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to Introductory Qigong Articles
Clarity in the Words: Languaging the Chinese Arts
of Self-Healing and Personal Vitality Enhancement
© Roger Jahnke O.M.D.
If you have wondered whether Qigong and Ch'i Kung and Chi Gung
are all the same thing, you are not alone. If you have wondered
about the difference between T'ai Chi, Taiji and Taijiquan your
questions are shared by millions. Why do some writers translate
the Chinese character for energy or vitality as Qi and others as
There are two systems for translating Chinese characters into phonetic
words. One is the Wade-Giles system developed by academic thinkers
in the Western tradition. In the Wade-Giles system the capital city
of China is phonetically spelled - Peking. The other is the Pin
Yin system that has been developed by the Chinese in Mainland China.
China's capital city in Pin Yin is phonetically spelled - Beijing.
Much of the confusion that people experience regarding the self
healing and empowerment practices of China is due to these two systems
of spelling and their phonetic sounds. For example, there are many kinds of self-care practices in China.
These practices are generally called Qigong (Ch'i Kung in Wade -
Giles). One of the most widely known forms of Qigong is Tai Ji Quan
or Taijiquan (T'ai Chi in Wade - Giles). The character for energy
and vitality Qi (Ch'i) is in neither T'ai Chi nor in Taiji. Ji (Chi)
means ultimate, pure or absolute.
All of these words describe wonderful concepts. It may help you
in your quest for self-healing and spiritual balance to get the
Qi = Chinese (Pin Yin) transliteration of the character
which means energy, vitality, and breath
Ch'i = European (Wade - Giles) transliteration of the character
which means energy, vitality, and breath
Ji = Chinese, Pin Yin, meaning ultimate, pure, absolute
Chi = European, Wade-Giles, meaning ultimate, pure, absolute
Quan = Chinese, Pin Yin for fist or boxing
Ch'uan = European, Wade-Giles for fist or boxing
Gong = Chinese, Pin Yin for practice, exercise, refine,
Kung = European, Wade-Giles for practice, exercise, refine,
Tai = Pin Yin for big, huge, grand, immense, supreme
T'ai = Wade-Giles for big, huge, grand, immense, supreme
Dao = Pin Yin for The Way, as in Daoism, Dao De Jing
Tao = Wade Giles for The Way, as in Taoism, Tao Te Ching
Taiji = Pin Yin for Supreme Ultimate, Immense Absolute or
T'ai Chi = Wade-Giles for Supreme Ultimate, Immense Absolute
or Big Pure
Qigong = Chinese, Pin Yin, for cultivation or refining of
energy or vitality
Ch'i Kung = European, Wade - Giles, for cultivation or
refining of energy or vitality
As you can see the word Taiji (T'ai Chi) doesn't suggest either
martial arts or health improvement. It is an all-encompassing philosophical
concept. When one brings this concept to either fighting or healing
it is profoundly enriching. This is one of the beautiful features
of Chinese culture. It makes philosophical poetry out of the fighting
arts and the healing arts.
Taijiquan or T'ai Chi Chuan is one of the most famous of all Chinese
health enhancing exercise systems. It has strong links to the martial
arts as well. Taijiquan includes 108 movements in the long form
or between 20 and 40 movements in the short forms. There are dozens
of kinds of Taiji. The Yang style is the most broadly practiced
in China, however the Wu style and the Chen style are very popular
also. All of the styles of Taiji may be considered as varieties
of Qigong (Ch'i Kung).
If your goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the words please
continue. However, if your goal is to look at the practical applications
of Taiji of Qigong you may want to go on to the next page.
These two words, Tai Qi or T'ai Ch'i, sound like Taiji (T'ai Chi)
but they are not. Neither, you will be surprised to find, are names
for any typical exercise or self healing system. These words describe
big vitality, supreme energy or radiant health. Tai Qi is not the
same as Taiji nor is T'ai Ch'i the same as Tai Chi. This has been
very confusing to many. Someone who has big health or grand energy
(Tai Qi or T'ai Ch'i) probably does health enhancing methods on
a regular basis. It is very likely that whoever has Tai Qi or T'ai
Ch'i does Taiji or T'ai Chi every day, with perseverance. They may
also do some other form of Qigong (Ch'i Kung).
There are literally thousands of kinds of Qigong (Ch'i Kung). Taiji
(T'ai Chi) is only one kind. All kinds of Qigong (Ch'i Kung), including
Taiji (T'ai Chi), help an individual to develop strong and enduring
health which is called big vitality or Tai Qi (T'ai Ch'i). There
is a big difference between Qi and Ji. And there is a big difference
between Ch'i and Chi, even though they all sound similar.
Taiji (T'ai Chi) is one of the longest and most difficult forms
of Qigong (Ch'i Kung). Many forms of Qigong (Ch'i Kung) are very
easy to learn. Taijiquan or T'ai Chi Ch'uan means Supreme Ultimate
Fist or Grand Absolute boxing. In this solo practice one fights
(boxes) with one's ego to attain the highest refinement of self.
In both the West and in China the ego is like the shadow of one's
supreme self. The Chinese often call Taijiquan shadow boxing. The
individual Taiji practitioner is in a battle with his or her own
shadow, the ego.
Dao Tai Qi (Tao T'ai Ch'i, Wade-Giles) means The Way of Supreme
Energy or The Way of Immense Power, both are developed through Taiji
(T'ai Chi) and other forms of Qigong (Ch'i Kung)
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