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The Golden Hook Hangs the Jade Vase

The Golden Hook Hangs the Jade Vase


Cultivating the mind and spirit is the underlying theme of Luohan Gung, one of the oldest manuals, if not the oldest manual of Praying Mantis kung fu. Every exercise of Luohan Gung works, 'to compel the qi to fulfill the spirit,' or 'regulate the breath and refresh the vitality.' The rhyming verses of each page are written to inspire  us to develop and refine our essence, qi and spirit through physical and mental exercises.


Ultimately, Luohan Gung seeks to change us into a Luohan; a realized being with a mind unoccupied with idle thoughts and free of desires for temporary pleasures and gains. Within Luohan Gung the stated goal of achievement, of becoming a Luohan, is not just this heightened state of awareness but a durable physical body with completely focused and preserved spirit, qi and essence.


The very last verse of the final exercise of Luohan Gung, the verse which sums up the entirety of Luohan Gung training, reminds us of our constant goal; 'You must always cultivate the mind.' The goal of our training and of our life is to develop the mind and body of a Luohan so that they are fit enough for the practice of self cultivation.


The True Man's Hour of Self-Cultivation


In the book Pu Ji Fang-Formulas for General Relief, published in 1406, we find the 'hour of zi' as the ideal time to begin self-cultivation.

At the middle of the night, during the hour of zi, when yang first arises out of the division of yin, the true man begins his cultivation.

A true man is the one who has grasped the way -the dao- of self cultivation. The hour of 'zi' is 11pm and is that point when yin has reached its extreme and divides into yang. The hour of 'wu' is the opposite of 'zi,' therefore they are often paired together. In terms of time, this is when yin divides and starts to become yang.

zi wu

Zi and Wu


The famous diagram of yin and yang becoming each other is called 'taiji tu.'


The First Round of Golden Hook Hangs the Jade Vase


This month I have provided the complete Chinese text along with my English translation so that anyone who reads Chinese may comment on my translation.

Golden Hook Hangs the Jade Vase

Avoid the Eyes Pass the Calf

  1. Working hard in the middle of the night is hard on the body,
  2. The sudden split of yin to yang separates zi from wu.
  3. A complete adjustment of qi and breath moves from leg to calf,
  4. Both hands avoid the eyes stretching tendons and bones.
  5. Stretching tendons and harmonizing blood helps cultivate the mind.
  6. Fold the body lay down the hands.
  7. Mind and thoughts are like restless gibbons and horses incapable of being confined.
  8. If the qi is weak and the strength is timid then the blood is insufficient.
  9. Regulating the heart cultivates your spirit and qi,
  10. You'll soon see the result and speedily attain success.

Preserving the Spirit

'Regulating the heart' means to train and control the mind and is also called 'preserving the spirit.' It is to focus your conscious thought on a point like a beam of light focused at a single spot. Your mind power is exerted on itself 'exchanging yin and yang' while preventing your conscious thought from scattering. 'Exchanging yin and yang' has several meanings, one of which is a regulated breathing. The 'water and fire' refer to essence, qi and spirit. Essence and qi for water and spirit for fire. The point of mental focus usually starts with the dantian.

Your body collects the essence, you can think of the nutritional components you extract from your food. The movement in the body is the qi and the application of these are your spirit and vitality. The book Xing Ming Gui Zhi of the Ming Dynasty tells us,

That which moves is qi, that which concentrates is essence, that which is marvelously applied is spirit.

This training is not easy and round two admits to the hardship one must endure in preserving the spirit during the middle of the night.

Second Round

Fold The Body Preserve the Spirit

  1. Gently turn at wei lu slowly fold the waist.

  2. Hurry both hands to the tip of the toe.

  3. With a mouthful of qi press the filled belly.

  4. Exercise water and fire exchange yin and yang.

  5. Pull out the strength stretch the tendons move your qi and blood.

  6. The monk enters the room of Zen to endure an unbearable might.

  7. Practice your gung day and night according to the prescribed time.

  8. You can't give up before reaching success.

The Third Round

Round three Shifu taught us to stand in a horse stance with upraised hands as can be seen performed by Shimu April at the top of this page. In the following illustration it seems like a relaxing posture yet it is descried as if we "must hold up the sky' The term 'three warm winters' is a literal translation whose hidden meaning I have not penetrated. In Qi Gung training 'winter solstice' is also another way to say the 'hour of zi.'

Third Round:

Supporting the Sky with a Jade Column

  1. The sky supporting palms lift with force.

  2. With full qi comes a strong body.

  3. Use all the strength of your legs.

  4. Sound the 100 joints of tendon and bone.

  5. When blood circulates yin and yang unite.

  6. When qi moves vitality is refreshed.

  7. With the success of this gung you'll have three warm winters.

  8. Though your strength is weak you must force yourself to continue.

  9. Always remain diligent through hardship.

  10. You must always cultivate the mind.

The Practice

The actual postures are sitting on the floor as in the first illustration then folding the waist and extending the hands to your toes as in the 2nd illustration. After you have finished this stretch several times you stand up and perform the final posture holding it as long as you are able.

When Shifu taught us the sitting portion of this exercise we were often outdoors and we did it from a standing position folding the body forward and raising the body upward.

Luohan Follows the Way

In the end cultivation of the mind is not a goal to attain but a path to travel. This is what the ancients meant by the dao. The character, pictured here, is a representation of an eye travelling about. Always in motion and always seeking truth. The method is to always cultivate the mind

The Dao

The Dao - The Way


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