taijiquan: rooted in Taoism (Part 3)

Chen Bing

Statue of Chen Wangting in Chenjiagou (Chen Village), with Chen Bing in the foreground.

Chen Wangting (1600-1680) was a Chinese military officer during the last years of the Ming empire. When the Ming dynasty collapsed, he retired to Chen village (Chenjiagou), and created Chen Family Taijiquan.  The following passage is from C.P. Ong’s book, Taijiquan: Cultivating Inner Strength:

“Practicing daoyin and tu’na, reflecting on the I Ching and Tao, and contemplating life, Chen Wanting had an awakening on Zhuangzi’s discourse on Tao. He saw the wantonness of lawless killings and the vagaries of officialdom. Honor, heroism, fame, fortune, and the many things he strove for, suddenly rang hollow. He felt a release from the fetters of human follies. Savoring the waters and the mountains, he soaked in the tranquility and grasped the bliss enjoyed by the immortals…

“The beauty of Taiji unfoleded and manifested in his body. Inspired, Chen Wanting created a radically new “soft” training methodology of wushu, drawn from the cultural stew pot of daoyin and tu’na, Chinese medicine, and taiji. The creation ushered in a new epoch of the Chen family marital arts—the birth of Taijiquan….

“Chen Wanting had finally found his calling. His musing is expressed in the poem of “long and short” verses, Changduan Ju.”

–from C.P. Ong, Taijiquan: Cultivating Inner Strength, Bagua Press, 2013, pp. 85-87.

Changduan Ju (Uneven Verses)

By Chen Wangting

Ah, of those years

Clad in armor with resolute valor

Countless brigands and bandits I had slain,

And many a times faced death in the eye!

The honor and glories bestowed

All now seem so hollow and vain!

In feeble old age I can only sigh

And find refuge in my volume of Huangting [a classic book in neidan, the Taoist alchemy of internal energetics]

Which I keep close as a constant companion.

In idle times, I forge new methods of quan [boxing]

In busy times, I tend the fields.

Whenever there is leisure

I teach my offspring and students quan

To be “dragons and tigers” as they wish.

I pay my grain taxes early

And never leave debts uncleared.

I have no use for pride and flattery,

T’is easy to yield and tolerate.

People call me silly

Or think me crazy

The words only cleanse my ears.

I pay no heed to officialdom.

Lo! The high officials in noble regalia

Always worried and fearful

Not to wrong their superiors.

How can it compare

With the peace and comfort in my heart.

I covet neither fame nor fortune.

Of worldly affairs,

I’ve seen the ploys and intrigues.

I imbibe the mountains and streams

Happy and carefree as a fish in water,

Worry not of rise in fortune

Nor of fall in misfortune,

But only of peace and health.

I live a plain and simple life

Envying not and resenting none.

I avoid the vagaries of ups and downs

And care not who wins or loses.

If this is not how immortals live

Then what is an immortal?

–from C.P. Ong, Taijiquan: Cultivating Inner Strength, Bagua Press, 2013, pp. 85-87.


2 Responses to “taijiquan: rooted in Taoism (Part 3)”

  1. Jean-Yves Woestyn Says:

    Interesting article, however, it is a bit complicated to understand how Taijiquan relates to Taoism. Indeed, there is no mention of Taijiquan in the Taoist cannon (the compilation of all the texts belonging to Taoism) although the Taoist cannon is already extremely vast (around 5000 texts). Some Taoists practice Taijiquan but not all of them. Taijiquan is sometimes included in the training of Taoist monks as a basic practice to harmonize the qi but it is not always the case, far from it. Personnally, I would say that Taijiquan belongs to the world of martial arts. The martial art tradition is different from the Taoist tradition, however this martial art was influenced by some Taoist ideas and concepts (like many other aspects of Chinese culture like painting, calligraphy, etc.). Of course, we can’t say that calligraphy is “Daoist”, as Buddhist, Confucean all practice calligraphy. Nevertheless, Taijiquan is a good exercice to keep healthy 🙂

  2. goodchipoet Says:

    Reblogged this on Yellow Jade Alchemist.

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