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Deeply Rooted: The 12 Routines of Yi Jin Jing


As a community interest company, Tai Chi for Better Health has always been committed to improving people’s health and quality of life through training Instructors to deliver Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi sets in their local communities.


These contemporary Qigong sequences are largely adapted from traditional forms. While several of the exercises are drawn directly from Yang Family Style Tai Chi, roots of other forms can be discerned, such as in the eight movements or brocades of Ba Duan Jin (see TCfBH Blog Unravelling the Silk Brocades, 31 Jan 2023).


Likewise, Yi Jin Jing is rooted in the essential principles of TCM and Qigong. From the gentle opening moves through the more intense routines, in its entirety, Yi Jin Jing provides a complete and progressive stretching and strengthening workout.


In the context of this form, Yi (pronounced EE), signifies to change, accommodate or shed; Jin refers to tendons, muscles and sinews; and Jing means method, guide or code.


The 12 routines of Yi Jin Jing that exist today are the legacy or distillation of a long line of rich and varied cultural heritage. However, documentation of Yi Jin Jing’s development is scant and patchy.


Qigong and Tai Chi derive from three-thousand year-old Daoist tradition, and are both grounded in the concept of production and circulation of vital energy around the body, though the Qi in each has different meanings: The Qi of Qigong refers to energy or breathe, while the Chi in Tai Chi translates as Ultimate.


Early Chan Buddhism in China was influenced by existing Daoism when it was brought to the Shaolin Temple by the Indian Buddhist monk Bodhidharma in the sixth century. According to records, Bodhidharma arrived at the Shaolin Temple in the Songshan Mountains in 526AD, where legend has it that he introduced the Shaolin monks to Zen Buddhism and mind training (Dhyana). In order to condition their bodies after lengthy meditation, Shaolin monks practised Martial Arts and visualisation techniques to stretch and stimulate their energy bodies, particularly along the Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel of the microcosmic orbit; and so evolved the 108 exercises or routines of Yi Jin Jing.


While the precise provenance is debated, the momentous Bibliographic Treatise in the Book of Han orHistory of the Former Han Dynasty, contains the earliest known written description of Yi Jin Jing. Believed to be compiled by Ban Biao, Ban Gu and Ban Zhao and finished in 111AD, this classic covers the history of China under the Western Han from 206BC to 25AD.


Archaeological evidence points to a precursor of Qigong practised during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Illustration of Qi Conduction, an intricate brocade painting excavated in central China during the 1970s, depicts more than 40 acts or postures revealing commonalities with the basic forms of Yi Jin Jing, and also four of the related Ba Duan Jin.


A number of references to Yi Jin Jing appeared during the Song Dynasty (960-1279AD), most notably in the Cream of Daoist Doctrine or Little Daoist Canon by Daoist scholar and practitioner Zhang Junfang, commissioned by Emperor Zhenzong of Song (968-1022AD). Many of the medieval Daoist texts have been lost since the 11th century, fragmenting the knowledge of contemporary practise and the details of continuity.


It wasn’t until 1858, during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912AD), the final imperial dynasty of China, that reference to the concept of 12 modern routines occurs. Pan Wei compiled 12 postures of Yi Jin Jing in Illustrations of Internal Exercise.


The focus of the standardised 12 routines practised today is on balancing the intensity of the form while facilitating an accessible and effective physical and energetic health exercise that improves the quality of life.


For more information or if you are interested in learning Yi Jin Jing or Ba Duan Jin, contact Mabli:





Chinese Health Qigong Association, comp. Yi Jin Jing. Foreign Languages Press: Beijing, 2019 [2007].


Michael P. Garofalo. Yi Jin Jing Qigong. Valley Spirit Qigong 2003-2023. (accessed 29 January 2023).

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