Meridians and the Chinese Wand Exercises

The more I study the movements of the Chinese Wand Exercises the more Traditional Chinese Medicine reveals itself. Bruce Johnson scratched the surface of Chinese philosophy in his book. In my own book I explored the two main concepts Johnson highlighted;

  1. The pyramid shape enhancing the body’s energy
  2. Moving the energy from Huiyin at base of the spine to the Baihui point at the crown of the head (Microcosmic Orbit).

In addition, the exercises can be viewed in terms of the more detailed meridian system. Although I did not have room to go into this fascinating subject in my book, there is a wealth of research that indicates exercises (Qigong and `Taoist Yoga’ in particular) activate meridians.

In the wand exercises, focusing on the fingers and toes in various exercises will bring this aspect to the fore. Mindful attention to the extreme meridian points in fingers and toes as we stretch the arms and legs can provide great extra benefit. It stimulates meridian points in the toes of feet.

The Stretching and tasking of the fingers which takes place in the wand exercises actually works the Heart Meridian, Small Intestine Meridian, lung Meridian, Large Intestine Meridian, Pericardium Meridian and San Jiao (Tripple Burner) Meridian. This `upper body group’ of meridians either begin or end at a certain finger tip and run along the arms.

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The particular stretching of the legs, going up onto our toes and pointing toes during also works the meridians that extend to the toes (the lower body group of meridians) such as the Liver Meridian, Gall Bladder Meridian, Kidney Meridian, Urinary Bladder Meridian, Spleen and Stomach meridians.

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Tasking the hands

In wand exercises the hands are continually employed as they gently manipulate the wand a round the body or to create certain postures. The important acupuncture point in the hands – the Lao Gong – is traditionally associated with being stimulated in a range of Qigong exercises. This increases by the use of implements like the `Tai Chi Ruler’ in which the ends of the implement are in direct contact with the point.

In the wand exercises, the length of the wand prohibits the tips from being placed directly on the point. The contact is maintained with the side of the wand against the point. In addition, we simultaneously stimulate the acupuncture point at the finger tips as we gently grasp the wand and take it though different patterns around the body. This maintains a continual flow of `Qi’ from the hands and through the wand and up the arms to form pyramid shape as it reaches the Bai Hui point at the crown of the head and the Hui Yin point at the base of the spine.



Small Wand, Long Wand

Tai Chi Ruler

The concept of holding a foot-long cylindrical object, usually made of wood, between the palms as you go through a series of qigong exercises was first documented early in the twentieth century. This is the `Tai Chi Ruler’ (also called the Tai Chi Wand’). The ruler encourages energy (qi) to move not only through the palms into and through the ruler but also to and from the tip of head and base of spine (`Microcosmic Orbit Meditation’).


The Four-Foot Wand

In the later half of the twentieth century Bruce Johnson documented another traditional Chinese qigong implement – a longer (four-foot) stick made of bamboo or wood. While the basic concept of using a stick to circulate qi through the arms and throughout the body is common with both types of qigong stick, the longer wand also presents a symbolic pyramid structure. This is formed when you grasp a stick of about four-foot in length at each end. The wand itself becomes the base of the symbolic pyramid and the tip of the pyramid is alternately the `Bai Hui’ acupuncture point at the crown of the head and the `Hui Yin’ point at the base of the spine. So just like the ruler the longer stick moves energy by `Microcosmic Orbit Meditation’.

Using the longer wand also offers more range of movement benefits for the spine, shoulders and back as well as strengthening the core muscles in particular (in floor exercises).

We know that stick qigong in general was documented in ancient China and it seems likely that qigong principles for both lengths of implement were designed before the twentieth century, then passed on by word of mouth.






Beyond Physical Movements: Philosophy of Chinese Wand Exercises

The Chinese Wand 17 Exercises Routine is simple, easy to learn and demands no esoteric understanding or assumptions of `Qi’. We can feel the simple techniques working on the body and the effects are tangible. No particular belief system is needed to bestow health benefits. The exercises are based on practical physiological considerations rather than philosophy.

