Chi Kung

Meaning of Tai-chi (Taiji)

Firstly, I would like to define the meaning of Tai and Chi: The word or character of Tai means the Supreme, Greatest, and Grand. For example, the oldest members in the family of four generations are called Tai Kung (great grandfather) and Tai Pau (great grandmother). In Chinese the word sun, is Tai Yang, it means the extreme heat and supreme of many living things. Without Tai Yang, myriad of things could not survive.

In English grammar, Tai is often used as adverbs, which modify the verb, adjective or adverb. Perhaps extremely is the most appropriate word that means Tai. The followings are some of the examples that use Tai as an Adverb to modify an adjective:

    (1) He runs extremely fast.  

    (2) She is extremely beautiful.

    (3) The world is extremely big.

    (4) The sun is extremely hot in the afternoon.

    (5) Paul is extremely stubborn.

Chi or Ji (originally was a name of a building) means ultimate, or pole, for example, we called the extreme North as North Pole. Chi, as used in Neo-Confucianism, it means the highest ideal prototype of things. For the universe as a whole, there must be an ultimate standard, which is supreme and all embracing; In Taoism, for all natures in the universe, there must have Tao (The Way). Therefore, it is called the Supreme Ultimate or TAI Chi (Ji).


Actually, the correct translation of Tai Chi is Tai Ji. Chi and Ji are different words and meanings. Chi means air or vital energy, when practising Tai Ji Ch'uan, Kung Fu, we must carefully follow the principle of breathing in and out of air. Nevertheless, since Tai Chi is widely used in North America, I do not want to replace the word, but only to bring awareness of the different meanings of Chi and Ji, in order to avoid an unnecessary confusion.

In short, as I simply put it “Everything has an ultimate, which is ultimate law which unites and embraces the law of heaven, earth, and all things in the Supreme Ultimate.” “The Supreme Ultimate is simply what is highest of all, beyond which nothing can be. It is the most high, most mystical, and most abstruse, surpassing everything.”

Since we have gained the idea of the meaning of Tai Chi (Ji); now we pursue to find out the origin of Tai Chi (Ji). In ancient Chinese philosophy, and given the name of Wu Chi (Ji) that creates the Tai Chi (Ji). Wu Chi means “What there is before the universe comes into being.” In simple term, Wu Chi means nothing or void. When the first thing is born of nothing that is called Tai Chi, the Supreme Ultimate, the Universe, or the Great One (please do not get mixed up with hockey star Wayne Gretzky.) Once the Tai Chi begins existing, it becomes the mother. After the mother exists, she gives birth to the myriad things. When anyone of the things dies, it returns to Wu Chi (Void).

Furthermore, we need to know the concept of change, if no change, then nothing came out of Wu Chi, if there is change or even the possibility of change; we say then that the situation of Tai Chi is beginning. For instance, we can see the formation of a tornado. At first there are only gentle breezes, no tornado or Wu Chi. Then there is an acceleration of the breezes, and they begin in circular motions instead of just randomly flowing. This is now the Tai Chi of the tornado. The breezes grow stronger and a definite circular wind is created that sweeps up loose leaves and twigs from the ground and throws them high in the air in circular patterns. Finally all the wind energy from the surrounding areas becomes funneled into this circular motion, as this tremendous force gradually builds up, houses, trees, cars are drawn up into its vortex and cast away. However, at some point the tornado starts to lose its force and slow down. Soon it returns to only moderate force. Finally, it cannot be detected at all. It is gone, and Tai Chi has returned to Wu Chi.

Let's look in our life, before we exist in this world, we are Wu Chi. When we are born, we begin the stage of Tai Chi. Finally, we die, and the matter that formed our bodies is dispersed like the breezes that formed the tornado. We returned to Wu Chi.


Simple Explanation of Tai Chi Diagrams. There are two different Tai Chi Diagrams in China. One, made in black & white circles, was designed by Chau Lien-ch'i, a notable scholar of the Sung Dynasty (A.D. 1017-1703). The other is the Double Fish Diagram adopted by the common folk. The former is adopted by the Confucians, and the latter by the Taoists. Though the two differ in form, they are exactly the same in representing the theories of Yin & Yang, firmness and softness, activity and inactivity. The areas occupied by Yin & Yang, black & white, are similar to each other. The Double Fish Diagram is assumed in Joint Hand Operations, which corresponds with it in the idea of Yin & Yang, insubstantiality and substantiality, expanding and contracting, advance and retreat. Chau's Diagram was derived from I Ching, which contains the Chinese philosophy and Changes. Owing to the refinedness and subtlety of its principles and reasoning, the philosophy is not easily comprehensible; but it includes the illustrations and principles of Tai-chi Ch'aun.


