Qigong exercise Beating the Heavenly Drum


In this post I will describe a Qigong exercise called Beating the Heavenly Drum (Ming Tian Gu) or sometimes also called Knock and beat on a Jade Pillow. You beat with your index fingertips on your head – the heavenly drum.

I will also discuss about the different meanings of Jade Pillow in Qigong and in acupuncture.

General benefits of this exercise

In general this Qigong exercise is used to clear your mind and to find your center. This exercise awakes you and improves your concentration. It has also proved to be helpful in the cases of tinnitus, vertigo and balance problems. I will mention later on another purpose of this exercise when it’s used by more advanced Qigong practitioners.

Practice of Beating on Heavenly Drum

“Heavenly drum” means your head, the Heaven in human microcosm. In this exercise you stimulate the Qi flow by beating with fingers over the back area of your head, under the external occipital protuberance.

This exercise is usually practiced in a sitting position on the floor, but you can sit also on a chair.

With your palms gently cover your ear openings in a way that your middle fingers are placed over the back area of a head at the base of skull (Jade Pillow). Also,close your eyes, so that your awareness turns inside you.

Put the tips of your index fingers on the top of the middle fingers. Ring and pinkie fingers are not touching the head.

Then tap on the area of Jade Pillow by snapping your index fingers off the middle fingers down to the head. This gesture will produce a sound similar to drumming inside your head. Try to “drum” in a steady rhythm. Start with twelve repetitions and in time you can increase the number of repetitions to twenty-four.

It is important that while you are tapping your awareness is softly focused on the sound and its vibrations which propagate through your brain.


When you have finished the exercise put your hands down and if you want breathe calmly for minute or two observing shifts inside you.

Some tips

  • To learn the gesture of snapping down with your index fingers it may take some time.
  • At the beginning, what can happen is that when you are “beating” the Jade Pillow you might start to tense your arms, shoulders and fingers. Try to keep your shoulders down, arms and palms relaxed.
  • Usually you snap on the area of Jade Pillow with your index fingers simultaneously but you can also try to snap with fingers alternately. Experiment and find out what suits you best.

This exercise is also a part of the Qigong sitting set of Eight Pieces of Brocade (Ba Duan Jin) which is not that famous as the standing one.


What and where is a Jade Pillow?

First I would like you to note that sometimes locations and also names of Qigong acupuncture points are slightly different than those used in TCM and acupuncture. This is also in the case of Jade Pillow.

Jade Pillow in TCM acupuncture

In the case of TCM acupuncture point Bladder-9 (BL-9) is named Yuzhen which is translated as Jade Pillow. This cavity is located 1,3 cun bilaterally from the point Du Mai 17 (Naohu, GV-17, DM-17,) which is located above the occipital protuberance (approximately on the horizontal line which connects the upper tips of ears). (See picture)

In a TCM this point is used to disperse the pathogenic wind, to stimulate sensory organs, improve sight, in the cases of headaches in the occipital area, vertigo, tensions or pain in neck…

Even though BL-9 is not the acupoint (as we will see) meant in the name Knock and beat on a Jade Pillow, it is my experience that vibrations produced in this exercise can release tensions and stimulate Qi flow also in the cavity Bladder-9 and therefore helps in the cases I have listed above.

Jade Pillow in Qigong

When in a Taoist Qigong a Jade Pillow (Yuzhen) is mentioned, they don’t have in mind acupoint BL-9. In a Taoist vocabulary the Jade Pillow (Yuzhen) represents one of the three “tricky” gates that you have to open and widen in order to complete Small Circulation (Microcosmic orbit). In Qigong Jade Pillow is not considered merely as an acupuncture point but bigger area between and around the GV-17 (Naohu, located above the occipital protuberance) and GV-16 (Fengfu, in the depression just below the occiput at the base of the skull). In this area blockages appear very easily and prevent the Qi to flow smoothly.

But sometimes you can find also that Taoists use the name Yuzhen (Jade Pillow) merely for the acupuncture point GV-17 (Naohu).

To open the Jade Pillow is not easy as it is covered by a hard occipital bone. In Qigong practice you use a mental focus to stimulate the flow of energy within this area. But sometimes it is not enough. The exercise Beating the Heavenly Drum is efficient technique to help release and stimulate the Qi flow in this area.

If you are familiar with anatomy you will notice that you beat on the area (Jade Pillow) where under the skull little brain is located and deeper inside also the fourth ventricle. Indeed very important structures. Some sustain that this exercise stimulates also the pineal gland.

If anyone contribute some additional interesting information or experiences regarding this topic I will be glad. 🙂

Whatever is your reason for practicing Beating the Heavenly Drum I encourage you to try and enjoy the benefits.

May the Qi be with You!



Photo: Pixabay, PetarSmiljana Qigong

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