However, the art should be understood in the context of the culture from which it arose. In common with other Chinese health arts it is clear that it works within the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moreover, it can also be understood in terms of more ancient unique concepts. You can practice the art simply by focusing on the physical movements; or, if you are interested in Chinese philosophy and want to go a little deeper, continue reading about the esoteric aspects I present in my book Jiangan – the Chinese Health Wand.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Yin and Yang
The wand exercises of China can be understood as a dynamic expression of the Yin Yang principle in many ways. In every exercise, one part of the body is still (Yin) while other parts of the body move (Yang). This is not as fanciful as it may at first appear. The result of this Yin-Yang interaction is a gentle resistance explained here. Individual exercises also correspond to triagrams of the I Ching. The exercise featured in the image below is shown by the triagram; Yang is sandwiched between two Yin lines, which represents the posture perfectly (two Yins holding a Yang in the centre). As the hands grasp the ends of the wand, one hand can be Yin and the other Yang. This is similar to the principle of the ancient Egyptian healing rods, double-prongued divining sticks and some Qigong practices.


Microcosmic Orbit meditation

The movements of some standing postures is essentially `microcosmic orbit meditation’. First we generate Qi in the Dan Tian to open energy centers along the `microcosmic orbit’ route where Qi passes. The movements coordinated with the breathing can be focused on the `Eight Extraordinary Channels’. Qi sinks down the Ren Mai (Conception) Channel to the Hui Yin point in the Perineum beneath the spine (Muladhara or root chakra in Yoga) then rises up the Du Mai (Governing) Channel in the spine to the Bai Hui point at the crown of the head (Crown chakra in yoga), then down again to the chest and belly to the genitals and Hui Yin. When this cycle is repeated with correct breathing and gentle stretching movements, it bestows multiple health benefits.

Five Elements
Each Graduated Stage of the exercises relates to one of the five Chinese elements in order of creation; earth creates metal creates water creates wood creates fire. Before earth there is Yin and after fire comes Yang.


Ancient Egyptian & Yoga Links

Pyramid Energy and Chakra/Meridian Points 
There are pyramids in China but it is not clear whether these were the influence or whether focus on the pyramid structure had its origins in ancient Egypt. A symbolic pyramid is formed by the way the Wand is held in a wide grip in relation to the body (see photo below). Energy or `Qi’ is said to be circulated and re-circulated through this pyramid – along the arms, hands and Wand – instead of being dissipated through the hands. As part of the Chinese Wand Exercises’ microcosmic orbit meditation, we may focus on the vertex (tip) of the symbolic pyramid as it makes its way t the Baihui/Huiyin points (root & crown chakras in Yoga).


Hexagram Star

A hexagram star (two triangles, one pointed up and the other down, locked in harmonious embrace) is created in many postures. The `pyramid’ can also be interpreted as a triangle and most postures embody two triangles; one in `Yin and one in `Yang’ position, making a hexagram star. In Chinese symbolism, the two triangles are represented in the famous Yin Yang symbol as the two fish intertwine with one another. But these triangles can also be understood in terms of Indian tradition. The two triangles are called `Om’ and the `Hrim’ in Sanskrit, and symbolize man’s position between earth and sky. The downward triangle symbolizes Shakti, the sacred embodiment of femininity, and the upward triangle symbolizes Shiva, or Agni Tattva, representing the focused aspects of masculinity.

The mystical union of the two triangles represents Creation, occurring through the divine union of male and female. In the diagram below of `Sunrise and Sunset’ (the most comprehensive posture in the whole routine) the Yin position focuses the point of the symbolic triangle at the base of the spine (the root chakra in Yoga and the Huiyin point in Chinese philosophy); while the Yang position focuses the point of the symbolic triangle at the crown of the head (the crown chakra in Yoga and the Bauhui point in Chinese philosophy).

In advanced practice, awareness and meditation of this hexagram as we breath deeply and move gracefully between the two positions, Yin and Yang, will be of great esoteric significance to many people. The process can increase the aesthetic and mindful nature of the art. Creating such a universally profound symbol (circulating and re-circulating `Qi’ or `Prana’ around the body continually) undoubtedly has great influence on the incredible health benefits the art bestows.

hexagram2Egyptian Healing Rods

The way the Wand is held may also be traced back to the Egyptian Healing Rods where one hand represented the moon or Yin and the other hand represented the sun or Yang energy. As the wand exercises also constructs a symbolic pyramid during the exercises it can be interpreted as a profound esoteric practice.



Parallels with Sacred Geometry

Piscean Vessel
The vertex of the symbolic pyramid shape is focused on the body’s two polarities and this whole process conforms to ancient geometry; namely the Piscean Vessel, with the person’s Yang point leading to heaven and Yin point drawing up from earth. The exercises are performed by awareness of the pyramid and thus we have the triadic unity between heaven, human and earth.


