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Characteristics of Tai Chi
origins, meanings, lineage, analyses and exploration

Symbolic Meanings of Tai Chi Posture Names


the LadyBeginning
Derived from hexagram 35. At the start of the day the sun moves slowly higher and higher over the earth. This posture represents progress and the development of virtue.

Grasp Sparrows Tail
Derived from hexagram 1. The left hand is held at chin level as though grasping the head of the bird, the right hand placed to the side of the hip as though smoothing the bird's tail. The bird is a symbol of consciousness, air, spirit and breath.

Press Forward
The hands, when pressed forward, represent the new moon waxing to the full. gut in the flow of nature, when the moon is full it begins to wane. Therefore, you separate the hands and rest backward (withdraw) -indicating the waning moon.

Push Forward
With the hands parallel to each other in front of the body, it is a symbol of strength outside and emptiness within. The act of pushing forward recalls the arc of the sun as it goes forward across the heavens.

Single Whip
Derived from hexagram 49. Heaven and earth bring about revolution, and the cycle of the four seasons is complete. The body turns, with the arms still parallel, in a gentle flowing motion as a light wind. The fingers are pinched together to form the bird's beak.

Play Guitar
Derived from hexagram 17. It is a joyous activity to strum the ancient Chinese lute - an oval-shaped wooden stringed instrument called a pilpa. The posture requires a firm stance as the foot is aroused, lightly touching the floor and ready to kick. Strumming the lute means to be without worldly desire and ambition, i.e. to enjoy nature. It signifies the use of the legs, arms, hands and fingers.

Retreat Shoulder
Derived from hexagram 34. The posture suggests a goat, or similar animal, becoming aroused like thunder and with much strength moving forward to butt a fence.

cheng man chingStork Spreads Wings
Derived from hexagram 22. Signifies grace and beauty in movement. Picture a white wild water-bird flying on the outskirts of a forest lake, with one wing high (placed above the eye) and one wing low. It also symbolizes longevity, communication with divinity, and the concept of freedom to search for the "Tao".

Brush Knee and Twist Step
Derived from hexagram 18. Means to work on what has spoiled and to remove the source of decay. Picture a person stepping forward and gently pushing (like the wind blowing through a willow tree) against a mountain.

Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Parry and Punch
Derived from hexagram 16. The posture flows like water and is soft. However, when the punch is released it is like an arrow being shot from a drawn bow, powerful as thunder. The arrow is aimed at the heart.

Apparent Closure and Push

Separate hands and push forward as if you were shutting a door.

Cross Hands
Derived from hexagram 36. Signifies the sun sinking beneath the earth and marks the end of each section.

Carry Tiger and Return to Mountain
Derived from hexagram 52. The tiger stands for power and flow of energy. It is also a semimythical figure that guards burial graves, by frightening away evil spirits. Your lungs and respiration are important as the posture symbolizes the tiger being embraced (carried) and related (returned) to the mountain. The mountain is the place of worship, stillness and rest. You give your vital energy to the stillness, where it stays, until you are ready to start again.

Fist Under Elbow
Derived from hexagram 27. Picture a tiger, with insatiable bravery, spying about with sharp eyes. The posture indicates a simultaneous arousing movement of feet, hands and fingers. What is suggested in the spirit of the form is the scrupulous attention to the movements of the opponent, as the combatant waits for an opening to strike a sudden (hidden) blow with the fist or foot.

Step Back and Repulse Monkey
Derived from hexagram 33. Monkey fairy, in Chinese mythology, represents human nature that is basically good, but easily yields to temptation. The monkey mind jumps about everywhere, uncontrolled and unfocused. The posture implies the gentle application of energy. Success lies in retreating because you refuse to use strength against strength. Retreat and then wait for the right time to counter-attack.

Slant Flying
Derived from hexagram 59. A chicken, flying low in a slant position toward the sloping banks of a river, must continue its trajectory until it finds flat ground to land on, or it will drown. When the magic bird is standing on one leg and spreading out wings, it is asking for rain. The movement implies a blow to someone's ear or temple.

Needle at Sea Bottom
Derived from hexagram 62. Indicates a lake, with unfathomable depths, rising al~ove the trees. Waves pile upon one another. Implies a long straight golden-metal needle - a magic divining rod. When you pluck the needle from the bottom of the sea, it means a transformation of human destiny. You find source of creative inspiration and wisdom.

Fan Through the Back
Derived from hexagram 26. A fan is the symbol of immortal age, and is believed to be capable of reviving souls of the dead. The posture gives substance to the image of the hands, moving like a Chinese fan. A folding fan can be both small and great. Your hands move upward toward heaven. The movement may also be considered as shooting an arrow, meaning to bring creative work up to conscious level.

