Free Content

12 Animal Poems of Xing Yi Quan

The poems relating to the Twelve Animals of Xing Yi Quan give the practitioner insight into the internal dynamic and Jin (energy, strength and spirit) of each animal. These insights ai correct performance and application.

The poems are presented here in translation, with the original Chinese characters, plus commentary by Tom Bisio.

Long Xing: Dragon 龙形

To search the bones for extension and contraction is its ability.

The nature of its rising and falling form belongs to Yin.

Smooth execution of this fist is able to make heart fire descend.[1]

Strength (Jin) [2] is balanced when Kidney Water ascends.[3]

[1] Making heart fire descend. This refers both to helping to make pathological Yin fire descend, as well as to Daoist internal alchemy, in which both the kidney-water and heart-fire are harmonized by the hidden water within fire and the hidden fire within water interchanging their positions. This is represented by the interchange of the middle lines of the Kan and Li trigrams. Yin fire occurs when Mingmen fire (the ministerial fire) flares upward to disturb the Heart fire (imperial fire).

[2] Jin can mean force, energy and even spirit. In internal martial the arts Fa (发) Jin – literally “emitting force” refers to a sudden shocking emission of power.

[3] This again makes reference to balancing fire and water, the heart and kidneys.

Hu Xing: Tiger 虎形

The power is ferocious when fierce tiger pounces its prey.

Its nature belongs to Yang and there is firmness in crouching in its lair.[4]

The clear Qi can ascend [5] if the fist is executed smoothly.

The force reaches the two palms with power and prestige.

[4] The Tiger is a Yang animal, but it draws its power from the earth (Yin) by crouching, in order to spring forward.

[5] The Tiger uses its back to generate power in crouching or springing. Thus if practiced correctly, the Tiger is said to open the Du (Governing) Vessel, which runs up the center of the spine. If the Governing Vessel is opened, the clear Yang-Qi can ascend to the head and brain. The rising and falling movement of the Dragon balances fire and water (see above), by opening the Ren (Conception) Channel and the Chong (Thrusting) Channel. Ren, Du and Chong are thought to be one meridian and must circulate freely for the other meridians to also circulate freely. If they open, the ”hundred meridians” can open, and power and force will emanate without obstruction.

Hou Xing: Monkey 猴形

Names of Movements in the Monkey Form

  1. Hanging Seal Form of the Monkey
  2. Dragging Rope Form of the Monkey
  3. Climbing Pole Form of the Monkey
  4. Turning Back Form of the Monkey

In extending the arms and jumping, the posture is light and agile.

Its nature belongs to Yang and it is firm with precise contracting power.

Smooth execution of this fist can enable the heart to be peaceful and still, [6]

The nails are sharp when the force reaches the fingertips.

Ma Xing: Horse 马形

Swift galloping relies upon quick hooves.

Strong and violent, dropping the reins allows one to harness its potential.[6]

Intention and Qi unite to promote the strength (Jin).

Twisting, turning, dashing, and colliding are rarely combined.

[6] The character 义 (yi) can mean righteous, so some scholars interpret this to mean that the horse represents loyalty and trust because if the horses reins are released it will return home (Xing Yi Quan Xue by Sun Lu Tang. Translated by Albert Liu (p. 174)). In terms of Xing Yi Quan, the action of drpoping the reins gives freedom to the horse’s natural potential, and in the Horse form the lowering hand/body movement generates the power and energy to move forward and strike.

Tuo Xing: Water Lizard (Alligator) 鼍形

Reverse the river and upend the sea more powerfully than a flood dragon,

The two arms rotate and turn aside, all depends on the energy (Jin) of the waist.

Floating and swimming in the water, winding as it advances,

Two hands are linked and hip must charge forwards.

Ji Xing: Chicken/Cock 鸡形

Names of Movements in the Cock Form

  1. Golden Cock Stands on One Leg
  2. Golden Cock Pecks Rice
  3. Golden Cock Shakes Feathers (Plume)
  4. Golden Cock Climbs Frame
  5. Golden Cock Heralds Daybreak
  6. Splitting Fist Form of Chicken

The cock fights marvelously and shakes its wings powerfully.

Fist and chicken leg can never be separated.

Heralding the daybreak promotes diligence,

Standing on one leg and pecking rice are two marvelous skills.

Yao Xing: Hawk 鹞形

Names of Movements in the Hawk Form

  1. Hawk Shrinking Body Form
  2. Hawk Enters The Forest
  3. Hawk Drills Into The Sky
  4. Hawk Turns Over Its Body

Turning over the body and shrinking the wings [7] demonstrates power and authority.

Its ability is to enter the forest and drill into the sky.

Smooth execution of the fist depends on the connection of form and intention,

Energy (Jin) and force (Li) are round and full [8] and the body is in balance.

[7] The Hawk, or Sparrow Hawk, has the ability to shrink its body by folding in its wings. This allows it to shoot upward into the sky and to “penetrate the forest” – fly between the branches of the trees to catch its prey. Hawks also wheel and turn in the sky nimbly and agily, thus in Xing Yi and  Ba Gua refrences are made to their ability to turn over, or overturn (Fan Shen 翻身 ).

[8] The characters 圆整 can also mean entire or whole.

Yan Xing: Swallow 燕形

Names of Movements in the Swallow Form

  1. Swallow Drawing [9] Water Form
  2. Swallow Spreading Wings
  3. Rt. Bursting Fist (Golden Cock Pecks Rice)
  4. Turning Form – Embrace Binding Fist

Agile and quick in drawing water, and skillful in turning and revolving.

Its nature belongs to Yin and Yang, the energy (Jin) is firm and gentle.

If the fist is executed smoothly, the heart and kidney are harmonized.

When Dan Tian Qi is full, The whole body is light.[10]

[9] The character 抄 (chao) can mean to take up or to grab. To drink, swallow skim low over the surface of a body of water scooping up water with open mouths.

[10] 轻 (qing) This character can mean light, agile or soft and relaxed – without stress.

She Xing:  Snake 蛇形

In moving through the grass, extension and flexion [11] are precious skills.

Coiling, inhalation, and exhalation belongs to yin.

Contraction, expansion, withdrawal and release must be pliable but tenacious,

Constant [12] energy [Jin] and intention depend upon the waist skill.

[11] 屈Qu – bent contracted;  屈 Shen – stretch, extend.

[12] 连绵 means continuous, unbroken, uninterrupted

Tai Xing: Tai Bird [13]

The wings spread to ascend the sky and fly upwards and downwards.

Two fists strike directly, the steps jump to pursue.

Smooth performance of this fist depends on whole body power (Jin).[14]

In order to promote the three sections, the tail must stand erect.

[13] The Tai bird is an ancient and perhaps extinct bird. Liu Wen Hua tells us that it is a species of the eagle with the ability to erect its tail and wrap its prey with its two wings as it strikes with its claws.

[14] strength, energy, power

Ying Xing: Eagle 鹰形

Wheeling in the air and searching for prey, the eyes are like arrows,

Claws are like hooks, when diving down to catch animals.

Essence, Qi, spirit and marvelous force are foremost,

Qi is predominant in training the eagle claw skillfully.

Xiong Xing: Bear 熊形

Regardless of the hungry eagle flying in circles,

Erecting the neck to resist and defend displays spirit and might.

To move the shoulder transversely and smash with the elbow is fatal,

Turn over the back and beat to pursue the wind and catch up with the moon.