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Taijiquan-LilunQ Journal of the Theory of Wu Style Taijiquan

Focus: Understanding basic philosophical terms in Taijiquan: Q Q Q Q Q Forum for traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan Ziran Taiji Shen Xin Qi

Taijiquan-Lilun Copyright 2012 by Martin Boedicker Original Issue published in 2003 in German and English. In this journal (also in the citations) the official short characters and the pinyin of the PR of China are used. Cover picture: Ma Jiangbao and Michel Peeters Graphic design: Martina Schughart and Monika Ozdarska Translations: Martin Boedicker

Forum for Traditional Wu Tai Chi Chuan Kontakt: Martin Boedicker Zum Schickerhof 18 47877 Willich/Germany Phone: +49-2154-885780 Email: [email protected] Website:


Dear Reader, Welcome to the first edition of Taijiquan-Lilun. We are delighted that we have turned our project into reality. It was Ma Jiangbao who suggested that we should concentrate not only on the movements of Taijiquan but also on the theory. The journal is therefore named after the Chinese word for theory - lilun. The contents will include the theory of Taijiquan, translation from the Chinese and commentary. We would like to thank Martina Schughart for the layout, Manos Meisen and Michael Busch for photos as well as Dr Michael Wenzel, Dr Harry Iman and Dr Nina Wagner for their support. Special thanks to Dr Susanne Tietze for the translation, who made the Edition possible. Finally, Rachel and David Barrow and Kit Gerould edited the Journal and finished the adventure. We hope you all enjoy our magazine. Freya and Martin Bdicker

Susanne Tietze, David Barrow, Rachel Barrow

Imprint Introduction and Contents Focus: Yema fen zong Focus: Ziran Portrait: Zhou Dunyi Focus: Taiji Learning to write Taijiquan The names of the spear form The song of striking hands Principles: Skilfulness Focus: Xin Focus: Shen Focus: Qi

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Yema fen zong on the difficulty in translating Taijiquan technical vocabularyTaijiquan is an ancient martial art whose roots are in Chinese philosophy and medicine. Accordingly, it has developed its own technical vocabulary. This vocabulary includes concepts and terms that describe specific bodily parts, positions and movements as well as other terms that have a psychological dimension and typically for Chinese thinking which unite the bodily and psychological dimensions. With regard to the teaching of Taijiquan in the West, it is therefore absolutely necessary to translate the exact meaning of this technical vocabulary as completely as possible. It is possible either to translate such technical terms directly into English or to use the original Chinese term, but to include comments on it. One advantage of the direct translation of a Chinese term is that it is easier for Westerners to pronounce such directly translated terms; however, difficulties in translation occur: 1. The technical terms of Taijiquan often take a sentence-like structure. In order to translate them one must have mastered the Chinese language. For example, yema fen zong is a movement taken from the Taijiquan form. In the literature on Taijiquan one finds the following translations:Ma Jiangbao

Apparently, translators agree on the horse or wild horse, respectively (ye means wild and ma means horse). However, they disagree about whether shaking, parting or patting takes place, and about who shakes, parts or pats the mane of the horse. Usually, it is the person practising Taijiquan who is parting the wild horses mane. However, taking Chinese grammar into account, this particular translation is questionable. The structure of yema fen zong is a typical grammatical Chinese construction: Yema, the wild horse, is the subject, which does fen zong. Fen means to part and zong is the mane. Therefore fen zong is the typical movement of a horse that shakes its mane. In this case an optimal translation is only possible by referring back to Chinese grammar (see Tai Chi Magazine, p. 38): The wild horse shakes its mane. 2. Taijiquan technical terms may sometimes be words which are impossible to translate directly because there is no English equivalent. For example, the term yao is central to Taijiquan. In the literature on Taijiquan there are two possible

Q The wild horse shakes its mane Q Separate the horses mane evenly Q Parting the wild horses mane Q Pat the horses neck4

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translations: hip and waist. In dictionaries yao is listed as waist, hip, waistband and middle. In the illustrated dictionary, Concise Chinese-German Illustrated Dictionary, p. 14, is a picture of a human being with an arrow stuck in the part between hip-bone and the lowest costal arch. It is accompanied by the following explanation: hip. In English, however, this part is more likely to be referred to as waist. If one asks a Chinese person about yao they usually refer to the part without bones between the hip and ribs. Yao, therefore, refers to a much larger part than our waist, and for which no directly equivalent term exists in English. The notion of waist comes quite near the Chinese conception of yao, so that the word waist can be used once the Chinese term has been explained. 3. Taijiquan technical vocabulary quite often uses ancient words which describe particular qualities about movements or perceptions. Only a Taijiquan expert can fully appreciate these. In these instances, translating becomes particularly difficult and one can only use a word that may hint at the particular quality. For example, l is one of the eight basic techniques of Tuishou. In the Taijiquan literature one often finds l translated as pulling. But what is meant by this? It may be some help to consider that l should be practised in a way that resembles the pulling of a thread of silk out of a cocoon in order to spin it afterwards. Unfortunately, most Europeans have little experience of pulling threads of silk, but nevertheless this image demonstrates that one must not pull too quickly, otherwise the thread will tear, and neither must one pull too slowly, otherwise it will get into a tangle. Another translation for l is to divert. That means that a force coming from a particular direction is diverted into a different direction through the use of a less strong force. This is a more concrete image, which can help the Taijiquan learner to practice l. 4. Taijiquans technical vocabulary may derive from Chinese philosophy or from traditional Chinese medicine. These fields of science have deve-

