Master's supervision may bring serious adverse effects.

You will appreciate the warning better if you remember that what is involved is mind and energy, the two most powerful things in the Universe. As an analogy, learning how to swim or drive a car is safe with proper supervision. But one would not, and should not, go swimming or driving merely after reading some swimming or driving instructions.

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