Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip #344
Philosophical Evolution
Tai Chi Chuan developed in China over the course of thousands of years. First there were the mystical seeking exercises of the Daoists, who developed the idea that the body is the temple of the soul. If you wanted to liberate the spirit, you needed to have a healthy body, and it needed to be controlled by the higher Self.
Next came the Confucians who added order and systems to the rather vague, laid back ideas of the Daoists. Everything had to fit into an obvious order, and if this order was followed, balance and harmony resulted. The idea of Yin and Yang came from the I Ching, and that was a major influence for the life of Confucians, and the beginnings of Tai Chi.
The Daoists remind me of the liberal Democrats, and the Confucians are more conservative, like the Republicans. When they work together, more positive results are to be expected.
This was followed by the Buddhists who appealed to the needs of the time for people to look beyond this life with all its problems, into a chance for a better life in the hereafter. There were no rules, but there were systems to follow in order to achieve the final goal. I view the Buddhist path as more centered than either of the others.
Lastly, there is the Christian influence with the philosophy of “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. In my mind that trilogy aligns with the “body, mind, and spirit” of the other philosophies that influenced Chinese thought through the ages. Christianity has become a major influence in Chines thought and philosophy, later then the others, and it has secured a solid following. Master Choy was a good Christian and proud of it.
The last of the major spiritual philosophies to arrive in China was Islam. I don’t see any influences to TaI Chi specifically. Most had to do with trade. They pretty much dominated the import/export trade during the Sung Dynasty (960- 1279). So as a result, we in the Internal Arts don’t hear much about Islam.
Tai Chi reflects all of these different philosophies; mysticism from the Daoists, order from the Confucians, compassion and heart from the Buddhists, and love and acceptance from the Christians. Every time we practice, we reflect the beautiful, woven structure of the great philosophies of China.