loped over a long time and contain a plethora of thoughts. It is high time to abandon all backwoods ideas and to accept, even in Europe, that traditional Chinese thought is based on experience as all thinking is. Furthermore, Chinese thinking, like European thinking, is an equally overgeneralised term that stands for a vast body of taught traditional knowledge. Hence this term should be interpreted as referring to a geographical line rather than to collective patterns of thought that make Chinese people think in radically different patterns from European people. The Eurocentric perspective, with its insistence on viewing Chinese culture as unitary, gives rise to a denial of the richness of that culture. (Borges, p.14) The meaning of technical terms can differ from school to school in both philosophy and medicine. In Taijiquan the meaning of a term is often not strictly identical to its meaning in philosophy and medicine. The translator of Taijiquans technical vocabulary will even find some Western terms used, but their meanings only partly overlap with the original terms. A translation into English can potentially be quite misleading. In these cases it is better to use the original terms and to add some explanation. For example, in this edition of TaijiquanLilun the terms ziran, shen, xin and qi are introduced and explained.

Borges, Harald, Drache, Einhorn, Phnix ber altchinesisches Denken, Metzler, Stuttgart 1993 (Dragon, Unicorn, Phoenix on Traditional Chinese Thinking). Illustriertes Chinesisch-Deutsches Kurzwrterbuch, Hai Feng, Hong Kong 1989. (Concise Illustrated Chinese-German Dictionary). Tai Chi Magazine, vol 20, Los Angeles 1996.

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Ziran the Chinese concept of naturalnessMa Yueliang

In general, everyone understands and agrees that the movements and breathing in Taijiquan should be natural. However, students of Taijiquan particularly Western students react with a mixture of amusement and helplessness when they meet with difficulties in the execution of movements, and are advised to conduct them, completely naturally. This is usually attributable to a misunderstanding based on ignorance about the background meaning of the Chinese concept of ziran. In Taijiquan, ziran is translated as naturalness. But ziran is a concept that has both a colloquial and a philosophical meaning.

An essential concept of Taijiquan, whose importance is repeatedly stressed, is naturalness. This concept is often used when referring to the execution of movements. For example, Wu Yinghua says: Whether in the form or in pushhands all movements should be natural. (Ma, p. 24) It is also used to stress the naturalness of breathing. In an interview with the journal Martial Arts, (p. 8), Ma Yueliang answers the question of whether the study of Taijiquan is associated with any particular technique of breathing: No, only breathe naturally. Ma Jiangbao expounds that instead of controlling the breath or adjusting the movements to the breathing, one should breathe as usual when learning the form. A deep and full breathing is achieved through regular practice, and breathing will adjust quite naturally to the movements. (Ma, p. 53)6

Ziran is a two-character word that consists of the characters zi and ran. A simple translation would understand the word as a combination of its single components. The dictionary (The New Chinese-German Dictionary) translates the sign zi with self and ran with so. Combining its single components would thus render ziran: self-so. This is quite a simple translation, and it does indicate the original idea that informs the ziran concept. In an expanded entry in the same dictionary, we find under ziran: nature, naturally, by itself, to let something take its [natural] course. Ziran can simply be equated with nature, but it also indicates the inner nature of all beings and things, which are self-so. If one studies the history of Chinese philosophy, one finds the first usage of the concept of ziran in Laozi, in Zhuangzi, in the mohistic canon, and also in Xunzi (see also Rllike).

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The concept of ziran was developed as an answer to the question, what is dao? In Laozi, verse 25 says, Human beings follow the law of earth, earth follows the law of heaven, heaven follows the law of dao, and dao follows the law of ziran. Bauer explains: the expression ziran literally means to be so by itself. It is first used in the Daodejing and refers to the structure of Tao, which cannot be referred back to anything else. (Bauer, p. 202) Within daoist tradition all of this implied that through retreating back to nature, one could be nearer to dao. In observing and imitating nature, and through rejecting human culture, one could perfect ones own character. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD these ideas changed. It was no longer absolutely necessary to search for dao in nature, but rather ones own self became the mirror of dao. Bauer says that, it is the sole acknowledgement of the own self in all expressions and activities of life which is the decisive feature of naturalness and freedom , which can be found in nature and dao as well as in the ideal/perfected human being. (Bauer, p. 203) According to Wu Yinghua the demand for naturalness can be explained by referring to the origin of many movements of Taijiquan in traditional Chinese martial arts. These movements were developed in accordance with human physiology and the laws of nature.

This form of naturalness refers to body and mind and is not assumed to be automatically there, but needs to be worked for and maintained in a continuous process. This becomes apparent when Ma Jiangbao (Ma, p. 53) says about the practice of breathing in Taijiquan, Although breathing should not be consciously directed, the correct breathing can only be achieved if the bodys posture is correct: upright position of the head, upright coccyx, upright back, lowered shoulders, elbows and pelvic hips. These are the very preconditions, which for most people are not given as matter-of-fact, but need to be achieved and sustained through regular Taijiquan practice.