Turn, Parry and Punch
Derived from hexagram 28. The posture evokes the image of a person turning, and delivering a sharp blow (fist) in a backward action to the opponent's head. The fist drops like rain.

Wave Hands Like Clouds
Derived from hexagram 3. The hands pass across the belly, moving (waving) peacefully like clouds, floating by in the sky. There is no beginning, no ending. The image of difficulty at the beginning brings order out of the confusion. The position of the legs suggest a person mounted on a horse.

dragonStep Forward and Punch with Fist
Derived from hexagram 15. Denotes trying to push down into unconscious, unpleasant sensations. The posture represents a fist and the genital area. Hence, the movement is to step forward and punch below the abdomen.

Hit Tiger
Derived from hexagram 42. Denotes increase, gentleness, tiger, the temple and ribs area of the body. The hitting blows are delivered gently, one fist strikes the temple while the other strikes the ribs.

Strike Opponent's Ears with Both Fists
Derived from hexagram 21. Tiger moves are connected with taking control of yourself. The meaning of the posture is to bite through. There are two parallel fists that show the image of striking the ear or forehead. The person's neck is fastened in the wooden cangue (an ancient device for punishment, consisting of two pieces of wood that grip the neck, so that the ears disappear).

Parting Wild Horses Mane
Trying to get near to a wild horse.

Fair Lady Works at Shuttles
Derived from hexagram 60. The Jade girl works at the shuttles, because she was a serving maid to the Taoist immortals. The Chinese believed that the world was square and that the heavens were held up by the four legs of the tortoise. Its legs represent the four points of the compass, like the four corners of the earth. This sequence is also connected with the theory of the Five Elements. The four corners of the earth are represented by four mythical animals. South-Red-Bird-Fire; EastGreen-Dragon-Wood; West-White-Tiger-Metal; North-3lack~ Snake-Water. The Earth is in the centre. The Fair Lady moves the wooden shuttle with smooth body turns, again and again like a water wheel. There are four turns - the number of seasons in the year. When used in self-defence, one hand blocks offensively. and the other hand pushes forward.

Snake Creeps Down
Derived from hexagram 7. The posture suggests a snake creeping on the earth or in water. When you perform the movement your body is lowered so that the belly is close to the knees. In the face of a superior enemy, with whom it would be hopeless to engage in battle, an orderly retreat is the only correct procedure, because it will save the army from defeat and disintegration. It is by no means a sign of courage or strength to insist upon engaging in a hopeless struggle regardless of circumstances. The purpose of this retreat is to be able to advance later with more success.

Golden Cock Stands On One Leg
Derived from hexagram 61. The knowledge and learning snake represents It is also the symbol of perpetual renewal. During the posture "Snake Creeps Down" into the water you must let go of knowledge and learning. From the depths of water the "Golden Cock,' is born. This is an offensive movement. one leg is raised to strike with the knee and the other is planted firmly on the ground like a mountain. The hands are held above the leg.

Step Forward to Seven Stars
Derived from hexagram 55. Seven Stars stand for rebirth on a higher level. The polestars are a cluster of seven stars. The sun is the star of the solar system. The posture represents the sun at midday (two fists close to the middle of the chest), when it then begins to set.

Step Back to Ride Tiger
Derived from hexagram 53. To ride the tiger means that you have achieved perfect control over self.

Turn Body and Sweep Lotus With Leg
Derived from hexagram 64. Rising out of mire the Lotus flower unfolds all its petals as it slowly turns itself toward the west, and the setting sun. The whole body turns like a wheel. There is a shock as the kick _s delivered to the midsection of the opponent's body. The kidney is known in the Taoist system as "the Devil's Country".

Bend Bow and Shoot Tiger
Derived from hexagram 40. It is believed that everyone has two souls. The poor body soul which sinks to earth and becomes a Kuei or ghost being, and the Hun or spirit soul which becomes the Shen. The Shen will in time become one with the Tao. The movement has an image of shooting a tiger with a bow and arrow. The fist is pressed forward and aimed at the opponent's temple or ribs.

The lowering of the sun at the end of the day. Conclusion of Grand Terminus.

It is a joyous activity to strum the ancient Chinese lute - an oval-shaped wooden stringed instrument called a pilpa. The posture requires a firm stance as the foot is aroused, lightly touching the floor and ready to kick. Strumming the lute means to be without worldly desire and ambition, i.e. to enjoy nature. It signifies the use of the legs, arms, hands and fingers.
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