# Wang Feng Memory System

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#1 18 May, 2011 - 22:33
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#### Wang Feng Memory System

In the following video Wang Feng is sharing his memory system basically 2 digit system. All Chinese use this.

Part-1

19 May, 2011 - 04:23
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Do you speak Chinese? I only saw a few seconds of it, but don't know any Chinese...

19 May, 2011 - 04:46
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Not fluently. In this Part at 02:16 Wang Feng talks about his codes 1-10. All Chinese!

19 May, 2011 - 06:29
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It would be interesting to get someone who knows Chinese to translate this..

19 May, 2011 - 07:59
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It would be great to get that translated...

It doesn't look phonetic:

01 = tree with 1 trunk
02 = 2 bells
03 = stool with 3 legs
04 = car with 4 wheels
05 = gloves with 5 fingers
06 = gun ("six shooter"?)
07 = number shape -- some kind of axe or adze?
...
10 = number shape: bat with ball

The thing I'm most curious about is how he places his images and deals with repeated images. With only 100 images, things tend to repeat a lot.

19 May, 2011 - 10:48
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Yan wrote:

It would be interesting to get someone who knows Chinese to translate this..

Definitely.

19 May, 2011 - 10:52
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Images repeat but he managed to do it by combining 2 images together. Which covers 4 digit in one location. With practice it becomes very fast and it works like you only have one image.

19 May, 2011 - 11:02
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Josh wrote:

It would be great to get that translated...

It doesn't look phonetic:

01 = tree with 1 trunk
02 = 2 bells
03 = stool with 3 legs
04 = car with 4 wheels
05 = gloves with 5 fingers
06 = gun ("six shooter"?)
07 = number shape -- some kind of axe or adze?
...
10 = number shape: bat with ball

The thing I'm most curious about is how he places his images and deals with repeated images. With only 100 images, things tend to repeat a lot.

Yuan Wenkui told me that all Chinese use images to remember because their language works that way. Some numbers have sounds and some looks similar to shape. In Wang Feng system he basically have numeral association and No.7 is actually a Sickle. Then with practice you don't have to even think about it.

I am familiar with codes of Wang Feng 1-100 which are interesting and which helps to understand more about their system.

19 May, 2011 - 11:16
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Avinay wrote:

I am familiar with codes of Wang Feng 1-100 which are interesting and which helps to understand more about their system.

Are his images posted online somewhere? I'm curious what images he uses...

19 May, 2011 - 17:56
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My Chinese is a bit rusty, but I think he said, "I owe a big debt of gratitude to Josh at mnemotechnics.org"

20 May, 2011 - 03:50
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Hehe... I don't think he has ever seen the site. The only record-breaking memory champions that have stopped by the site to offer some advice (that I know of) are Nelson Dellis, Ben Pridmore, and Simon Reinhardt... :)

By the way, does anyone have Wang Feng's email address? Please send it to me through the contact form if anyone knows it:
http://mt.artofmemory.com/contact

7 May, 2012 - 12:23
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Hi,

This reply is about a year late. But I think you guys might find it interesting.

I am Chinese, and I do read his blog once in a while so I am aware of the number system he uses. He basically uses a combination of number rhyme system (if they rhyme) or number shape system (For example 11 is chopsticks), or association (for example 12 is calendar) for every number up to 99.

For example, 27 in Chinese is er (two) qi(seven), sounds like er ji (headphone).
99 is jiu (9) jiu (9), sounds like jiu jiu (uncle).
28 is er (2) ba (8 ), sounds like e ba (gangster).
51 is wu (5) yi (1), sounds like wu yi (martial arts).
52 is wu (5) er (2), sounds like gu er (small drum).
70 is qi (7) ling (0 ) , sounds like qi ling (a dragon like mythical creature in chinese culture) or bing qi ling (icecream)

I think that is one of the reasons why they can code numbers extremely fast and do not need to invest much time into expanding the system into more digits. Almost every number has a sound alike object. So for chinese, they can pick up really fast and get really fluent at it.

I read one review from a chinese mnemonist (Yuan Wen Kui) about Dominic o'Brien's book (you can have an amazing memory), he paid a lot of respect to Dominic O'Brien. He commented that DOMINIC System is of no use for Chinese people because of the language background. All they need is using rhyming. One of my friends from China basically knew 100 digits of Pi without any number system because they can basically make it like a little poem and it rhymes really nicely.

