A Philosophical View of Tai Chi Chuan 1

Chapter 1

Reading-

“Live a healthy, happy life,” is easy to say but not easy to do. Few people live a life of meaning and purpose with peace, love, health, happiness and freedom, through the practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophy has been practiced for more than a century. However, very few of its practitioners have actually understood Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophical wisdom. Nor have previous writings presented Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophical wisdom.

Some writings deal with the technical or mechanical aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. A number of works relate Tai Chi Chuan to Taoism because the Taoist Zhang Sanfeng was considered to be an important early figure, so there is widespread belief that the philosophical foundation of Tai Chi Chuan is Taoist. Actually, however, the foundation of Tai Chi Chuan lies in the Book of Change.

The Book of Change is not a book of knowledge; it it is a book of wisdom. It is difficult to read the Book of Change, and it’s even more difficult to understand it. In order to read the book, one must know fully the symbolism which is used. Then one must forget that symbolism in order to truly understand the book. The following outline of the Book of Change summarizes the foundation of Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophical wisdom.

  1. Tai Chi Tao- Truth, reality.
  2. The appearances of reality are many.
  3. These appearances are ever-changing.
  4. Those many appearances have one Reality.
  5. The Reality does not change. It is the Principle of Change.
  6. That Truth which is innate in every human being is Humanity, which differentiates human beings from animals.
  7. Learning should awaken the innate Truth.
  8. Humanity is conditioned by its physical body. (This is the reason why everyone is different from the beginning of life, because each individual is conditioned by the physical body inherited from his or her parents. Also, the physical condition of the body affects the mind.)
  9. The physically-conditioned mind is further conditioned by social factors. Learning is to free the mind.
  10. In order to awaken to the Humanity of the people, education is a must. In other words, true education should serve to awaken the Innate Humanity in each individual.

Close Reading-

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

It is difficult to “Live a healthy, happy life  practicing Tai Chi Chuan.

Tai Chi Chuan has been a way of living life for over 100 years. However very very have been able to know Tai Chi Chuan as a way of being and no one has written about it as a way of being.

Many texts are based on the proper way to physically perform Tai Chi Chuan.  A few are based on the early Taoist writings of Zhang Sanfen. This led to the popular belief that the primary wisdom of Tai Chi Chuan is Taoist. The primary wisdom of Tai Chi Chuan is in the Book of Change.

The Book of Change is not about knowing, it’s about enlightenment. The Book of Change is hard to read and even harder to understand.  To read the book you have to completely get the storytelling in the book and then forget the storytelling to know the book.

Here are the main points of Tai Chi Chuan as a way of living.

  1. Tai Chi Tao- Reality is harmony with life’s natural order.
  2. There are countless ways we look at how things actually exist.
  3. The way we look at how things actually exist change all the time.
  4. The way we look at how things actually exist is our harmony with life’s natural order.
  5. Harmony with life’s natural order is unchangeable. This is the Principle of Change.
  6. Humans are different from animals, they are born with a natural state of knowing truth.
  7. Knowledge can open us to the natural state of knowing truth.
  8. Naturally, everyone is physically different, and this state of being sets us apart from others, and affects how we think.
  9. Our physical state of being is also influenced mentally by where we live and what we do. Knowledge is letting go of our states of the mind.
  10. To be open to the natural state of knowing each persons truth requires knowledgeable guidance. Meaning, knowledgeable guidance should serve to open up the natural state of knowing truth in each individual.

 


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. The the foundation of Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophical wisdom requires learning to open up to the natural state of knowing truth in yourself.
  2. In other words….
    1. We must let go of our states of the mind to learn the natural state of Tai Chi Chuan
  3. For example…
    1. Whee you practice Tai Chi let go of your thoughts by concentrating on your breath.

 

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Introduction – understanding is not in a book.