All matters in the universe are formed from the combination of Yin & Yang (representing Negative and Positive). This is a theory of philosophy. About 2,500 years ago, Buddha gave the idea “that all matters in the universe are formed by the combination of Inner-Yin and Outer-Yiian,” inner factors and outer elements, similar to Yin & Yang, Darkness and Light;  and "that there is nothing so permanent as never to change." In other words, a matter is created when the Inner-Yin and Outer Yiian meet; and it disappears when the Inner-Yin and Outer Yiian separate. It is a general phenomenon of the universe that creation and extinction alternate.

The notion of the Tao or Way, the concept of Yin and Yang, the theory of the Wu Hsing (Five Elements), the Trigrams of the Classic I Ching (Book of Change), and daily astrological changes, the foundation of Chinese breathing exercise (Chi Kung), meditation which are used to improve health. 


Tao is the key to the intermingling of Heaven and Earth. It is also the way  and means for maintaining harmony between man and the realms of Heaven and Earth. Tao (Dow) is symbolized by an empty circle that has no centre or "ridge pole." But the Tao itself is this supreme centre or ridge pole, the "Supreme Ultimate (Tai Chi). By the force of energy(breath), the Supreme Pole moves and produces Yang energy. When Yang energy reaches its limits, it rests and Yin energy is generated. As Yin energy reaches its limits, Yang energy begins again, thus creating a continuing cycle. The interaction of Yin and Yang energy creates the Wu Hsing (Five Elements): water, fire, wood, metal and earth (each of which correspond to certain internal organs). The Chi of the Five Elements in turn creates the four seasons. (The process can be taken in reverse: the Five Elements combined are the Yin and Yang; the Yin and Yang combined return to the great emphasis of Tao.) Thus are the supreme pole (the Supreme Ultimate), the two forces, and five elements unified and consolidated with one another.


The Chi of the Tao of Heaven (male) and the Chi of Earth (female) influence, unite, and bring into being that which the Ancient Chinese called "the ten thousand things." The Trigram (Bagua) and hexagram of the I Ching are divided into two categories: the "Before Heaven" and “Later Heaven" sequences. The Before Heaven sequence detects the harmony or clash of Yin and Yang; The Later Heaven sequence, indicating the waxing or waning of Yin energy and Yang energy on a comic scale.

Chi (internal energy) fluctuates during the course of the day. These fluctuations in the Chi of Yin and Yang and the Chi of the Five Elements (which govern various internal organs) can be determined by trigrams of the I Ching, which reflect the 12 hours of the Chinese day. Process of hunger, excretion, and body temperature are also regulated by the trigrams of the I Ching. These processes are affected by the body's ability to respond to such micro pulsations of daily subtle energy fields. For example, from three to five a.m., the body temperature falls to its lowest level, the heartbeat is slowed, and hormone levels are depressed. However, from five to eight p.m., the body usually attains its highest peak. This natural clockwork can be altered by the ingestion of food, drink, and drugs, or by abnormal sleeping patterns. In conclusion, for the body to be in harmony, the energies of Yin and Yang, and the Five Elements must be in equilibrium.


In the thought of Yin-Yang school, the term Wu Hsing does not only mean Five Elements. The Chinese word hsing means "to act" or "to do", so that the term Wu Hsing, literally translated, would mean the Five Activities, Or Five Agents. They are also known as the Wu Te, which means Five Powers. The term Wu Hsing is found in a section of the Book Of History, known as the Hung Fan or "Great Plan" or "Grand Norm."

In the Grand Norm, we are given a list of "Nine Categories." First, we read, "Is that of the Wu Hsing. The first is named Water; the second, Fire; the third, Wood; the fourth, Metal; the fifth, Soil. The nature of Water is to moisten and descend; of Fire, to flame and ascend; of Wood, to be crooked and straightened; of Metal, to yield and to be modified; of Soil, to provide for sowing and reaping."

Next comes the category of the Five Functions. "Second," we read, "is that of the Five Functions. The first is personal appearance; the second, speech; the third, vision; the fourth, hearing; the fifth, thought. Personal appearance should be decorous; speech should follow order; vision should be clear; hearing, distinct; thought, profound. Decorum produces solemnity; following order, regularity; clearness, intelligence; distinctness, deliberation; profundity, wisdom."

Skipping now to the eight of the Nine Categories, we come to what the Grand Norm calls the various indications: " The eight is that of various indications: These are rain, sunshine, heat, cold, wind, and seasonableness. When these five come fully and in their regular order, the various plants will be rich and luxuriant. If there is extreme excess in any of them, disaster follows. The following are the favourable indications: the solemnity of the sovereign will be followed by seasonable rain; his regularity, by seasonable sunshine; his intelligence, by seasonable heat; his deliberation, by seasonable cold; his wisdom, by seasonable wind. The following are the unfavourable indications: the madness of the sovereign will be followed by steady rain; his insolence, by steady sunshine; his idleness, by steady heat; his haste, by steady cold; his ignorance, by steady wind."

