Tai Chi and Nature

In an early email from Mr. Ellis Gary got me to thinking on this subject. Here is a bit of what I was able to flush out.

Taoists revere nature. In early shamanistic traditions Taoists believed man evolved from birds, picturing men with flapping wings in their iconology. Even Plato called man a bi-ped without feathers. (think on that)

With these ancient roots it’s not a stretch to see how those eminent masters creators of Tai Chi would include images from the animal and natural world.

The Yang Family 108 movement long form from which our 37 movements style was derived includes many naturalistic images.

Here’s a list of nature’s moves found in our 37 movement form.

White Crane Spreads its Wings, Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain, Step Back Like Monkey, Wave Hands in Clouds, Snake Creeps Down, Golden Cock stands on One Leg, Bend Bow Shoot Tiger, Hit tiger and Sweep Lotus.

Professor Cheng included sword as in his 3 part regimen  

1. The solo form  

2. The sword form

3 Push hands practices

Sword imagery is even richer that it’s solo form brethren. Sword names tell tales of The Moon, Major and Minor Stars, Alert Cats, Swallows, Wasps or Bees, The Phoenix (imaginary giant bird) Catching fish, Searching for snakes, Birds in the Forrest, Black Dragons, Lions, Tiger, A wild Horse, Jumping Carp, and many more, I think you get the picture.

NOTE: posture names are listed at the end of this article.

What to make of all this?

A key concept is Tai Chi originator Chang San Feng, supposedly created it after watching a crane and snake fight. That tells me to take special attention while moving from White Crane to Snake Creeps Down. Perhaps even seeing it as a hidden form within the form?

The crane reaches top height in the form and the snake stoops the lowest. This is a Yin Yang sentiment. White is Yang, birds are Yang, upward heavenly moving is Yang, Large appendages wings are Yang etc.

Black is Yin, snakes are Yin, downward earth seeking is Yin, no extremities such as arms or legs constiute yin etc. Both come from a egg, but snakes

creep while birds fly. Same source TAO, different evolution based on polarities.

Already found within this construct is a creation story, of all things coming through Tao and becoming individualized by division into Yin and Yang. Professor once said Tao is like hatching an egg, one must sit on it, incubate it, keeping it warm and attended to for a long time until it hatches.

Tai Chi itself was designed along Universal and cosmic principles, thus worthy of the name “Supreme Ultimate”

Another point for me is that there are many animals, but only one HUMAN, in the solo form a Fair lady who Works at the Shuttle.


There’s an instances in the form depicting a human activity i.e. playing a pi pa, (Chinese stringed instrument). Here however we have a real human being, a woman involved in a human activity –weaving.

This emphasizes the feminine or Yin principle. I like to think she’s skillfully intertwining the waft Chi and weave nerve force into the very fabric of our life’s work (kung fu) from it.

NOTE: kung fu is putting in the time, quality of practice, and hardships necessary to complete a predetermined worthwhile goal of our choosing. Mastery of a thing achieved through time, effort and sacrifice.

In the sword form in addition to the solo form’s Fair Lady is a single male human the twice repeated Immortal being, who points the way (back to Tao)

Many teachers dismiss names as archaic or meaningless. Professor dispelled this for me, noting a particular animal posture represented an internal organ and taking on that animal name strengthened the exerciser’s organ function.

Great! With that information I was able to trace connections between the anatomic organ and the posture,.

The clue came when Professor Cheng told me “tiger” was code for lungs. Hit tiger/bend bow shoot tiger ride tiger all activate lungs (individually) and breath. Hidden in the animal tags are postures affecting the kidneys, bladder, heart etc.

Names of Solo Form Postures

1. Prepare Tai Chi

2. Begin Tai Chi

3. Ward Off left

4. Ward Off right

5. Roll Back

6. Press

7. Push

8. Single Whip

9. Lift hands

10. Shoulder

11. White crane

12. Brush Knee

13. Play Guitar

14. Step forward

15. Apparent Close Up,

16. Cross hands

End of Section 1  

17. Embrace tiger return to mountain

18. Fist under elbow

19. Step back repulse tiger, right

20. Step back repulse tiger, left.

21. Diagonal flight

22. Cloudy Hands right

23. Cloudy Hands left

Repeat Single Whip

24. Snake Creeps Down

25. Golden Cock Stands on left leg

26. Golden Cock Stands on right leg

27. Separate right leg.

28. Separate left leg

29. Turn and strike with heel         Repeat Brush Knee

30. Step forward, punch down

31. Fair Lady, right

32. Fair Lady left.

(Sparrow's Tail, Single Whip)

33. Step up to seven stars

34. Step back to ride tiger

35. Turn & sweep lotus

36. Hit tiger, step foward

Repeat Deflect Downward Parry Punch

37. End - Ho T'ai-chi.

Sword Postures

Beginning Posture Move Sword And Hand Together

The Immortal Points The Way

Three Rings Around The Moon

Major Literary Star Of The Dipper

The Swallow Seizes or Skims The Water

Intercept And Sweep To The Right

And Sweep To The Left

Step Up To The Minor Literary Star (Of The Dipper)

The Wasp Enters The Hive

The Alert Cat Catches The Rat

The Dragonfly Skims The Water

The Swallow Enters The Nest

The Phoenix Spreads Its Wings

Whirlwind To The Right

Waiting For The Fish

Separate Grass In Search Of The Snake

Embrace The Moon

Birds Return To Forest

The Black Dragon Wags Its Tail

The Wind Rolls Up The Lotus Leaves

The Lion Shakes His Head

The Tiger Embraces His Head

The Wild Horse Leaps Over The Stream

Turn The Body To Rein The Horse

The South Pointing (Or Seeking) Compass

Greet The Wind To Wipe Away The Dust

Drift With The Current

The Meteor Pursues The Moon

The Heavenly Horse (Pegasus) Flies Over The Waterfall

Raise Up The Curtain

The Sword Wheels Left And Right

The Swallow Holds Mud In His Mouth

The Roc Spreads Its Wings

Dredging The Moon From The Sea Bottom

Embrace The Moon

The Yak Sha Searches The Sea

Rhinoceros Gazes At The Moon

Shoot The Wild Goose

The Blue Dragon Stretches Out Its Claw

The Phoenix Spreads Its Wings

Cross And Block Left And Right

Shoot The Wild Goose

White Ape Offers Fruit

Falling Blossoms Left And Right

Fair Lady Weaves At The Shuttle

The White Tiger Stirs Its Tail

The Carp Leaps Over The Dragon Gate

The Black Dragon Wraps Around The Pillar

The Immortal Points Out The Way

The Wind Sweeps Away The Plum Blossoms

Offering The Ivory Tablets

Embrace The Sword And Return To Original Position