Bauer Wolfgang, China und die Hoffnung auf Glck, DTV, Munich1989 (China and the Hope for Happiness). Das neue chinesisch-deutsche Wrterbuch, The Commercial Press, Kong Kong 1989 (The New Chinese-German Dictionary). Ma Jiangbao, Tai Chi Chuan, Mach: Art, Ratingen 1998. Martial Arts, Heft No. 8, Martial Arts Verlag, Stelle-Wittenwurth 1986. Rollike Hermann-Josef, Der Ursprung des Ziran-Gedankens in der chinesischen Philosophie des 4. und 3. Jh. v. Chr. Europiche Hochschulschriften: Reihe 27, Asiatische und Afrikanische Studien, Bd 51, Heidelberg, 1994. (The Origin of the Ziran Idea in Chinese Philosophy in the 4th and 3rd Century B.C).

In Taijiquan one says: Shen xin ziran body and heart/mind are natural. Through calmness of movement and stillness in xin (heart/mind) students/practitioners of Taijiquan shall find and cherish their naturalness.

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Zhou Dunyi, the first thinker of NeoconfucianismZhou Dunyi (1017-1073 AD) lived during the time of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). His contribution was essential in turning this time into a watershed for the history of Chinese philosophy. Before the Song Dynasty, from the second until the 9th century AD, but in particular during the time of the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD), China had been a cosmopolitan country with a strong religious orientation. Both Buddhism and Daoism had long been appreciated and were supported by the state. The beginning of the Song Dynasty saw the influence of both Buddhism and Daoism declining. Confucianism again became the most dominant philosophy, but it did not correspond with the original Confucianism. Joseph Needham writes: Yet there was no sense in returning to antique Confucianism, for its lack of cosmology and philosophy meant that it could no longer satisfy a maturer age. There was, in fact, only one way out, and this was taken by the Neo-Confucians: to use a prodigious effort of philosophical insight and imagination to set the highest ethical ideals of man in their proper place against the background of non-human Nature, or rather within the vast framework of Nature as a whole. In such a view the nature of the universe is in one sense moral, not because a moral personal deity exists somewhere outside space and time directing it all, but because the universe has the property of bringing forth moral values and moral behaviour when the appropriate level of organisation has been reached. (Needham, p. 228) The Neoconfucian School emerged through a chain of different philosophers whose approaches were to dominate Chinas scientific and philosophical thinking for more than 700 years. One of the main issues was the theory of a deeply structured concept of the world. Drawing on systems or concepts such as taiji, li (principle of structure), xin (heart/mind) and xing (nature) they tried to form a concept of the world, which according to the knowledge of the time was able to explain the structure of the universe. One of the outstanding achievements in this process was the integration of Daoist and Buddhist concepts into the Confucian way of thinking, which resulted in a unique synthesis of these three philosophies. The Neoconfucianists saw the value of Daoism in its naturalness, but its weakness in the lack of interest in human society. Daoism did not offer any explanation of how the highest human ideals were to be connected with those of the nonhuman world. With the increasing assertion of Neoconfucianist ideas, interest began to focus on cosmic ideas as well as their connection with Confucian ideas and virtues. A central concept in this thinking was cheng, the ideal of the sage, which can be translated as loyalty or sincerity to oneself. Later on, cheng was supplemented and then substituted by zheng, sincerity towards others. This demonstrates the development from individual sincerity towards social responsibility expressed in sincerity towards others. (see Bauer, p. 295) The architect of Neoconfucianism is generally acknowledged to be the philosopher Zhou Dunyi. He was born in 1017 AD in the province of Hunan into a family of scholars (see Adler). After his father had died, his uncle Zheng Xiang, who provided him with his first public office, adopted him. Even though Zhou was frequently praised for his work as a civil servant, he never achieved a higher position. Similarly, he was hardly known as a philosopher during his lifetime. Other than his nephews Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao he had few pupils. In 1073 AD he died of a fever. He was remembered as a kind man with high moral standards, who had a close relationship with nature and deep insight into the dao, the right way.


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He lies buried in a valley near the mountain Lushan. After his death he was awarded the title Yuan Gong and in 1241 he was given the name of Earl of Yunan. Despite this inconspicuous life story, Zhou Dunyis Explanations of the taiji-diagram (Taijitu shuo) laid the foundation for Neoconfucianist cosmology and the basis for a structured conception of the world (see the article on Taiji, or the supreme ultimate in this edition). In his second main work, the Penetrating the Classic of Change (Tongshu), Zhou interprets the Yijing and focuses on the nature of the sage. According to Zhou the ideal of the sage is sincerity (cheng). It forms the basis for the five virtues (wude) humanity (ren), justice (yi ), ritual decency (li ), wisdom (zhi ) and trustworthiness (xin) and thus forms the basis for all impeccable moral conduct. The following paragraph 20 from the Tongshu exemplifies the successful synthesis of Confucian ethics and the Daoist worldview. [Someone asked]: Can sagehood be learned? Reply: It can. Are there essentials (yao)? Reply: There are. I beg to hear them. Reply: To be unified (yi) is essential. To be unified is to have no desire. Without desire one is vacuous when still and direct in activity. Being vacuous when still, one will be clear (ming); being clear one will be penetrating (tong). Being direct in activity one will be impartial; being impartial one will be all-embracing. Being clear and penetrating, impartial and all-embracing, one is almost [a sage]. (Adler)

Adler Joseph A. Bauer Wolfgang, China und die Hoffnung auf Glck, DTV, Munich 1989 (China and the Hope for Happiness). Needham Joseph, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1978.