Wu Hsing was greatly developed by the Yin-Yang school in later times, the theory is known as that of "the mutual influence between nature and man."  Certain conduct on the part of sovereign results in the appearance of certain phenomena in the world of nature. Two theories have been advanced to explain the reasons for this interaction. One is teleological. It maintains the wrong conduct on the part of sovereign causing Heaven to become angry. That anger results in abnormal natural phenomena, which represent warning given by Heaven to the sovereign. The other theory is mechanistic. It maintains that the sovereign's bad conduct automatically results in a disturbance of nature and thus mechanically produces abnormal phenomena. The whole universe is a mechanism. When one part of it becomes disorder, the other part must be mechanically affected. This theory represents the scientific spirit of the Yin-Yang school, while the other reflects its occult origin.    


Pugilism                                                                                                                                                                                            To move hands, shoulders, elbows, fists, palms, and fingers; feet, legs, knees, toes, sides of feet, and sole; or hands and feet together, so as to form various postures systematically following one another - this is called Pugilism. It is employed as a physical exercise to regulate the circulation of blood, stretch the ligaments, develop the bones, and deepen the breathing. The postures can also be employed in giving and resisting attacks. 

A Brief History of the Tai Chi Ch'aun Founders

No one knows for sure the exact origins of Tai Chi Ch’aun, some believe it has been created during this time (500 A.D. - 905). We acknowledge at least four similar styles of Tai Chi Chuan were practised:

The first one was called San Hsi-Chuk. The founder named Hsa Suan-Ming, and he practised thirty-seven postures, and was similar to Chen's family Tai Chi Chuan.

The second one was called Sin Tien Chuan or the "Primeval art of Fist." The founder named Lee Tao-Tzu.

The third one was known as Silkou Tin or literally translated as Little Nine Heaven. The founder named Ching Lin-Sin.

The fourth one was known Hutien Fa or "the stage after heaven is created." The founder named Hu Kang-Tzu. He handed down his teachings to Sung Jung-Che.

Until the time of late Soong Dynasty (1200 A.D.), the above named of Tai chi Ch’aun was a series of individual static postures. It is Chang Sam-Feng who is responsible to unite, improve, and perfect the Tai Chi Ch’aun by organizing the postures into a form of continuous and rhythmic movements that are corresponded by breathing Techniques or Chi Kung. Chang’s background in martial arts was very extensive; he mastered Shaolin martial arts, and Tao's Chi-Kung. His contribution to mankind through his teaching in Tai Chi Ch’aun was tremendous, especially in the area of improving body, mind and spirit, thus enabling one to progress through the stage of tranquillity to ultimately enter the world of the fourth dimension. Therefore, Chang SamFeng has been recognized as one of the prominent founders of Tai Chi Ch’aun. (In the future, I will write about the legendary stories of Chang Sam-Feng.)  



After the foundation of Taichichaun by Chang Sam-Feng, it was further developed by Master Wang Tsung-Yu, and who wrote two books which documented "The Classic of Taichichuan, The Theory and Application of Taichichuan."

Master Wang Tsung-Yu passed the arts to Chen Wang-Ting, and since then the Chen's Taichichuan has gone through a history of nearly 300 years. Before Chen had acquired the newly learned Taichichuan, he was already very keen and highly skilled in martial arts. From generation to generation, because of their strong background in Kung Fu, they had accumulated and developed much knowledge of Taichichuan, and produced numerous great martial artists.

When Chen's Taichichuan reached the fourth generation, their Taichichuan was developed into two styles. One was called "Old Frame"; the other, "New Frame." New Frame was headed by Chen Yu-Pun, his style omitted a lot of martial arts' applications and mostly concentrated on simple physical movements. The Old Frame, led by Chen Chang-Hsin, who not only was a very famous Taichi expert, but who further developed and promoted the Taichi to a higher level. Today, we witness many other popular Taichichuan styles such as Yang, Wu, Sun which follows  Chen's Taichichuan.    

Chen Chang-Hsin passed his Taichichuan to his children and relatives, among them, his son Chen Jan-Wan who achieved the whole and complete knowledge and skill of Taichichuan. In Chen Chang-Hsin later years, he broke the family tradition, and taught two people who did not belong to the Chen's family. They were Yang Lew-Shan (the founder of Yang's Family's Taichi) and Lee Pai-Kui.                                                                                               

