The 18 Lohan Hands of Shaolin Cosmos Qi Gong

benefits history qi gong Sep 27, 2023
18 Lohan Hands Qigong

This legendary set of Qi Gong exercises was taught to the monks at the Shaolin temple by the Venerable Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Zen Buddhism (or Chan in Chinese) about 1,500 years ago.

The exercises provide a wide range of benefits on health, performance, martial arts and spiritual cultivation.


Where does the name come from?

It is said, when Gautama Buddha left this world, he left behind 500 enlightened disciples, called “Arahant” or “Arahat” in Sanskrit, an ancient language spoken in India at the time of the Buddha. By the way, 500 is just a figurative number to represent “a lot of”.

The Chinese people particularly worshipped 18 of those “Arahants”, called “Lohan” in Chinese.

Hence, the Qi Gong exercises were named in honour of these “18 Lohans” to illustrate how precious they are.

“Hands” figuratively means “exercises”, just as “Fist” (Quan or Chuan) means “Martial Art”.


18 Lohans

The 18 Lohans


The first eight techniques are also well-known as the “Eight Pieces of Brocade” (Baduanjin).

Brocade was a very fine fabric only available to emperors and high-ranked officials in the past. So, naming the exercises after this expensive fabric was also to express their value.

Some regard the “Eight Pieces of Brocade” a Taoist art. I won’t waste any time discussing whether it’s Taoist or Buddhist and who practiced them earlier.

In a typical Zen manner, I’m simply glad that the exercises are so wonderful to practice and give us so many benefits when practiced correctly that I don’t really care about their origin and stick to the oral transmission of our lineage. šŸ˜‰


Contrary to most schools, who practice a sequence of multiple techniques, we in Shaolin Wahnam choose quality over quantity and usually focus on one to three exercises per session, which we can pick randomly, on purpose or according to our likings.

It may be worth mentioning that just performing the physical form of the exercises doesn’t lead to real Qi Gong benefits.

They key to successful Qi Gong practice is the use of skills and to generate good energy flow and any of the exercises can do this job very well if you know what to take care of.

Nevertheless, the specific benefits of each exercise may speed up the process of cleansing or strengthening in a particular area, organ or energy system. Therefore, it’s great to have a wider range of exercises to choose from.

And there’s hardly any Qi Gong toolbox as marvellous as the 18 Lohan Hands!

Whenever I experience pain or discomfort, I resort to this precious set and pick an appropriate exercise to recover fast.


Three wonderful exercises of this set are provided in my online course “The Essence of Qi Gong”, where you can learn how to turn them into genuine energy practice with deep results. Completing this course will build the foundation to learn the rest of the set further on.

Existing Shaolin Wahnam students may apply to the “18 Lohan Hands” course directly by filling out this form.

Members of the Shaolin Treasure House can book the course here.


Benefits of the 18 Lohan Hands

Here’s a complete list of the 18 exercises, including their most important specific benefits.

As often in Shaolin Cosmos Qi Gong, the best things aren’t provided at the end, but right at the beginning, like “Lifting the Sky”. šŸ˜‰


Lifting the Sky Qi Gong

Lifting the Sky

  • All 12 Primary Meridians
  • Good posture
  • Triple Warmer
  • General Health
  • First aid for (small) injuries

Shooting Arrows Qi Gong

Shooting Arrows

  • Heart
  • Lungs, Respiratory problems
  • Depression
  • Confidence
  • Memory

Plucking Stars Qi Gong

Plucking Stars

  • Digestion
  • Vitality and Longevity
  • Pain or injuries at the arms or hands

Turning Head Qi Gong

Turning Head (or Turning the Cosmos)

  • Headache and Migraine
  • Nervous System
  • Neck and Spine

Punching with Eyes wide open Qi Gong

Punching with Eyes wide open

  • Heart
  • Internal Force
  • Negative emotions
  • Stress and Tension

Merry-go-Round Qi Gong

Merry-go-Round (or Big Turning of the Cosmos)

  • Digestion
  • Re-vitalizing
  • Spine and Back

Carrying the Moon Qi Gong

Carrying the Moon

  • “Fountain of Youth”
  • Immune System
  • Spine and Back

Nourishing Kidneys Qi Gong

Nourishing Kidneys

  • (Sexual) Vitality
  • Back
  • Confidence and Determination

Three Levels to the Ground Qi Gong

Three Levels to the Ground

  • Heart
  • Flexibility
  • Legs and Knees

Dancing Crane Qi Gong

Dancing Crane (or Divine Crane Starts Dancing)

  • Kidneys
  • Flexibility
  • Longevity

Carrying Mountains Qi Gong

Carrying Mountains

  • Back
  • Longevity
  • Strong arms

Lohan Draws Knife Qi Gong

Lohan Draws Knife (or Sabre)

  • Shoulders and Neck
  • Immune System
  • Longevity

Green Dragon Presents Claws Qi Gong

Green Dragon Presents Claws

  • Diabetes
  • Digestion
  • Spine and Back
  • Nervous System

Pushing Mountains Qi Gong

Pushing Mountains

  • Kidneys
  • Internal Force
  • Fear, Confidence
  • Depression

Separating Water Qi Gong

Separating Water

  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Internal Force

Big Windmill Qi Gong

Big Windmill

  • Digestion
  • Diabetes
  • Arms and Shoulders
  • Internal Force

Deep Knee Bending Qi Gong

Deep Knee Bending

  • Knees and Legs
  • Flexibility
  • Rheumatism
  • Clearing Blockages anywhere

Rotating Knees Qi Gong

Rotating Knees

  • Knees, Legs, Hips
  • Kidneys
  • (Sexual) Vitality


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