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Taiji, or the supreme ultimateTaijiquan is the name of an ancient Chinese martial art. But what does this name mean? In Chinese it consists of three characters. Although the term taiji can be found in preChristian texts, it only became a key philosophical term during the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD). At that time Confucian scholars endeavoured to unite the streams of Confucian and Daoist thinking. This resulted in the school of the Neoconfucians. Zhou Dunyi (1017 - 1073 AD) was the first Neoconfucian scholar and became famous for his Explanations of the taiji-diagram (Taijitu shuo) , which became the basis for Neoconfucian cosmology, but it also found its way into the Daoist canon (Daozhang). Zhou Dunyis teaching and his taiji-diagram (taijitu) are based in all likelihood on the system of the Daoist master Chen Tuan (-989 AD). (see Bohn, p. 310) The taiji-diagram consists of five single images, which are arranged vertically. It is assumed that originally Daoists read the diagram from the bottom to the top. The diagram describes the way back to the wuji. Drawing on spiritual and physical techniques one was to become a Daoist immortal. (see Kubny, p. 300) According to Zhou Duny the diagram is to be read from the top to the bottom. It describes the genesis and the structure of the universe. The taiji-diagram and the its explanation are available in the form set out by Zhu Xi (1130 - 1200 AD).

The characters tai and ji form an independent term, viz. taiji. Taijiquan is a combination of two sub-units taiji and quan. The character quan can be translated simply as fist or fistfight. It is more difficult to explain the meaning of taiji, because taiji is a technical term taken from Chinese philosophy. Since ancient times, the sign ji in taiji has meant both ridge and beam, or respectively pole, extreme or ultimate. In the words beiji and nanji it is translated as pole as North and South Pole, respectively. Chinese uses the character tai as the prefix for the superlative case. Taiji could therefore be translated as the highest ridge or beam, the highest pole, the supreme ultimate. Taijiquan is therefore the martial art of the supreme ultimate. But what is meant by the supreme ultimate taiji? The term taiji can be found in many Chinese philosophical texts, which are frequently, but not always, of Daoist origin. An important part of the meaning of taiji can be found in the appendices of the Book of Changes (Yijing): The changes are based on Taiji. Out of it [taiji ] rise both instruments [yin and yang ]. (Kubny, p. 298)


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The taiji-diagram according to Zhou Dunyi

The first circle symbolises the connection between wuji and taiji.

Next (left, top) to the second circle is the word yang, below it is the word dong (movement), at the top right is the word, yin, below it is the word jing (stillness)

Below this, the five phases are set out as follows: Fire Earth Wood Metal Water

Next to the third circle the words The dao of qian will be the male are printed and to the right: The dao of kun will be the female.

Below the last circle one reads: Creation and transformation of the 10 000 things.

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The literal explanation of the taiji-diagram is: Wuji and then (respectively and yet) taiji. In movement taiji creates yang. When the movement has reached its limit there is stillness. When still, taiji creates yin. When stillness has reached its limits, there is a return to movement. Movement and stillness alternate. Each is the root of the other. The two instruments rose out of the differentiation between yin and yang. Yang changes and yin connects. This is how water, fire, wood, metal and earth come into being. Then the five qi [phases] spread out and the four seasons emerge. The five phases are simply yin and yang. Yin and yang are simply taiji. Taiji is in origin wuji. As soon as the five phases have been created, each has its own nature. The truthfulness of wuji and the essence of the two [yin and yang] and the five [phases] unite in a miraculous way and consolidations ensue. The dao of [trigram] qian leads to the male [principle]. The dao of [trigram] kun leads to the female [principle]. The two qi react with each other. They transform and generate the 10 000 things. The 10 000 things continue to generate and there is no end to their transformation. Only human beings receive the finest. They are spiritual beings. Their form emerges, their spirit [shen] develops knowledge. When their five agents are stimulated and move, good and evil become distinguishable and the 10 000 things occur. The sages ordered their lives by centrality, correctness, humanity and rightness and always stress stillness. Sages establish the ultimate of humanity. Therefore the virtue of the sage equals that of heaven and earth, his clarity equals that of sun and moon, his timelessness equals that of the four seasons and his good fortune and bad fortune equals those of ghosts and spirits. The noble [person] cultivates this and has good fortune. Lesser people reject this and have bad fortune. Therefore it is said: The establishment of the dao of heaven means yin and yang. The establishment of the dao of earth means softness and hardness. The establishment of the dao of human beings is called humanity and rightness. It is also said: Investigate the beginning and follow it to the end. Thus will you know about death and life. The [book of] changes [Yijing] is great! It is the most perfect.