To study Chen's Taichichuan, tranquility of the mind and relaxation of the body is one of the important principles. A practitioner must acquire a strong will and inner strength in order to concentrate and control the mind, and then the body. Unlike other styles of taichichuan, they have gone to the extreme in the use of relaxation, their movements are so soft and slow, totally ignoring the power and swift movement. Nevertheless, even practise taichichuan in soft and slow movements are beneficial to one's health and is tremendously encouraging. Chen's style form of movements involves hard and soft, slow and swift. Some movements possess a high degree of difficulty such as soft neutralization, explosive combinations of striking by hand, shoulder, elbow, knee and foot. For instance, movements such as Angel Kick, Hurricane Kick, Sweep Leg, Cross kick; Sequence of continuity postures like Fan through The Back and followed by Hidden Punch; Front and Back Posture and followed by Mustang Ruffling Its Mane; Double Swing Lotus followed by Cross Kick, and then execute Golden Pheasant Stands On One Leg. Furthermore, Chen's also emphasizes turning, twisting and spiralling motions which can lead to quick reflexes and a powerful and changeable defensive or offensive execution.



Taichichuan was kept secret within the Chen's family for four generations and never before taught to outside people, and until Master Chen Chang-Hsin who broke the family tradition and in his later year, taught Yang Lew-Shan and Lee Pai-Kui.


After learning the Chen's Taichichuan, Yang with the encouragement of his teacher, left for his homeland in Kong-Pen in Ho-Pi Province, and soon later he moved to Beijing, the capital of China. He was then spreading the art of Taichichuan to whoever wanted to learn and he accepted them without prejudice. Although Master Chen's Taichichuan is the origin and legitimate Taichi, it was Yang who should be credited for his fondness of teaching Taichi, and later spread it all over the world with millions of people practising it.


Master Yang Lew-Shan (1799-1872) was born in Kong-Pen, Ho-Pi in China; his ancestors were farmers for generations. When he was young, his health was weak and he was small in stature, therefore, his father hired a Kung-Fu teacher to train him. First he learned the thirty-two Long Fist from Master Lau, and within years he became quite good in martial arts. The teacher was amazed at his progress and told Yang that one day he will become a superior martial artist if he ever received further training from Chen Chang-Hsin. As a result, Yang left his home and travelled to Ho-Nam, and finally was accepted as Chen's student.


There are scripts of how Yang became a student of Chen. Here is the one my teacher shared with me that since Yang did not belong to Chen's family, he was not accepted as Chen's student. Therefore, Yang pretended he was deft, and lowered his own status, totally hiding his own identity (Before leaving home, Yang was already a well known Kung Fu boxer) and became a servant of Chen's family, and secretly learned the Taichichuan from Chen Chang-Hsin while Chen was instructing his students. Eventually Chen discovered his deed. However, Chen was deeply touched by Yang's sincerity and had decided to accept Yang, and taught him everything of Taichichuan.


Furthermore, I had heard stories of Master Yang's extraordinary fighting skill; perhaps some of them were exaggerated. Nevertheless, he was considered one of the top-notch martial artists and among the best.


Finally, I would like to mention why Master Yang was so respected by his peers. It was his humility and generosity and the way he treated everyone. I read a book that mentioned at one time, Master Yang told his encounter that there are three kinds of people he could not defeat; they are made of brass, iron, or wood. The rest he could defeat. I think the author perhaps meant well for Master Yang's fighting skill; However, I will not believe Master Yang would boast his status by saying that sort of thing because a true martial artist would never behave in this fashion.                                          



When Master Yang Lew-Shan was in Beijing during the Qing dynasty, he taught members almost exclusively of the aristocracy and wealthy families. Among them was Chuan-Yu, who was a Manchurian military official and a martial-arts teacher of the royal army.


The surname of Master Wu Chian-Chuan imitated the pronunciation of his Manchu name. Wu was disciplined in martial-arts by his father Chuan-Yu since he was young. During the long years of practising and teaching Taichichuan in Beijing, Master Wu revised the art of Taichichuan handed down from his father. In the traditional slow forms, he omitted the stamping or jumping movements, so as to make the forms more smooth and structured (This statement is claimed by Wu, not this writer), thus creating one of the main schools of Taichichuan, the Wu Style, which has been practised by a vast number of students. The fast form of Wu style, on the other hand, kept the original jumping, attacking and stamping movements to be studied by those people eager for further study and practice.


In 1928, Master Wu Chian-Chuan moved to Shanghai and continued to teach Taichi which resulted in the art spreading to many of the Southern Provinces of China. Up to this very day, Wu style Taichichuan has become popular in China, and in such places as Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, America, Canada and some European countries.


If Master Yang was credited for bringing the Taichichuan to the public from Chen's family, Master Wu was also indisputably acknowledged for spreading the arts of Taichichuan to a vast number of students which I have mentioned in the last paragraph. Among all of Master Wu students, two of his sons, Wu Kung-Yee and Wu Kung-Chau, received their father's teachings, and they moved to Hong Kong and continued to practice and teach the Wu style of Taichichuan.


Year Of The Peace And Health

Master Chau