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Reading-

As a student of philosophy and of Tai Chi Chian, for more than 30 years, I have read and studied books in many different fields.  But understanding is not in any book. The books which have truly inspired me are the Analects of Confucius, the Book of Change, the works of Mencius, and also the writings of Cheng Mingdao, Cheng Yichuan and Lu Xiangshan of the Sung dynasty, Wang Yangming of the Ming dynasty, and the contemporary Shung Shili; Tagore, Gandhi, Aurobindo, Krishnamurti of India and the Western philosophers Pascal, Whitehead, Russell, and Nietzsche, and many others.

There is no path to truth,

Truth is everywhere and nowhere.


Close Reading-

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

The author has studied philosophy, by reading many various books over three decades.  He has been motivated by historic and present day Chinese, Indian and western writings on philosophy.


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. There are many books on philosophy that can encourage understanding but true understanding is found in practice.
  2. In other words….
    1.  You can read all you want about philosophy of living but you will come to a ture understanding through practice.
  3. For example…
    1. A book cannot teach you Tai Chi Chuan. You have to practice Tai Chi Chuan to know Tai Chi Chuan.

 

Introduction – A Tai Chi Chuan book based on experience

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Reading-

Many Tai Chi books are already available in English and Chinese. This book is different from all of them because it present a philosophical approach. I do not claim this book as a final scholar’s study of Chinese Wushu, but I did try to rectify many widespread errors. This book tries to clear away the mystical legends about the origin of Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Chuan, and to present a clear picture of the historical development of Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Chuan. Most of the Chinese words are written in Pinyin, except for Tai Chi Chuan, chi, and some others which are well- known in their Wade- Giles spelling. Appendix 8 explains more about romanization.

There are many books about Tai chi Chuan in English; I think most of them have very little value.  Some of them treat legend as history,  and take all the misunderstandings as facts; the contain unreliable information, assembled as a research paper by someone who does not know  Tai Chi Chuan, or who has practiced it very little. Others were written by people who have superficial understanding because they never learned Tai Chi Chuan well, even though they may have practiced it for many years. I do not recommend them.

Some of the books in Chinese are reasonably good. They contain the Tai Chi Classics, together with the experiences of the author who usually has practiced many years and reached a certain attainment. Appendix 10 lists some of these Chinese books.


Close Reading-

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

You can get Tai Chi books in English and Chinese but this is the only book that has thoughtful and profound way of looking at Tai Chi Chuan. This book does not come to academic conclusions. It is a way to correct the many misleading information about Tai Chi Chuan. It clears up the many mysteries surrounding the past development of Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Chuan. Most of this text is not written in English.

There Tai Chi books in English but they do not have much worth. They make mistakes by stating legend, misjudgements,  and uncertainties asi truth, since they do not know or practice Tai Chi Chuan. Some may have practiced Tai Chi Chuan for many years but still have only scratched the surface of deep learning. Stay away from these books.

Some of the Chinese books are pretty good since the author presents the  time-honored standard Tai Chi has practiced for many years to reach a certain level of flow.


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. This book is written by an author who has a philosophy based on the experience of practicing Tai Chi  for many years to create the flow of chi.
  2. In other words….
    1. Practice often if you want to know Tai Chi.
  3. For example…
    1. If you read about Tai Chi you will experience Tai Chi  superficially. To really know Tai chi you have to actually  practice it.

 

Introduction – The Flow of Tai Chi Chuan

Reading

Only through practice can Tai Chi Chuan be experienced as a living philosophy. The practical instructions given here will help many students of Tai Chi Chuan, and also will help some readers to to learn Tai Chi Chuan through the book. Following the instructions carefully and consciously will help the reader to feel what Tai Chi Chuan really is.

Over the past 20 years I have taught many students. Much has happened during that time., and many questions have arisen. I do not claim to have answers, but I do have a personal view about many topics related to Tai Chi Chuan. These include Tai Chi Chuan in the Modern World, Chi, Being Natural, Philosophy, and Thoughts Under the Pine Tree.  I think these views will be beneficial for a serious student of Tai Chi Chuan.