A central part of the Explanations of the taiji-diagram is the description of the highest picture, the one of the simple circle. In the Chinese original is written: wuji er taiji . Wuji is a term taken from daoist philosophy. It translates directly into without ji , therefore without a pole or without any ultimate. In earlier Daoist texts it is translated simply as unlimited or infinite. Later on, however, it was translated with original (primordial) chaos, the nothingness or before the coming into being of yin and yang . Sometimes it was used as the equivalent of the

term dao. Er means and nevertheless or and yet. Thus, wuji er taiji can be translated as wuji and yet taiji and wuji and taiji are the same. This is based on the association that the universe and its immanent power and structure in the wuji have no cardinal point. However, through the term taiji it is acknowledged that everywhere in the universe there is an immanent power and structure and the centre of organisation of this power and structures is the same as the very power and structure itself. (see Needham, p. 236)


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A second possible interpretation is based on a different tradition, which might even be in line with Zhou Dunyis original: The wuji creates (sheng) the taiji. (see Bohn, p. 312) The wuji is structured by taiji during the genesis of the universe. The universe developed from a chaotic state wuji via the taiji towards a state in which yin and yang are separated. A parallel to the concept of a gradual development of the universe can be found in one of the ancient Chinese myths of creation, for example in the Huainanzi, recorded 2 AD: Long ago, before Heaven and earth existed, there were only images but no forms, and all was dark and obscure, a vast desolation, a misty expanse, and nothing knew where its own portals were. There were two gods born out of chaos who wove the skies and designed the earth. So profound were they that no one knew their lowest deeps, and so exalted were they that no one knew where they came to rest. Then they divided into yin and yang and separated into the Eight Poles. The hard and the soft formed, and the myriad living things took shape. (Birell, p. 32) Zhou Dunyi has achieved two great things here: 1. In acknowledging this process he has introduced Daoist terminology such as wuji into Confucianism: In bringing this largely Daoist terminology into Confucian discourse (chaos was generally frowned upon by Confucians), Zhou may have been attempting to show that the Confucian view of humanitys role in the cosmos was not really opposed to the fundamentals of the Daoist worldview, in which human categories and values were thought to alienate human beings from the dao. In effect, he was co-opting Daoist terminology to show that the Confucian worldview was actually more inclusive than the Daoistic: it could accept a primordial chaos while still affirming the reality of the differentiated, phenomenal world. (Adler) 2. Not only has Zhou introduced these terms, but he also placed them in a new relationship to each other. For example, he was the first to connect wuji and taiji. Also, the emergence of movement and stillness out of taiji goes back to him.

Zhou Dunyi also explained for the first time the relationship between taiji and the two instruments of movement and stillness (yin and yang). This connection had never happened in the explanation Yijing of the Han and Tang time. He introduced the thesis that movement creates yang, stillness creates yin, because he assumed that the taiji or the yuanqi respectively can be moved by itself or that it is still by itself, which produces the two qi. (Bohn, p. 318) Zhou Dunyis Explanations of the taiji-diagram brought to the fore of philosophical discussion the theory of taiji. The theory of the martial art Taijiquan follows Zhous ideas. In the important Taijiquan classic Taijiquan treatise it is said almost in line with Zhou: The taiji has been created out of the wuji. It is the origin of movement and stillness. It is the mother of yin and yang. (Wu, Ma, p. 89)

Adler, Joseph A. http// Birell Anne, Chinese Myth, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1993. Bohn G. Hermann, Die Rezeption des Zhouyi in der Chinesischen Philosophie, von den Anfngen bis zur Song-Dynastie, Herbert Utz Verlag, Mnchen 1998 (The Reception of Zhouyi in Chinese Philosophy, from Its Beginnings to the Song Dynasty). Kubny Manfred, Qi, Lebenskraftkonzepte in China, Haug-Verlag, Heidelberg 1995 (Qi, Concepts for Vitality in China). Needham Joseph, The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1978. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wu Shi Tai Ji Quan, Huanqiu Tushu Zazhi Chubanshi, Hong Kong 1986.

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Writing Chinese

Learning to write TaijiquanThe numbers on the lines give the sequence and the directions of the lines. Position the brush or pencil at the end of the line, where the number is.





2 6 5

1 3 4 7

5 2 1 3 4 7 10 8 9 6


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Spear form

The names of the spear form10) Hung on a hook, then middle and level; thats the best method. 11) The wind sways the lotus leaves, to turn continuously. 12) The golden cockerel stands on one leg and the reckless one is calmed. 13) Pass the horse on one side, press down and the middle, level form. 14) Brush the knee, hit the head and sweep the floor. 15) The wild tiger vaults the mountain stream; circle above the head. 16) The flood dragon rises from the water; this is the best method. 17) Push the spear into the crotch, hit the head, and the tiger whips its tail. 18) Left, right, into the middle; keep busy changing steps. 19) A snake on the ground obstructs the way and the hiding form. 20) The phoenix spreads its wings to the sun. 6) The golden child with jade-coloured arms offers a book. 7) The wind shakes the plum blossoms, then close the throat. 8) Turn, kick with heel and spit the snake with the spear. 9) The golden dragon whips its tail; turn continuously. 21) Circle over the head most skilfully. 22) The bird returns to sleep in the forest and then a counter-thrust. 23) The golden dragon whips its tail and return to the sea. 24) Embrace the pipa and return to your birthplace

Ma Jiangbao

1) Begin with the hand, to the middle and level; thats the royal way. 2) Brush the knee, push with the spear and stand proud and firm. 3) Push the spear into the crotch, then along the knee and hit the head. 4) Push the spear into the crotch, then along the knee and split the head. 5) Push the spear into the step and hit the head, then turn and stab.