Wang Feng basically put 2 objects (4 numbers) on each locus. Simple is better. To them, each word is more than second nature to them as every time they read the number out, it is already an image for every 2 digits.

7 May, 2012 - 23:58
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A simple system combined with extreme amounts of training each day equals the results that Wang gets :-)

9 May, 2012 - 21:35
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can anyone send a link regarding his training schedule (or more information about him)? I would love to see what someone at his level actually does for practice / how seriously they take it (does he also have another job? or does he literally just train 16 hours a day and then crash from exhaustion haha)

as I become more serious about training, I'm very curious to know what has proven to be effective to see big results. (e.g. does Dominic O'Brien make a new 250 loci journeys everyday -- in addition to memorizing 10 decks of cards, etc.).

9 May, 2012 - 23:13
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Hi, I am a Chinese from Hong Kong. I participated in the WMC 2010 & 2011 and gained my Grandmaster title last year.

Wang Feng is a University student. Before he got his Grandmaster title in 2009, he had been trained at a memory summer camp in the University for 6 - 7 hours every day. After 20 days of training, he could memorized a deck of cards under 2 minutes. He had practiced the skill for six months before he went to the WMC 2009 and got the fifth place. A month before the WMC 2010, he took a month off school so that he could practice every day without any disturbance.

Basically, most of the Chinese in the WMC last two year trained for at least 7 hours for 6 months before the championships. The link below is an interview with Wang Feng after WMC 2010. Last year first runner up Liu Su is also in the show. The number system that they are using is pretty much the same system every Chinese memory athletes use (with some minor variation). Let me know if anyone wants translation.

http://3vys.com/show.asp?id=1054

10 May, 2012 - 15:47
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Thanks for the response atkfong.

From your response it seems that Wang Feng is just insanely talented: being able to get to a 2 minute deck in 20 days is quite impressive -- especially considering that 6-7 hours of training every day is quite intense (not everyone could even train that hard)

Memory summer camp sounds awesome!! I wish there was something like that here in the states haha I would definitely go. Did you participate in this program? I would love to know what the training schedules are like.

That video is seems very interesting -- is there an english transcript I can see somewhere?

Also, I would love to know what you did for training in order to reach the GMM status as well as any tips you may have in order to improve most efficiently.

Thanks!!

10 May, 2012 - 22:30
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Hi SirBMR,

FYI, most of the top ten Chinese memory athletes, including Wang Feng, Liu Shu and Li Wei, are from Wuhan University. I bet their memory summer camp must be very good. Unfortunately, I didn’t study there, so I don’t know their training schedules.

I don’t seem to see any English transcript online. If you have question on any specific part, you can let me know.

Regarding my training, I took about a month off before last year championship, so that I could have some very intensive training. I’ll probably talk more about it later in some other posts.

Regards,

Andy

12 May, 2012 - 07:09
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Wang Feng- Smart Genius (In English)

17 May, 2012 - 17:47
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Interesting, I thought that the Chinese system was based mainly on the number shape system rather than number rhyme system. It's also obvious that this system would only be useful to those that speak Chinese?.

I don't really see the benefit of the number rhyme system over the major system. Both use phonetics. I would think that a number shape system would be faster than both the number rhyme system and major. It cuts out the sub vocalization that's needed for the number rhyme and major. However, I also don't see the practicality of a 3 digit number shape system, which makes the 3 digit major in my opinion more favorable (i.e. more images to use and more information per loci)

Wang definitely is gifted and has the motivation to put in the time to perfect his ability. I honestly think that if he were to use a 3 digit major system, he would blow away his current records. It's apparent that there is no magic with the system he's using...

18 May, 2012 - 01:11
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I guess the only difference between using number rhyme and major system is that, in Chinese number rhyme immediately translate numbers into words. Whereas in Major System, you translate every digit into a more arbitrary phonetic sound then words. So, I guess it takes a longer time in the beginning to get a hang of it. That being said, once the systems are mastered, it should be automatic. To be honest, number shape system is used quite sparingly in Chinese number system, other than the obvious 1 to 10 (even so, they don't use number shape for all of them), 00 for binoculars etc..

