August 1, 2009
Cloud Hands Index
Yang Style of T'ai Chi Ch'uan
"T'ai Chi Ch'uan bases itself exclusively on gentleness, softness,
naturalness and bringing
you back to your original nature. Daily training makes the muscles and
softer and more pliable, and it especially causes the breath to become
natural. These are the results of disciplining and refining the ching, ch'i, and shen to the
end of your
days. How then can you consider dispensing with your kung or wish to
- Chen Yen-lin, 1932, Cultivating the Ch'i, Translated by Stuart Alve Olson, p. 30.
"A fact sheet on the meaning of the 108
moves in Tai Chi, put out by the Taoist Tai Chi Society in the U.S., states that the 36 major and minor yang channels in the body are the
"Celestial Deities" while the yin elements in the body are the "72 Terrestrial Deities." The combined total is
108, a "number divined by Chang San Feng himself" (Chang, an 11th century Taoist monk, is considered the founder of
Tai Chi). The statement goes on to
say that "the full 108 symbolizes the harmonious balance of yin and yang and therefore lead to health. The union of all yin and yang elements represent the return to the holistic and undifferentiated state of the Tao." The term undifferentiated means there are no distinctions; all is one."
"Yang Chen Fu (1833-1936) exemplifies the highest natural talent and
achievement in Tai-Chi since he was entirely self-taught after his father (Yang Chian,
1839-1917) died. His great example encourages us that even if excellent teachers are hard to
find, we can
develop by ourselves if we really understand and apply the theories and
principles of Tai-Chi Chuan. The current forms of so-called Yang's Tai-Chi were defined
by him. Yang's style, which is comfortable, generous, light and stable, has be recognized as the easiest and most popular one."
- The Tao of Tai-Chi Chuan: Way to Rejuvenation. By Jou, Tsung Hwa. p. 46.
"The standard Yang set today is Yang Chengfu's final revision of 85
postures, which he demonstrated in his book published in 1936. Most of the other books
published since then,
including many Western ones, are either variations or reflections of the
author's own personal
expression of the set. ... One should note that right from its
creation, Yang Taijiquan has always been combat-oriented. Yang Chengfu always emphasized that the set
practiced with its martial applications in mind. These applications may be
the fast set, individual posture explanations, tui shou (push hands), san shou
sparring) and san da (free sparring)."
- Alex Yeo, "The Complete Yang Taijiquan System, Part 4.", Tai Chi, June 2003, p.45
"The boxing in question in its original form had only three movements, and was thus called Laosandao (Old Three Cuts). It was changed by Mr. Wang Zongyue and increased to 13 forms.
That is one of the main reasons why this boxing has lost its quintessence. If it is practiced for the purpose of preserving one's health, it will only restrain one's spirit and energy and bring discomfort to the practitioner. If practiced for actual combat, it will only do harm to the limbs.
Its other functions, if any, are nothing more than idling away the practitioners time and confusing his mind."
- Wang Xiangzhai, The Tao of Yiquan, p. 98 [Not everyone thinks playing taijiquan is good for you.]
"First, last, and always the student must
relax. Various calisthenics aid him in achieving this.
All rigidity and strength must be emptied from the upper torso and must sink to
the very soles of the feet, one of which is always firmly rooted to the ground.
Without proper relaxation the student can never hope to achieve the trueness of
the T'ai-chi postures. The student relaxes completely and breathes as a child -
naturally through the nose, the diaphragm being aided by the abdominal rather
than the intercostal muscles. Man's intrinsic energy, the ch'i, should be stored
just below the navel. The mind directs this energy throughout the body according
to need. But the ch'i cannot circulated in an unrelaxed body."
- Robert W. Smith, Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods, 1974, p. 26.
"In the life time of Yang Lu-chan there was no
photography or video technology. So we can only surmise and take from the recorded literature and hear-say and create an image
of what his form and style was like. In Chen Wei Ming's questions and answers on Taijiquan, he
mentions that Yang Lu-chan when performing 'snake creeps down' was reputed to be able to pick
up a coin with his mouth, he was so low that it was like sitting on the floor. He was also
accredited with being able to use elbow stroke to an opponent's knee. From these records we can
gather than Yang Lu-chan's form was rather low. Also, Yang Ban Hou and Yang Shao Hou
when they practised their style was closer to Chen style. One of the Yang family taught the Wu
family so we know the Wu style developed from Yang style. How close the many styles are to Yang
Lu-chan is difficult to ascertain with the material and information made available."
- Professor Li Deyin
"At the higher stages of energy continuation, one will find his
movements are now being
governed by the movement of his internal energy. This is the Qi of energy,
to which I refer. There are essentially three basic ingredients for higher
1. Mental tranquility and physical relaxation. 2. Application
of the integrated supple
strength of the whole body. 3. Continuity of the internal energy
from movement to movement and moment to moment throughout the entire form."
- Wu, Ta-yeh, 1989
"The perfect man has no self;
the spiritual man has no achievement;
the sage has no name."
