What is Taijiquan?

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What is Taijiquan?


Taijiquan means 'Yin and Yang Fist' which more properly means,

'The Martial Art that is based upon the Taoist Philosophy of the Yin and Yang movements of change within the body.'

Taijiquan is often simply abbreviated to

'Taijitu' is the correct name for what in the west is called 'the Yin and Yang symbol.'


There is a need to clarify a very common confusion; 'Taiji' and 'Tai Chi' are not the same thing. 'Tai Chi' does not actually mean anything at all as there is no such thing as a type of energy ('chi') that is called 'Tai'.

Taoist Philosophy teaches that all things are created by the interplay of Yin and Yang. Because Yin and Yang create all things they are honourably known as
The Supreme Extremes
The Great Ultimates
This has lead to another misunderstanding, that Taijiquan is a bold and arrogant title meaning
'Great Ultimate Fist'
This is very wrong as Taiji philosophy aims to be strong but humble.

Illustration by Chen Xin

The illustration above was drawn by Chen family scholar, Chen Xin, for his book, 'The Illustrated Canon of Chen Family Taijiquan'. The picture shows that the Supreme Extremes (Taiji) create the Two Forms (Liang-Yi), the Four Symbols (Si-Xiang) and the Eight Trigrams (Ba-Gua). Yin and Yang endlessly divide themselves to create all things.
Two become four; four become eight; eight become sixteen; sixteen become thirty-two; thirty-two become sixty-four; (the number of hexigrams in the I-Ching); sixty-four become one hundred and twenty-eight. Forever doubling in size. For simplicity, the Taoists say that after one hundred and twenty-eight Yin and Yang create
'the myriad things'.
Below is Chen Xin's wonderful diagram of the Eight Trigrams (Ba-Gua) giving birth to the hundred and twenty-eight figures.

Illustration by Chen Xin

The great beginning of heaven and earth
Springs from Wuji, the Ultimate Nothingness,
As well as from the Grand Terminus of Taiji,
Which gives to the myriad things their completion.

Hence everyone has the Taiji motif in their bosom;
A human being is created in the image of heaven,
Whose nature is to return to his origin.
The pre-birth jing essence, the post-birth qi energy,
And the eternal shen spirit are managed upon one principle,
The all-embracing pattern.