I don't know if he would do very well with 3-digit major system. As he would have to relearn a whole new system and English can never be as natural as his mother tongue. And he had to learn 1000 combinations. If he were to get that down, sure he would do well. But I doubt it would be as good as his current system.

I do still think, simpler systems work better and faster and practice makes perfect.

18 May, 2012 - 05:59
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Yeah , I completely agree that a number rhyme system would be easier to learn. I've used the Ben system for about two years now, and I can read a 3 digit decimal number instinctively. But it took a awhile.

Can't the Chinese use Chinese and phonetics to develop their own major system? All they would need is 10 consonant sounds and 10 vowels to create a Chinese Ben System. I'm not familiar with the Chinese language, but sounds are sounds, and many translate across languages. I would think the principals would be no different.

I don't think we will ever know if Wang would do better with a 3 digit or 2 digit system. I would argue he would likely be able to get extremely efficient with a 3 digit given the amount of time he puts in.

I think it's debatable whether a 2 digit or 3 digit system is faster or more efficient. Of the top speed card times in the world, two were achieved through the use of the Ben System or a variant of (i.e. Simon System?). And of course Wang is in there. If 2 digit systems are faster, than why don't we see more sub 30 second times through the use of 2 digit systems? The Ben System uses 27 times more images than a 2 digit system. Grant it, I'm speaking of card memorization here, where the Ben System gives you 100 percent more efficiency than a 3 digit number system, which only gives 50%. But the principal idea still applies - more images doesn't necessarily result in less efficiency.

I believe it's Wang's stamina, which has been built up via 70 hours a week of practice, that enables him to achieve the constant rate of memorization he's able to maintain...

18 May, 2012 - 08:01
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I think it might take a while for Chinese to come up with a phonetic system. Because each character has its stand-alone meaning, mixing characters together changes the context and meanings and images altogether. If we were to take:

Tu (2nd intonation) - means picture
Tu (3rd intonation) - means mud, or ground
Tu (4th intonation) - means rabbit

Once you added prefixes and suffixes, the meanings change.
So it is not just consonant and vowel that are important, intonation determines the meaning of each character. In Chinese there are 5 intonations. In different regions of china, due to different dialects, people use different intonation.
I guess if they were to use a Ben System, they have to take into account the intonation (which is quite confusing already in its own) which would be a really complicated system.

4 March, 2013 - 09:15
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Here are some blogs of Chinese competitors which you seem interested in:

Yuan Wenkui (Grandmaster and Wang Feng's coach):
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/1904118382

Wang Feng:
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/1908198311

Liu Su (Grandmaster):
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/2025129527

Yu Bin Jing (Grandmaster):
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/2491399603

Guo Chuan Wei (Chinese Memory Champion before Wang Feng):
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/1686551795

Dr. Yip (Grandmaster):
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/1788393507

Janghan University Association of Innovative Thinking Memory:
http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/2063051695

Memory Training Network - Forum:
http://www.jiyili.net/forum-11-19.html

Memory Training Network - Training:
http://www.jiyili.net/forum.php

Many of the competitors have multiple sites and a number of the universities that are now involved also have dedicated memory training and competition blogs. Put them them through Google Translate. They all explain their systems somewhere or another.

If you join the site, good luck ! Ha ha. ;-)
It's hard work joining with a translator but, it is worth it. There is a massive memory community on there.
It took me hours to join and I was able to guess a lot of things due to the buttons and icons being in the same place and layout as the Western version of the website. Even so, it took me hours.

ps. If you do join, feel free to add me but, don't post any links to non-Chinese sites on my blog please: http://blog.sina.com.cn/u/3161720720

4 March, 2013 - 09:18
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hcc108. What is your name please and do you have a Sinablog ? My computer is too small to cope with QQ because of the memory size.

13 May, 2014 - 13:13
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two character word is very comment in China so it is very easy and nature for chinese to build a 2-digit to object mapping system. 3 character words less common and thus not thus instinctive to build the mapping.

18 October, 2014 - 03:09
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The memory system of Wang Feng has intrigued many people, myself included. Today I accidentally watched one of his videos, thinking about that system, and just a signle moment which caught my eye started the whole stream of ideas how to explore deeper. So the results of my analysis are available in the PDF file attached to this post. And I can say there are several things which I consider to be "not clear enough".

