18 Lohan Hands Qigong Set

The 18 Lohan Hands Qigong Set

The Shaolin 18 Lohan Hands is a set of qigong exercises attributed to the Very Venerable Bodhidharma.    Legend has it that he found the monks of the Shaolin Temple too weak for the rigours of spiritual cultivation and so taught them a set of qigong exercises that became known as the 18 Lohan Hands.

  • 18 – Because there are 18 qigong exercises in the set
  • Lohan – followers of the Buddha Siddhartha Guatama (18 of which were specially honoured when Buddhism spread from India to China)
  • Hands – here in the Chinese language refers to techniques or patterns.

These qigong exercises enabled the monks to develop strong healthy bodies and minds and allowed them to progress more successfully with their spiritual cultivation.

The Shaolin Temple gained great prestige during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) when Shaolin Warrior monks saved the life of Li Shimin, founder of the dynasty as he fought to attain the Imperial throne when the Sui Dynasty came to an end (AD 581-618).

18 Qigong Exercises Known as 18 Lohan Hands

Once Li Shimin established the Tang Dynasty he rewarded the Shaolin monks by allowing them to organise an army that could be used in time of need. It is recorded that by the Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271 – 1368) the Shaolin Temple counted more than 2000 Warrior monks, all masters in Shaolin Kung Fu.

It’s interesting to note that the set of qigong exercises called the 18 Lohan Hands later evolved into the 18 Lohan Fist – a kung fu set that was the prototype of Shaolin Kung Fu.  You may wonder how a set of qigong exercises became the basis for a martial art.  Well, remember that the Shaolin Temple was an imperial temple.  Not just any body could go there.  Many of the monks were retired generals and high ranking government officials.  Who after having fulfilled their duties to the country went to end their days in contemplation and spiritual cultivation.  Many of them were already highly skilled martial artists.

Just a quick aside here.  It is a common misconception that Kung Fu originated from the Shaolin Temple.  This simply is not true.  Systematized fighting arts, based on real battlefield experiences, were already well established.  Let’s be honest mankind has been fighting since the very dawn of time.
What the Shaolin Temple represented was a place where for the first time different fighting systems could by directly compared.  Add to this mix a highly powerful set of qigong exercises and the result was inevitable!

The Shaolin Temple has left us with an invaluable legacy known as the Three Treasures of Shaolin.  They are:

  • Shaolin Qigong
  • Shaolin Kung Fu
  • Chan/Zen

I teach all 18 of the Shaolin 18 Lohan Hands Qigong Set online in my 22 week Qigong Secrets Home Study Course (QSHSC). It allows you to practice at your own pace in the privacy and comfort of your own home.

You can get a two-week ‘test drive’ of the QSHSC for only $4.95 by visiting:


Kindest regards

Marcus James Santer

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nari August 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Hi Marcus,
Great stuff! Is there any place on the website with a directory of links for your posts of each of the 18 forms? I can find a few here and there by randomly coming across them as links in other posts, but it would be incredibly helpful to have links to each of them in one place so that we can see them in order. Thanks!

ollie September 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Hi Nari,

You make a very good point.

I think this is what you’re looking for: http://qigong15.com/blog/qigong-exercises/best-qigong-exercises-for/

Hope that helps and thanks for posting.


jules January 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

Hi Marcus!

This article is great. Why? Because very few people knows about the 18 lohan. I found 2 websites that have accurate details regarding the 18 lohan. However, your illustration of the 18 lohan is more vivid because you used an actual person to illustrate it. I wish to know more about the 18 lohan and how it is adapted to martial arts.

Marcus February 1, 2012 at 11:19 am

Thanks Jules,

To find out how the 18 Lohan Hands evolved into Kung Fu, here is another qigong blog post you might find of interest:

Sinew Metamorphosis

The 18 Lohan Hands is easily adapted to martial arts, just practice it before beginning your martial arts training and enjoy Energy Flow at the end of your practice. Keep in mind that whilst the 18 Lohan Hands can be of great value to martial artists (for developing Internal Force, quick thinking etc) it is not a martial art.

For more ideas on how to incorporate Qigong into your martial arts training see Question and Answer 2 here.

Kindest regards