- Chauang Tzu
"Yield and overcome;
He who stands of
tiptoe is not steady.
He who strides cannot maintain the pace.
- Tao Te Ching (24)
Returning is the motion of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao.
- Tao Te Ching (40)
What is firmly established cannot be uprooted.
What is firmly grasped cannot slip away.
- Tao Te Ching (54)
What Does "Xu Ling Ding Jin" Mean?
"One of the most vexing phrases in this body of texts appears in Wang Zongyue's "The Taijiquan Treatise." This is the phrase that I've translated "An intangible and lively energy lifts the crown of the head." The actual phrase in Chinese is xu ling ding jing. Xu means "empty," "void," "abstract," "shapeless," or "insubstantial." Ling can mean "neck," "collar," "to lead," "to guide," or "to receive." Ding here means "the crown of the head." Jin is a word that should be familiar to most Taijiquan practitioners, meaning "energy" or "strength." To translate this phrase literally in a way that makes sense is seemingly impossible. ... To demonstrate the difficulties presented in translating the phrase, I've assembled for comparison a number of different renderings:
Yang Jwing-Ming translates xu ling ding jin as:
"An insubstantial energy leads the head upward."
T.T. Liang renders it:
"A light and nimble energy should be preserved on the top of the head."
Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo translates the phrase:
"Effortlessly the jin reaches the headtop."
Douglas Wile translates the phrase variously:
"The energy at the top of the head should be light and sensitive."
"Open the energy at the crown of the head."
Guttmann gives one rendering as,
"... the head is upheld with the intangible spirit."
Elsewhere, he gives it a fairly plausible if incomprehensible literal rendering as a noun phrase:
"Empty dexterity's top energy."
Huang Wen-Shan translates it as:
"The head-top should be emptied, alert, and straight."
Robert Smith's version has it:
"The spirit of vitality reaches to the top of the head."
Jou Tsung Hwa's rendering is similiar:
"The spirit, or shen, reaches the top of the head."
Finally, in one of the freer renderings I've seen, T. Y.
Pang renders the phrase:
"The spine and the head are held straight by strength, which is guided by the mind."
As the reader can see, the range of nuance in these diverse translations of this one phrase is considerable. Virtually all of the readings are interpretive; that is, the four-character phrase as it has been handed down will not yield a dependable reading based on the characters alone. One can only conclude that this phrase is a remnant of an oral formula whose original structure eludes our knowledge. Our understanding of it inevitably depends upon the context─ the following phrase about sinking the qi to the dantian─ and upon commentaries of former masters, including Yang Chengfu's elaboration in the first of his "Ten Essentials." The concept is also linked to differently worded but related phrases appearing in other classics, for example, "the spirit (shen) threads to the crown of the head" (shen guan ding) in the "Song of the Thirteen Postures," and the phrase about "suspending the crown of the head" (ding tou xuan) appearing in both "The Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures" and the "Song of the Thirteen Postures." "
Mastering Yang Style Taijiquan By Fu Zhongwen. Translated by Louis Swaim. Blue Snake Books, 2006, p. 182-183
Classics of Taijiquan
Drawing Silk: Master's Secrets for Successful Tai Chi Practice. By Paul B. Gallagher. Fairview, North Carolina, 2007. Bibliography, 246 pages. ISBN: 9781419663123. Numerous classics and Taoist tales and lore are included in this text. Originally published in 1988. VSCL.
Tai Chi Secrets of the Ancient Masters. Translated by Yang Jwing-ming. Edited by Yang Jwing-ming and James C. O'Leary. Selected readings with commentary on Tai Chi Treasures. Jamaica Plain, MA, YMAA Publications, 1999. 128 pages. ISBN: 188696971X. VSCL.
Tai Chi Secrets of the Yang Style. Translated with commentary by Yang Jwing-ming. Translations and commentary on Chinese Classics. Boston, MA, YMAA Publications, 2001. Index, glossary, 192 pages. ISBN: 1886969094. A translation of 49 documents by Yang, Ban-Hou (1837-1892) and by a few other Yang family members. VSCL.
Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions. Translation, commentary and editing by Douglas Wile. Sweet Chi Press, 8th Edition, 1983. 159 pages. ISBN: 091205901X. VSCL.
The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation. Translated by Barbara Davis. Commentary by Chen, Wei-ming. San Francisco, North Atlantic Books, 2004. 200 pages. ISBN: 1556434316. VSCL.
Cloud Hands Index
Michael P. Garofalo's E-mail
Spirit T'ai Chi Ch'uan Club, Red Bluff, California
Red Bluff, Tehama County, North Sacramento Valley, Northern California, U.S.A.
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© Michael P. Garofalo, 2009, All Rights Reserved
Biography of Michael P. Garofalo
Green Way Research
Qigong: Guides, Bibliographie, Lessons
Yang Style Taijiquan
Chen Style Taijiquan
Sun Style Taijiquan
Way of the Short Staff
Fitness for Older Persons
The Spirit of Gardening
Fitness and Well Being
Cloud Hands: T'ai Chi Ch'uan