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Taijiquan Classics

The song of striking handsPeng, l, ji, an have to be practised conscientiously. When up and down follow each other, it is difficult for the other to advance. No matter how strong he attacks me, with the use of four ounces one can easily deflect one thousand pounds. Divert the attack into emptiness, the counter-attack follows immediately. Adhere, connect, stick, follow, do not lose contact or resist. It is also said: If he does not move, I do not move. If he moves imperceptibly, I move first. The power appears to be relaxed, but it is not relaxed; the power is ready to open, but it does not open. Even when ones own power breaks off, the idea continues to exist.


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SkilfulnessIn the Wu style of Taijiquan there are, besides the slow form, a series of weapon forms and the fast form. These forms are conducted dynamically with many changes in pace. According to Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang, in the slow form the aspects stillness (jing), lightness (qing), slowness (man), conscientiousness (qie) and perseverance (heng) need to be taken into account. The dynamic forms are different from the slow form with regard to the third aspect, slowness. Slowness means that the movements are conducted in a controlled manner, yet lightly, evenly and flowing smoothly without any interruptions. (see Ma Jiangbao, p. 41) In the dynamic forms the aspect of slowness is substituted by skilfulness (ling). Skilfulness manifests itself in four different characteristics, which must be taken into account during training. Only then can the qualities of the slow form translate into the mastery of fast movements. Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang write: In order to develop lightness (qing), skilfulness (ling), suppleness (yuanhua) and dexterity (ziru), one has to heed four characteristics: 1. Break (dun) and turn (cuo) alternate (duncuo xiangjian) 2. Hard (gang) and soft (rou) support each other (gangrou xiangji) 3. Fast (kuai) and slow (man) are in harmony (kuaiman xianghe) 4. The front (qian) and the back (hou) are connected. (qianhou xianglian) (Wu, Ma, p. 2)Ma Yueliang

For Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang the break, dun, manifests it self in central equilibrium (zhongding) and cuo, the turn, in the movements of jumping. Ma Jiangbao explains that most movements in the dynamic forms end with a quick movement, which are accentuated by a brief break after them.

The next movement always begins with a change in direction, which is often accompanied by a jump (which can also be a long sliding step). A jump or change of direction is cuo, the turn. Expounding on their explanation of the four characteristics, Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang write: The hard power (gangjin) uses strong fajin. The principle of softness (rouze) uses soft movements. This means that the hard power (gangjin) is followed by softness. The turn (cuo) has to be quick (kuai). As far as the quickness (kuai) is concerned: in it lies the turn (cuo). In the slowness (man) is the stretching. The positions of the form have to be exact. From its very beginning all of the form has to be conducted naturally, the last movements have to be calm. They must not be neglected. This is the connection of the front (qian) and the back (hou). (Wu, Ma, p. 2) Ma Jiangbao explains that in the dynamic forms, individual positions are more stretched than in the slow form. Quite often this leads to a lower position. In spite of that, skilfulness must not suffer. Ma Jiangbao, Tai Chi Chuan, Mach: Art, Ratingen 1998. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wushi Taijikuaiquan, Henan Kexue Jishu Chubanshi 1988.

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Xin, the HeartWhen reading the classical texts of Taijiquan one will come across the word xin time and time again. For example, it is said in the Mental explanation of the 13 basic movements: The empty heart is here to be understood as a psychic phenomenon, viz. as an empty mind. An empty heart is the ideal state of the human mind and expresses the emotional stability of the psyche. In this state it is possible for human beings to avoid stress and to live life without fear and with equanimity. Emptiness is generally speaking also a symbol for calmness, which is expressed in a human being through the calm heart: Guanzi: If one calms the heart in the inside, then the qi becomes stronger. If one strengthens ones heart, then the [perceptions] of ears and eyes are clear, and the four limbs are hard and firm. (Kubny, p. 129) The notion that emptiness or calmness is the ideal state of xin and thereby of the whole human being (body and psyche) is an important part of Chinese philosophical thinking, and can be found in many authors writings. The development of the heart towards an ideal state leads, according to Daoists as well as Confucianists, to physical health and to a kind of ideal personality. For example, Mengzi expresses the idea of the unmoved heart (bu dong zhi xin), which is the basis for a firm personality of a high moral nature. A person of this kind can achieve courage because of their unmoved heart. This leads to fearlessness, which is the basis for sincerity.