Close Reading

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

When you practice Tai Chi Chuan you experience the reality of the present moment. The instructions in this book are useful to help you learn Tai Chi Chuan. Follow the instructions with intent if you want to feel the real Tai Chi.

T. Y Pang has many years experience practicing Tai Chi chuan and  teaching students. He does not have all the answers for the many questions to may topics that you may have. But he does have personal experience he will share in this book. The topics from his experience  include Tai Chi Chuan in the Modern World, Chi, Being Natural, Philosophy, and Thoughts Under the Pine Tree. These ways of looking at the world will help you, If you are sincere about learning Tai Chi Chuan.


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. T.Y Pang has wisdom and knowledge to share with you if you are open to learning.
  2. In other words….
    1. This book will help you to learn Tai Chi Chuan from T. Y Pang experience and point of view if you are genuinely willing to learn.
  3. For example…
    1. If you let go of preconceived ideas and thoughts you will be more open to receiving the flow of Tai Chi Chuan from T. Y Pang’s river.

 

Introduction – History to Inspire Practice

Reading

Little has been written about the actual history of the Chinese martial arts or of Wushu in general. Many books about Tai Chi Chuan and about other Chinese martial arts have been published recently, but the recount stories, legends and hearsay.

A history is a subjective description of certain objective facts, combined with reasonable imagination and interpretation. A full and complete history of Chinese Wushu lies beyond the scope of this book.  In the following pages I have presented some historical  events in the development of Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Chuan. Inevitably, I have had to use a certain imagination and interpretation to select subjectively among many objective facts. I hope the historical events described will rectify many misunderstandings about the origin and development of Chinese Wushu  and of Tai Chi Chuan.

A legend is a wish, a little fact combined with imagination and interpretation. Interesting thought they may be, legends are not history. But even though legend are not fact, if you read them perceptively, the legends give you some idea of how Tai Chi Chuan was developed.

If the reader can see how misunderstanding has spread, and what is false, then the real history of Tai Chi chuan will emerge.

The biographies of some of the masters form part of the history of Tai Chi Chuan. Reading the biographies might help to inspire a student of Tai Chi Chuan  to more serious practice and study.


Close Reading

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

There has not been much written about the history of Chinese martial arts and Wushu. Not long ago books were published on the stories, myths and rumors about Chinese martial arts.

A  history is subjective based on how we describe and judge facts in combination with a reasonable imagination, and your point of view. Chinese wushu is a big topic beyond what can be described in this book. This book focuses on the growth of Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi Chuan. T.Y Pang used reasonable imagination and explanation of what he understand to be true, to select unbiased facts. His purpose was correct the many disputes about how Chinese Wushu  and of Tai Chi Chuan began and grew.

A legend is a hope for something combined with a touch of truth, your imagination and your point of view. Legends get our attention but they are not true. Yet if you read them looking for insight you will begin to see how Tai Chi Chuan grew.

When you read the book look for what was false, what grew and expanded to begin to see the real history of Tai Chi Chuan.

The history of Tai Chi Chuan includes the life stories of a few masters to inspire a student of Tai Chi Chuan to practice, practice practice.


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. The history of Chinese Wushu  and of Tai Chi Chuan is subjective with untrue legends stories and rumors.  However with reasonable imagination and explanation T.Y. Pang was able to selected unbiased fact to better understand how Tai Chi Chuan grew.
  2. In other words….
    1. You can learn about the history of Tai Chi Chuan by what was false, what grew and what expanded to begin to see the real history of Tai Chi Chuan.
  3. For example…
    1. Read this book to learn about the history of Tai Chi Chuan

 

Introduction – The Art of Practice

Reading

Tai Chi Chuan became well-known as an ultimate self defense art in China during the latter part of the nineteenth century. The world changed in the twentieth century, and Tai Chi Chuan became less important as a self-defence art. In a way,  the subsequent popularity of Tai Chi Chuan as a physical exercise was a setback. But Tai Chi Chuan is more than a self defence art, more a physical fitness exercise.

