Taiji Classics – What do you get from them?

Taiji Classics - Chen Man Ching
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What do you get from the Taiji Classics? Do they give you any deeper insight into your Taiji? Chen Man Chin said “The Classics are our best link to our Taiji past. They are the basis of the art. By their nature they are discursive and redundant, but at the same time, profound. In the present era, when Taiji has proliferated into so many schools, the Classics can be used as a model. If any system violates the Classics, then the systems are wrong.”

Unfamiliar language and concepts

The Masters were using language and examples that would have been familiar to their students and peers but we, in the 21st century, are far removed from them and that has led to much debate regarding their true meaning. The problem that I see with much of that debate is that people are looking for a discrete definitive meaning where there may actually be more than one. I have found that my grasp of any of the Classics is tenuous as they appear fluid making my understanding dependant on my place in the universe at the time (where my head is). I’m not trying to be flowery here………… It is like Yin and Yang. It depends on where you are on that cycle that determines what is Yin, or Yang, in relation to you.

The Classics remind me of the I-Ching in that the I-Ching does not hand you answers on a plate. It stimulates a process in the consciousness (the Shen) that leads you to your answer. Your Shen already knew the answer, it just needed a prompt and a connection between it and your brain (the Yi). Many of the Classics are as pertinent to Qigong as they are to Taiji and the examples I have chosen are testimony to that.

So here are two examples that appear to have come from the same root but the wording has changed slightly. Are they saying the same thing and making the same point, or are these Masters focusing on a different facet of the same thing?


“Move the Qi like a curved thread with nine pearls without the slightest interruption.” From Kung Hsin Chieh …………
“To circulate the intrinsic energy through the body one must act as if one were passing a thread through a pearl having nine zig zag paths, a slow and even course that leaves no corner untouched.” From An Explanation Of The Thirteen Postures By Wang Chung-Yueh

Both of these may refer to the alignment of the nine joints/gates: ankles, knees, hips, spine, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. But they may also refer to the nine angles of attack. They may refer to something altogether different. Let’s have a closer look at these pearls and their threads with the help of some simple graphics.

Taiji classics – the nine pearls threaded

Taiji Classics - The 9 pearls threaded, or the one pearl threaded 9 times.
Taiji Classics – The nine pearls threaded.
  • Even though the pearls (and the holes through them) are smooth and the silk thread is smooth, if there are gaps between the pearls then the thread can bend at sharp angles and increase friction and tension.
  • If the holes through the pearls are aligned they are more easily threaded but they do not have an influence on each other.
  • If the pearls are aligned and kept connected each has an influence on the rest.
  • If they are connected then there can only be shallow angles………. A close-set sting of pearls bends in an arc, keeping the friction to a minimum.
  • This connection of and lining up of the joints/gates allows for optimum Qi flow and it is synergistic in nature. So is this the lesson?

Taiji classics – the one pearl threaded nine times

Taiji Classics - The one pearl threaded nine times.
Taiji Classics – The one pearl threaded nine times.
  • With Taiji there is an element of physical defence so the Qi, and therefore the Po (body) must have the ability to flow unhindered to deal with attacks from the nine directions (Only eight arrows but the central red dot indicates a linear,straight on, attack).
  • With Taiji and Qigong it is emphasising the ability to create flow and focus of the Qi in any direction through both the physical and the energetic body.
  • In this example too there should be no sharp angles. Sharp angles necessitate stopping and starting. Soft angles, curves, allow you to maintain and increase the flow.
  • Once again, I am making an observation of one possible meaning of this touchstone. Is it the only meaning? What does it imply to you?

This is only one example but I feel that it is enough to whet the appetite for discussion. What do these two touchstones say to you? How do they affect the way that you practice your Taiji or Qigong? Answers on a postcard please, or just use the comments board………………..

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