Xin is the commander, the qi is the flag and the waist is the banner or first in the xin, then in the body. (Wu, Ma, p. 90) In everyday Chinese, xin means heart or feeling (the New Chinese-German Dictionary). Within traditional Chinese medicine the heart is the most important of all internal organs. It carries a variety of functions: it controls the blood and the vessels. (see Maciocia, p. 71) It is also the location where the human spirit (shen) lives. The state of the heart (xin) influences the spirit (shen) and vice versa. In particular, five functions are concerned: mental activity (including emotions), consciousness, memory, thinking, sleep. It is said that if the heart is strong, mental activities are normal and the emotional life is balanced. If the mind is clear, the intellect is sharp and sleep is deep. In both Chinese philosophy and Taijiquan theory the use of the term xin is linked to the meaning of the mind so often that xin can be understood to mean mind. The preconditions for the functioning of xin are described as follows in Guanzi (a book dated 330 BC that is intended to explain the ideas of the philosopher Guan Zhong from the 7th century BC): The heart is the ruler of the body. The bodily openings [sensory organs] are the executing servants for purposes of differentiation [of perception]. If the heart [according to] its dao is empty, then the nine openings [sensory organs] [function] according to their purpose. (Kubny, p. 128)18

In the Taijiquan one finds the demand for a calm or quiet heart. It is said: Calm xin, quiet qi (ping xin jing qi). This saying describes as a whole the demands that are put upon the personality

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of the student of Taijiquan. The ideal here is, quite as it is with the Chinese philosophers, calm and balanced human beings. This ideal is achieved through continuous work on oneself. Calmness plays a central part in this. It is part of the five essential aspects of Taijiquan jing (calmness), qing (lightness), man (slowness), qie (conscientiousness) and heng (perseverance). Following on from Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang, it is in particular the development of calmness that poses particular demands for the student of Taijiquan. To calm the thoughts in the mind, which are like turbulent water of a great river, is never easy, and is the common problem encountered by learners. In our experience, the best way to achieve calmness is to concentrate the thoughts on doing the correct postures, and always try to keep the mind in harmony with the movements of hands, eyes, body and steps. (Wu, Ma, p. 15) Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang formulate here one of the most essential tasks that the student of Taijiquan has to do. In concentrating on the conduct of calm and even movements of Taijiquan, breathing ulti mate ly will be po si ti vely con trolled and the heart (xin) calmed:

The respiration is regular, the qi has sunken into dantian. This is called the calmness of the body. The movements are light, dexterous, supple, and flowing, without jerks. This is referred to as the calmness of the heart... (Ma Yueliang, in Wagner, Klfer, p. 12)

Das neue chinesisch-deutsche Worterbuch, The Commercial Press, Hong Kong 1986 (The New Chinese-German Dictionary). Maciocia Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, London 1989. Wagner Nina, Klufer Werner, Wu-Stil Tai Chi Chuan, Mach:Art, Ratingen 1996. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wushi Taijiquan, Huanqiu Tushu Zazhi Zhubanshi, Hong Kong 1986.

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Shen, the spiritParallel with this concept of human beings, Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang say: Taijiquan is a three-in-one exercise of heart/mind (xin), of qi and of the body. (Wu, Ma, 1986, p. 22) The movement of body and the calming of the heart/mind create an ideal unity of the physical and spiritual aspects of human beings. This unity creates harmony and strengthens the qi in a natural way, without further influence.

The word shen has many meanings, for example: god, gods, spirit, soul, energy, appearance. (see New Chinese-German Dictionary) In Chinese philosophy and medicine it is taken to mean all mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of human beings. (see Macioca, p. 72) In connection with Taijiquan, shen should be translated as spirit; for example, in the classic text Song of the 13 basic movements: With coccyx centered, and spirit rising up. (Wu, Ma, 1991, p. 156) In Chinese understanding, human beings consist of body, spirit (shen) and qi, which mediates between body and spirit. In the Daoist Huainanzi it says: It is like this, that the bodily form xing is the abode of life. Qi is what fills life. The spirit shen is what controls life. If [only] one [of these] components loses its position, damage will occur. (Kubny, p. 154)20

It has to be pointed out here that the meaning of xin (heart/mind) in Taijiquan texts closely approaches the meaning of shen. This is easily understood if one considers that the heart (xin) hosts the spirit (shen). So, in translations of Chinese Taijiquan texts one finds frequently that xin is translated as spirit, not heart/mind, or that shen is translated as mind.

Das neue chinesisch-deutsche Wrterbuch, The Commercial Press, Hong Kong 1986 (The New Chinese-German Dictionary). Kubny, Manfred, Qi, Lebenskraftkonzepte in China, Haug-Verlag, Heidelberg 1995 (Qi, Concepts of Vitality in China). Maciocia Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, London 1989. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wu Shi Tai Jiquan, Huanqiu Tushu Zazhi Zhubanshi, Hong Kong 1986. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wu Style Taichichuan, Shanghai Book Co, Hong Kong 1991.

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The meaning of qi in Taijiquan

Qi: energy, vitality, breath ... There have been many attempts to find an appropriate translation for qi. As early as 1682, Andreas Cleyer translated qi into Latin as spiritus sanctus. During the 19th century the term pneuma (Gr.: breath) was favoured. But none of these translations fully covers the term qi, since qi is a complex concept that has been used inconsistently in the history of Chinese thought. A first approach to the understanding of the concept of qi can be taken from the etymology of the written sign qi (here shown in its long form).

