Origin of Taiji revisited

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Origin of Taiji revisited

Postby Josh Young » Fri Jun 29, 2012 2:58 pm


It was Chan Wangting’s call to name the art that was created by the three sworn brothers “the art of Taiji Cultivating Life,”

Note that the name 'Taiji' is associated with it in these archaic documents as is the 13 postures.
Since it is scholar research it is not very reliable because it deals only with documents, but it is interesting.
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Re: Origin of Taiji revisited

Postby Josh Young » Fri Jun 29, 2012 3:08 pm

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Re: Origin of Taiji revisited

Postby adamfuray » Sat Jun 30, 2012 9:33 pm

the first article is composed very well! Thank you for sharing that!
"I know sir, that I have played out of tune, but when I learn where to place my fingers, this shall no longer happen."-Giovanni Bottesini
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Re: Origin of Taiji revisited

Postby Hejinyi » Thu Jul 18, 2013 10:33 pm

Thank you for the articles, they are really useful for my study!

I have some questions about the Taiji 13, I hope somebody can help me with it:

1. How were the 13 postures created? How did they come up with Peng, Ji, Lu, An etc.
2. It is said that every movement originates from the 13 postures, but some movements like kicks (lihe tui, waibai tui) and punches don't seem to have these 13 energies. Does this mean that the 13 original postures were not complete?


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Re: Origin of Taiji revisited

Postby Josh Young » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:22 am

Hejinyi wrote:
1. How were the 13 postures created? How did they come up with Peng, Ji, Lu, An etc.

The first thing I wish to emphasize in response here is that ultimately nobody knows the answer to this question in all exactness. There are several theories and stories that are more or less common that address the origin.

One particularly interesting concept regarding the origins of the 13 postures is found in a critisizm of the Yang School in the time of Cheng-Fu that stated that the original methods were vastly more simple and consisted of ‘three cuts’ or three main energies or techniques. If we consider this in terms of formal Yang teachings, namely that the first four energies are the main ones and that the last four are secondary, we still see a primary emphasis upon a reduced number of moves.

Formal Yang teachings likewise detail that the primary energies are Peng and Lu, however the terms are not the methods and researching the meanings and origins of the terms does not help a person in researching the origins of the energies, so understanding them and recognizing them as energies, rather than terms, becomes slightly more useful.

The energies at present are typically presented as the Bagua, or eight trigrams. Some teach that the energies and postures arise from the Bagua and I-Ching. One may find books published upon this topic. When and where this correlation was created I do not know, other than to suggest that it may have been introduced and be a translation of other teachings in other languages or may have been a more recent correlation or composition.

The 13 as we all know are but 8 energies and 5 directions. The 8 as mentioned consist of 4 “primary” and 4 “secondary” energies, according to Yang Ban Hou, who is attributed the original teaching that the following is translated from:

1. Peng (ward off) must be held up (propped up)
2. Lu (roll back) must be light
3. Ji (press) must be horizontal
4. An (push) must be attacking
5. Cai (yank) must be substantial
6. Lie (break) must be sudden (surprising)
7. Zhou (elbow) must be pounding
8. Kao (shoulder) must be crushing

In relation to the second question, the energies of the kicks and punches should not be exceptions whatsoever to the 13 postures and the 8 energies. You should be able to drive a kick with any of the 8 or various combinations of them. Some modern teachings or schools may not transmit this well, but the 8 energies should work for kicks, weapons, punches, throwing things and other moves in and outside of martial arts. If the kicks do not seem to be the appropriate energy I can only suggest asking your instructor about it.

The 13 postures in my opinion is complete, but the emphasis is upon numerological significance and the nature of the 8 derives from the first two which are reciprocal energies of substantial and insubstantial, as it were, in the trigrams corresponding to heaven and earth. The analogy here is apt, that heaven and earth contain all things. In taijiquan this is also true, for these two energies compose the rest of the energies in a rather binary way, sort of like building blocks. These two energies (Peng and Lu as we know them) are the building blocks of the entire art, much as matter and space are the building blocks of the universe.

One might consider that the origin of this ingenious martial technology, of substantial and insubstantial, is as the core of the art, at the root of its origins, however the structure we know the art in now may be a result of refinement as opposed to origination. Nevertheless it is my belief that these concepts and practices, in different words and even languages, are older than any culture we know at present and that they reach us, in the form of taijiquan having been passed down and through several cultures including China, over more than 3000 years.

One of the stories of taiji is that it was created by a man watching a snake and a crane, or a snake and another bird, fight. This is the most peculiar and significant story of the origin for me. It reminds me of Garuda killing Nagas... among other things. Let us note for the moment however that the beak of the Crane is quite firm, and a snake is quite flexible. The snake however has a pressure, while the beak of the bird is snapped forward or down using its own momentum, as it were the snake is Peng and the bird is Lu, in their respective fashions, though this is often confused. The story may well indicate that the energies of taiji, Peng and Lu as we call them now, are quite ancient, so old that we have no clue and make up myths or stories of their origination as is our nature. However one might also consider this the imitation of animals for martial purposes, that would be essentially prehistoric in practice and somewhat ubiquitous to all cultures.

One thing appears clear, the primary energies and methods appear to predate Chen and instead of being created by Chen they were incorporated and developed in the Chen system over generations into taiji as we know it, more or less.To gratify the ego of a nation and culture, let us merely claim, knowing all the while that it is false, that the 13 postures were created by the Chen family a few hundred years ago.

I realize i have not answered much.
Please forgive my exposition.
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