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The Taijiquan Jing

or The Taijiquan lilun

Attributed to Chang San-feng
Translated and explained by David Roth-Lindberg

Part 1

Passage I


(Yījǔ dòng,
zhōushēn jù yào qīng líng,
yóu xū guànchuàn.)

Whenever in movement
the body is light and nimble.
All of the body parts connected as stringed together.

When practicing a taijiquan form or when use your taiji to fight with is the same. You always make clever use of both movement and power. In movement, the body parts is always arranged from the center. If you arrange the body properly, you will move with the same agility like a skilled and professional dancer. Or similar to a cat.

Passage II


(Qì yí gǔ dàng,
shén yí nèi liàn.)

The Qi (intrinsic energy) should be excited
The Shen (spirit/vitality) gathered within

Only when you are calm and focused, your qi can rise. In Daoism, when you are calm and have an empty mind (wuxin), the heart flame will sink to the dantian below the “water” or Jing. Then the heart flame will heat up this “stove”, and make it produce “gas” or “qi”. So only when you are focused and calm, you can circulate qi throughout your body. It is said that “the mind leads the qi, the qi leads your movement”. In western terms, you can just translate this as: “if you are calm and focused, you are in control of your movements.” In that way it makes more sense. When you fight, always be calm and focused so you know what you do with your body. The passage is not more mystical than this really, it is just explained with traditional chinese thought and old terms.

Passage III


(Wú shǐ yǒu quēxiàn chǔ,
wú shǐ yǒu tū āo chǔ,
wú shǐ yǒu duànxù chǔ.)

This one is a bit tricky actually. People tend to translate this passage as a dichtomy of posture and form practice and it is usually understood as an advice to stance and form practice. But I think this is wrong and that it’s actually a most practical advice for fighting. The passage says that there should be: “no defect of posture, no gaps and distortions of alignment and movement should be smooth without any breaks.” I don’t really agree that this passage is meant for single practice. What is meant by “no 凸凹” or no “convex or concave” as the characters means, here actually means that there should be no place and no gaps for a punch to enter. If you take the passage as a whole, it means that alignment, stance and movement should have no gaps or holes, whether you stand or move. You should be continuous in motion and have a good frame, alignment and posture = a good guard, so that you can not be hit by your opponent. So you might just translate this passage to:

“When you are standing or in movement,
always keep your alignment and keep your guard up”.

Thats very different from for instance Scheele’s translation, isn’t it? Compare yourself:

“The postures should be without defect,
without hollows or projections from the proper alignment;
in motion the Form should be continuous, without stops and starts.”

So if you read the classics, you will have a very different translation if you read it as health theory or have a practical martial art in mind.