As an art form Tai Chi Chuan itself is a living philosophical wisdom.

This book gives some intellectual explanations and explores Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophy. However, Tai Chi Chuan as a living philosophical wisdom can be understood only by learning it through practice.


Close Reading

Level 1: Paraphrasing

  1. State in your own words the meaning of each sentence. 

In the late 1800’s in China Tai chi became popular as an art form for defending yourself.  During the 1900’s the popularity of Tai as an art for defending yourself decreased. The rise in popularity of Tai Chi an exercise activity was an obstacle. Tai Chi Chuan is more than exercise anda way to defend yourself. Tai Chi Chuan is a profound experience of living and breathing. This text will analyze intelligent interpretations to understand how Tai Chi Chuan is  way to live will reason.  The living knowledge of  Tai Chi Chuan is gained only through practice.


Level 2: Explicating

  1. State the main point.
    1. The wisdom of Tai Chi Chuan is gained only through practice.
  2. In other words….
    1. Walk your talk. Learning requires DOING
  3. For example…
    1. You will never learn Tai chi by reading about it.
    2. Spirituality in Action—A Call to Inner Revolution!

 

Some Thoughts

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Physically you can be in only one place at a given time, but spiritually you can be everywhere. When you practice by yourself you have to realize your physical limits; if you realize your physical limits you are no longer limited by them; although the physical improvement is limited, your spiritual improvement is potentially unlimited. The Tao is moving, is everywhere.

As a general rule, when something becomes more popularized the quality goes down and misinformation soon circulates widely. But it requires many years to correct that misinformation. Tai Chi Chuan has gained popularity in the U.S. only during the last quarter century; yet already much misinformation has spread regarding how Tai Chi Chuan should be practiced.

Tai Chi Chuan is different from other self-defense arts, and from ordinary kinds of exercise. Tai Chi Chuan has a smooth, gentle, graceful movement; but this does not mean that it is effortless. When we practice Tai Chi Chuan the mind has to be calm, so that all the intellectual and psychological burdens of the mind disappear; then the mind is free. In the movements your legs should be strong, yet you use just enough power for the movements to be alive, not limp. When you practice your mind is listening and seeing and feeling your movement with you; this is inner seeing, inner hearing and inner feeling. Gradually, match your breathing to your movements. This means that in your movement you do not struggle, rather, you listen to your body, you accept your body, moving gently, gradually, so you know your body. Through movement you can release the tensions of daily stress and the accumulated tensions from your lifetime activities. Through the practice of Tai Chi Chuan you learn to relax your body.

There is a popular claim that Tai Chi teaches you to gain something. According to some people, through Tai Chi you gain power, skill, relaxation, and so forth. But if you have this kind of desire or hope, if when you practice you have expectations, then you have fear within you and your mind is not calm, is not peaceful. When you are peaceful, you are yourself through the practice; peaceful mind, skill, and health are just by-products. Those people who are using Tai Chi to try to gain this or that do not really understand Tai Chi Chuan; those people who promise you Tai Chi Chuan can do this and that, do not really know what Tai Chi Chuan is.

Another misunderstanding is the so-called “concentration”. It is wrong to use the word “concentration” because when you concentrate you are pulling, fighting, pulling power together. In Tai Chi Chuan you do not “concentrate”. Instead, you have complete attention, you listen and observe, so you know your body. To know your body through feeling is the beginning of Tai Chi Chuan. Being conscious is the beginning of learning.

When we learn Tai Chi Chuan we learn through the form, and practice the form, we are not drilling and not building up a new set of habits; we try to help our body to be free from the tension built up in our lifestyles or daily activities.
As the tension diminishes our body becomes more sensitive and our mind can see things more clearly. Our body will be in tune mechanically, and biologically, so we have more subtle feeling of our inner energy, the life energy as well as the mechanical energy. This means that the learning itself is endless, you just go deeper and deeper.

Excerpt from the book “On Tai Chi Chuan” by T.Y. Pang