That PDF file contains more than 20 pages of my own hypothesis which are based on the data obtained from the Internet.

I'm looking forward to the replies, even, maybe new theories!

Regards,
Milan.

19 October, 2014 - 09:44
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Thanks for your interesting research Nightwalker.

I've taken a close look. The whole thing is very hard to understand without knowing the chinese language and culture. I know a little chinese but it was only on asking a chinese speaking friend that it started to make sense.

In summary I think, from the descriptions, it's possible that he is actually using only 100 images. While there are several cases where it looks like he has more images, I think actually there are alternative explanations. Looking at your slides:

1) "There are two different numbers 15, together with different images. The video with 'all' his images contains only the one on the left."

Does this show he is using more than one image for each number? I think not, because:
- We can see in the book that for several of the other numbers we can see, there is only one image. It's only for 15 where there are two.
- The book is quite a nice, well produced book with reasonably high quality images. I don't think it's likely that it represents Wang Feng's exact own system, as he would only have reason to keep rough notes on that. More likely, it's something that he used to teach the principles of his system to other people, in classes. When teaching the system to other people, it's quite normal to say to people "here's a couple of ideas for images for the number 15; use whichever one you prefer".

2) "another picture from the video seems suspicious in regard of using more than one image."

Actually, I don't think this slide is suspicious at all. Translating the Chinese, it's just a really standard description of the method of loci. He's got the names of various areas/rooms along the top (front yard, living room, etc) and has ten images distributed around each room.

3) "Both of them contain number 54, but none of them contains the same image." "...54 and 61 are represented by the following images, which only partially correspond to the previous group of images."

The images for 54 and 61 make more sense when you know where they come from.

In Chinese 54 can be read as meaning "4 May", which is immediately recognisable to Chinese people as the date of National Youth Day in China. So the image of 54 is a "youth" or "teenager". While there are two images for 54 (one a young guy in a suit, one a crazy teenager), I think they may actually just be pictures for a "youth".

The same goes for 61 - "1 June", which is National Children's day in China. So the image is a baby/small child. While the images in the book and the room are different pictures, they both represent a baby.

So mystery solved - there is no evidence he has more than one image for 54 ("youth") and 61 ("baby").

I don't have explanations for the other scenes where you've found discrepancies between the images. But I suspect that it is simply the case that for the TV, they are using images that are easy to explain, rather than the exact images that Wang Feng uses.

So, maybe it's the case that Wang Feng really is just using a very simple system, with 100 images, and placing two images in each location. In which case the secret of his success can't be his system, but has to be something else - maybe training harder or better.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any more information about Wang Feng's techniques and system.

19 October, 2014 - 10:53
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I have no understanding of Chinese language, so please everyone, keep that in mind. I had no intention of disrespectfully criticise the work of Wang Feng.

You made really good points out there and after your response I've changed my mind. I was open to changing it... But it doesn't mean I don't want to read more. And that was the only goal. To get some answers. But it's better to provide certain things I'm concerned about than stating here "watch this video, go to a certain time, and be careful, there will be a scene for two seconds which I don't understand."

Definitely nobody can say that he's "cheating", no, he's done an amazing work and his success can be explained by the amount of work he's put into memory training. I was just curious... ;)

Thanks!

22 October, 2014 - 11:33
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Thanks NightWalker for these very interesting slides. It appears that the order of the links may not only be from left to right and bottom to top, but also from the back to the front, as can be seen from the guy holding the flower. Had it been the other way around, I bet the guy would have been hiding the flowers behind his back with some flowers protruding from that position. That's definitely interesting.

24 October, 2014 - 05:32
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As someone who talks to Wang Feng regularly, I think I can help to answer some of your questions.

He uses 100 images and he puts two images on one location, that's it. Considering the amount of effort that he has put in, it seems that a simple system can be as powerful as a large system, however, it takes a lot of work and patience to achieve the results that Wang Feng did in 2010 and 2011.

28 October, 2014 - 10:01
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This discussion is very interesting...

@jzhou: do you know how many hours he trained per day over how many months (before the championships) in order to get those results?

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