Golden Ratio Principle

The most beneficial breathing was in accordance with the `Golden Ratio’ principle. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is naturally in tune with the Golden Ratio Principle. If we inhale for three seconds we exhale longer – about about five seconds or even up to eight seconds if we are especially meditative. This is the body finding its natural rhythm which is aligned to the Golden Ratio. The most effective length of Wand also corresponds to the Golden Ratio of the individual’ s arms length.


All these fascinating philosophical elements can only deepen the understanding and enjoyment of this wonderful health and fitness exercise.

The Ancient Chinese Acupuncturist with Bamboo Pole

Fascinating insights into the carrying of bamboo poles by acupuncturists in China appear in a book by author Ioannis Solos. It confirms the importance of the bamboo pole in ancient Chinese traditional health.


 We can understand how the `wand’ developed into a branch of Qigong, as first presented in Bruce Johnson’s book and also supported by documents found in China. The remnants of the ancient traditional Chinese medicine practitioner can be seen in Chinese history, and frequently manifests as the `beggar’ with bamboo pole in popular depictions. There are also real life photos – some going back to the 19th century – of Chinese carrying bamboo wands.






When the Chinese Health Qigong Association devised their tai Chi Qigong Stick Routine a few years ago it did not take long for Chinese people to start using bamboo poles. This shows the long held connection between bamboo and martial arts and health exercises in China.

The Pyramid Principle

The secret of the Chinese Wand Exercises is in the pyramid principle. It is how we use energy and how we are aware of energy within the exercises.

We get the beneficial pyramid shape by holding the wand with arms apart at a distance which creates a symbolic pyramid (crown of the head is the vertex when the wand is low; the base of the spine is vertex when the wand high). This means that we must grasp the wand at each end for most postures. The wand must be a certain length in order to guide the arms into creating this beneficial distance that forms a pyramid shape.

The ideal is for the wand to be longer than the arms by a `golden ratio’ factor. That means, ideally, that if the arms are about 29-30 inches long the wand should be about 48-50 inches long. This is just a guide; a few inches either way will work. Shorter people and children will require shorter wands but the ratio stays the same. A wand significantly shorter or longer than this ratio length will lessen the benefits of the exercises. If it is too short we will not get the full range of movements and if too long we loose the important tasking of the hands and fingers.
4-j-2 body-shape-baihui body-shape-perenium

Imagine a triangle. Holding a wand of the correct length at both ends we are creating a 2-dimensional triangle that will allow us to create either an Equilateral Triangle or Isosceles Triangle. But when going through some movements the angles can change to Acute.

 The Pyramid
A 3D pyramid is formed when we add another two triangles by linking, using mental imagery, the hands and Baihui and Huiyin points (creating four vertexes). So we have a pyramid with depth that allows Qi to flow along. Imagine it flowing through the hands, along the wand then to Huiyin and baihui points, re-circulating energy throughout the body.



Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

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Yin and Yang in the Chinese Wand Exercises

Jiangan can be understood as a dynamic expression of the `Yin-Yang’ principle in several ways. In most of the exercises one part of the body is still (Yin) while another part of the body moves (Yang). The result of the Yin-Yang interaction is a gentle resistance explained here. Individual exercises also correspond to `Triagrams’ of the `I Ching’.

The exercise featured in the image below is shown by a Triagram in which a Yang line is sandwiched between two Yin lines, which represents the posture perfectly (two Yins holding a Yang in the centre). Everything below the hips remains still and facing forwards, as does the head. Only the arms move – but of course the arms cause passive movement of the shoulders and rest of the trunk, which causes gentle resistance in the muscles and massaging of internal organs.


Another manifestation of Yin and Yang is how the hands grasp the ends of the wand; one hand can be expressed as Yin and the other as Yang. This is similar to the principle of the ancient Egyptian healing rods, double-prongued divining sticks and some Qigong practices.




Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Amazon UK page
Singing Dragon Blog Interview
Google Books Preview


Egyptian healing rods

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The way the wand is held may be traced back to the Egyptian healing rods where one hand represents the moon (Yin energy) and the other the sun (Yang energy). As the wand practitioner also constructs a symbolic pyramid with the wand the exercises can be considered a profound esoteric practice. Research has only just scratched the surface of this art.


Michael Davies is Hon President of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain and author of `Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Amazon UK page
Singing Dragon Blog Interview
Google Books Preview