Tai Chi

Tai chi (or taiji) is short for tai ji quan (太極拳), which literally means “fist of the Great Absolute.” It is a form of martial art that started in ancient China as a means of self-defense. Over time, however, tai chi evolved with the philosophies of Daoism and Confucianism. By combining martial arts and meditative movements, tai chi promotes the balance and healing of both mind and body and is used primarily for health purposes today. There are many different styles of tai chi, but all involve slow, relaxed, graceful movements, with each movement flowing seamlessly into the next. Many Chinese people commonly practice tai chi in public parks in the early morning hours. At the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program China: Tradition and the Art of Living, Chai Chai Yunlong (柴雲龍) and Tian Mengyi (田夢藝), two martial arts students from Beijing Sports University, demonstrated tai chi and a fu chen fight routine.

Questions for Discussion

  • What words would you use to describe the movements of the tai chi performers in the video? What type of mood do these movements suggest?
  • Based on what you saw in the video, how do you think tai chi is different from other types of martial arts you may be familiar with, such as kung fu or tae kwon do?
  • Try practicing tai chi yourself! Many instructional videos are available on YouTube. How does it feel to move your body in this way?