The ideas behind Taiji are very ancient and stem from a time before written records were made. The term “ Taiji” (or Tai Chi) itself was used in the “ Yi Jing, ” (Book of Changes) which is thought to have been written down some 2000 years B. C. E., and it relates to “ the encompassing state of the universe before the creation of heaven and earth” (Li et al. , 2001, p. 148). This notion has at its heart a concept of all movement is circular, and it integrates ideas such as the yin and yang, which are symbols of interlocking opposites such as strength and softness, movement and stillness, etc.
This means that practitioners see their movement as being “ continuous from beginning to end, and from one posture to the next, in a completely integrated circle” (Li et al. , 2001, p. 148). As a Taiji Quan practitioner becomes more adept at the flowing movements of the discipline, more and more difficult exercises are undertaken so that over a lifetime, the individual learns to perform feats that appear miraculous to the uninitiated. The traditional Chinese elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are linked with the five planets, and in Taiji Quan with the five moves advance, retreat, look left, look right, and central equilibrium (Boedicker and Boedicker, p.
91). The interplay of these movements which in turn creates a set of patterns and metaphors which help a person to grasp complex natural phenomena in a pictorial format. They are not intended to be taken as literal truths, in the way that modern Western scientific theories are presented, but as deeply symbolic patterns which can be grasped only through meditation, study of the ancient texts, and careful training of the human body in perfecting the set exercises that are designed to bring a harmonious mental and physical enlightenment. The inspiration behind many of the positions and movements in Taiji Quan comes from observing creatures and phenomena in the natural world.
Modern masters continue to study the natural world in order to reflect on the eternal truths that can be discerned in the movements of all living creatures.
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