Qi consists of the written signs

Steam, Gas and

(raw) rice

This offers images of mist over fields of rice or steam over boiling rice. These images suggest that qi can have either a material or an immaterial component, or that qi is the medium between the material and the immaterial. A more comprehensive etymology of the written sign qi can be found in Manfred Kubny. Most of the important Chinese philosophies describe the development of the cosmos as a series of separations from a unified state.21

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For example, Laozi (verse 42) says: The way begets one; one begets two; two begets three; three begets the myriad creatures. The myriad creatures carry on their backs the yin and embrace in their arms the yang and are the blending of the generative force [chongqi; flowing qi] of the two. (Lau, p. 63)

In these ideas about a developing cosmos, qi almost always plays an important role. However, qi bears a different character in each philosophy. Qi can appear in the following forms: As substance, which was present at the origin of the cosmos and which became differentiated from it during the cosmoss development. (Daodejing, Yijing) As the finest matter (Guanzi) As undifferentiated truth, which precedes all things (Xunzi) As the large emptiness, which takes on bodily forms through compression (Zhong Zai) Based on a thorough investigation of classic Chinese sources, Manfred Kubny developed a series of characteristics which are to be associated with qi. 1. Qi is the very epitome of unity in the sense that there is only one qi . Qi has the characteristics of unity and uniformity respectively. 2. Qi is in its fundamental state empty and in its formed state it takes on a material nature and becomes visible for human beings. Qi therefore has the characteristic of emptiness. 3. Qi can be both unmoving as well as moving. Qi therefore has the characteristic of movement and stillness. 4. Qi tends towards cyclic repetition of movement and the alternation between movement and stillness, as they for example become visible in the seasons, the course of the day and the changes of the stars. 5. Qi is continuous transformation (also called change), which has to repeat itself cyclically, so that life can occur and be sustained. 6. Qi has penetrability and transcendence.


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7. In all its movements and states, qi tends to be balanced; in particular within closed systems, for example within living beings. 8. In the visible world qi is a phenomenon that contains its opposites (for example, fire and water) and it is therefore paradoxical. The absolute categories of these opposites are presented in yin and yang and in the diagram of taiji . (Kubny, p. 422) In order to understand the meaning of qi in Taijiquan it is necessary to understand both the breadth of the concept of qi as well as the different functions of qi in the human body. In Chinese thinking and cosmology human beings consist of a body and spirit as well as of qi. This qi, which is an inherent part of human beings, manifests itself in different forms, which are in the end only the expression of the universal qi. For example: yuanqi (original qi ) zongqi (essential qi ) yingqi (nourishing qi ) weiqi (defence-qi ) In Taijiquan one uses two forms of qi. (see Wu, Ma p. 20) 1. Qi as breath One of the aims when practising Taijiquan is the development of breathing. The evenness of the Taijiquan form and the concentration of the body relax the muscles and calm the spirit (shen) and the heart/mind (xin) . Thus deep breathing is achieved in a natural way. Wu Yinghua and Ma Yueliang comment: If the learner is skilled in taichichuan after a certain period of earnest practice with correct breathing method and postures, his vital capacity may be increased to 4000 c.c and the respiratory rate decrease to ten times per minute. These effects are usually attributed to intensified abdominal breathing which allows the diaphragm to work more strongly and effectively. It should emphasized that these effects develop spontaneously after a long time of practising Taijiquan and cannot be made intentionally. (Wu, Ma, p. 20) See Ziran the concept of naturalness , p. 6.

2. Qi as yuanqi (original qi ) Yuanqi is in Taijiquan as well as in traditional Chinese medicine the vital energy of the body which stems from the time before birth and is stored in the kidneys. Yuanqi spreads in the body and changes according to each part in a more specific qi. The more yuanqi is in the body, the stronger are the internal organs and the more resistant they are to illnesses. The principle In movement is stillness and the harmonious and deep breathing of Taijiquan strengthens the yuanqi in a natural way and spreads through the whole body. In the classic The song of the 13 basic movements it is written: The qi goes throughout the body without any stagnating. (Wu, Ma, p. 156) Ma Yueliang points out that one should not try to imagine the circulation of the qi and refers to the classic The mental explanation of the 13 basic movements: Put stress on the spirit, not the qi. Too much preoccupation with the qi results in stagnancy. (see Inside Kung-Fu, p. 49) Answering the question posed by students of Taijiquan as to what one does when one begins to feel the flow of qi, Ma Yueliang replies: He should keep practising as usual. (Inside Kung-Fu, p. 49)

Inside Kung-Fu, 16 (12), Burbank 1988. Kubny, Manfred, Qi, Lebenskraftkonzepte in China, Haug-Verlag, Heidelberg 1995 (Qi, Concepts of Vitality in China). Lau, D. C. (transl.), Tao Te Ching, The Chinese University Press, Hong Kong 2001. Wu Yinghua, Ma Yueliang, Wu Style Taichichuan, Shanghai Book Co., Hong Kong 1991.

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