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Xingyiquan 5 Elements & 12 Animals

Xingyiquan is known as one of the internal (soft) styles of Kung Fu /Wu Shu. It's origins go back to the Ming (1368 -1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) Dynasty's.

Xingyiquan has also been known as six harmony's boxing (Liu He Quan), the style that we recognise today has a history of over three hundred years.

There are 3 different schools of Xingyiquan they are Shanxi Province, Henan, Province and Hebei Province, again it must be stressed that there are many variations of these.

According to historical records the creators of Xingyiquan go mostly to General Ye Fei (Song Dynasty (11th century)) and Long Feng (17th Century Qing Dynasty).
At this time the spear was known as King of weapons and Xingyiquan was developed to make the twisting, turning and speed of the fist to emulate the spear.

From early records it is clearly stated that Xingyiquan placed a lot of emphasis on health as well as Fighting.

The main characteristic of Xingyi is the San Ti Shi Posture, which is a 60-40 weight distribution, 60% on the back leg and 40% on the front leg.

The basic requirements are the:

  • Body of the Dragon
  • Shoulders of the Bear
  • Legs of the Chicken
  • Hands of an Eagle
  • The Arms of a Tiger
  • The Voice of Thunder

Xingyiquan is characterised by simple and steady movement's very powerful and direct compact routines.

This system was made very popular during the late 19th Century by a very famous master called Sun Lu Tang who became a legend in China for his fighting skills and was known as the modern day Monkey King.

Xingyiquan is based on the Chinese five-element theory and 12 animals, which incorporates the 5 basic fists:

The 5 basic fists:

  • Splitting Fist - Pi Quan - Metal
  • Crushing Fist - Beng Quan - Wood
  • Drilling Fist - Zuan Quan - Water
  • Cannon Fist - Pao Quan - Fire
  • Crossing Fist - Heng Quan - Earth

The 12 animals:

  • Dragon Form - Lung Shih
  • Tiger Form - Fu Shih
  • Monkey Form - Hao Shih
  • Crocodile Form - Tue Shih
  • Horse Form - Ma Shih
  • Cockerel Form - Ji Shih
  • Sparrow Hawk Form - Yao Shih
  • Swallow Form - Yen Shih
  • Snake Form - Shi Shih
  • Rhia Form - Tai Shih
  • Eagle Form - Yin Shih
  • Bear Form - Xung Shih


The Five Elements Theory

By observing and contemplating the workings of the universe the Ancient Chinese, devised a theory to explain the balance of the complimentary and antagonistic units of which it is composed. The characteristics and relationships of these dynamic units are explained in the 5 Elements Theory.

In this theory, the Life Force in all of its myriad manifestation come into and goes out of its existence through the interplay of the 5 Elements:

  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Metal
  • Water
  • Wood

This 5 Element model is unique to the Chinese because Western and Indian philosophy used a 4-Element model which consist of the elements Earth, Air, Water and Fire.

There are two cycles that illustrate the interaction between these elements. In the first cycle, the cycle of generation, each element generates or produces the succeeding element: Wood produces Fire, Fire produces Earth, Earth produces Metal, Metal produces Water and Water produces Wood.

In the second cycle, the cycle of destruction, each element destroys or absorbs the succeeding elements: Fire destroys Metal, Metal destroys Wood, Wood destroys Earth, Earth absorbs Water, and Water destroys Fire.