Alchemy of Taiji
This teaching received its greatest development in the Wudang school, and is directed at understanding the body, the consciousness and the energy from the perspective of the Taiji concept. This alchemical teaching became widely spread in the numerous styles of taiji quan.
Taiji quan is an internal art for development of power. The name of the practice translates into “fist of the Infinite”, “infinitely directed power”, or “Path to the Infinite”. Behind the concept of Taiji lies a volume of knowledge and the fundaments of Chinese cosmology – the Great Limit (taiji),Two Foundations (liang yi), Four Directions (si xiang), Five Elements (wu xing), Eight Palms (bagua), as well as knowledge of the lunar phases, changes and seasonal cycles. The trigrams and hexagrams represented practical and real energy models, through which the masters of Tai ji observed and understood themselves and the Universe.
The major contribution in the development of Tai ji as alchemical practice was done by the “truthful” or “real” people – as the outstanding daoist masters with high achievements were called. As Chuan-zi says: ”Such a man raised to dangerous heights without trembling with fear, entered into water without getting wet, went through fire without feeling the heat. Such a man can be only one whose knowledge corresponds to Dao. The real man of the ancient times knew neither love for life, nor hate for death. The heart of this man is free from feelings, his behavior is self-controlled, his face expresses simplicity. He is adapting to all things and no one knows where his possibilities end.”.
The “socialization” of Taiji, however, took place much later, in Neoconfucian time which appeared at the crossing of Daoism and Confucianism in XII—XIII AD. It is in this time that the popular vocabulary of concepts and names was formed, as well as the structuralization and stabilization of the quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the practices which received the name of ‘the unleashing of the Great Ultimate’.
The practical realization of the cosmological notion of Taiji was expressed in the forms and the sequences of the applied art of Taiji Quan, based on certain universal laws which form the principles of movement. From the beginning to the end, Taiji Quan is thoroughly based on the conceptual teaching of Yin and Yang. This teaching is reflected in any form or position of Taiji as an endless row of binary couples: full and empty, light and solid, soft and hard, slow and fast, twined and untwined, left and right, up and down, internal and external, big and small and so on. At the same time, all these opposites express a unity, being part of a harmonic One.
With time, the realization of full and empty becomes the key for the understanding of the Eight gates ba men - the eight basic types of effort which have physical and energy expression. The first four efforts peng, lu, ji, an - are based on the centeredness of the body and are named “orthogonals”. In the prism of these efforts movements are perceived as completely balanced, and their positions – stable. The other four efforts– cai, lie, zhou, kao - are “diagonal” and their effort relates to momentary angled acceleration, while balance in this situation is achieved through a flowing effort in the opposite diagonal or orthogonal direction.
As a whole, the concept of Tai ji can be viewed from four perspectives.
- Mythological perspective
Based on the teachings of Chen Bo and Zhang Sanfeng. Chen Bo is known for the creation of the mystical system Liu He Ba Fa– teaching about the six harmonies and the eight methods, which he “extracted” from his dreams. Zhang Sanfeng, on the other hand, according to one of the versions, achieved revelation in which the North Ruler passed to him the knowledge of the Great Limit.
- Philosophical perspective
The idea of change upon which Taiji is based, found its earlier expression in the treatise Yi Jing. The specific ground of I Ching is represented in the 64 hexagrams which were formulated in the end of the second millennium and beginning of the first BC. The hexagrams are peculiar graphic symbols, comprised of six lines, ordered one above other, which are either broken or solid, and are given in all possible combinations.
It is considered that Yi Jing holds a universal key, an algorithm for the understanding of all universal processes of transformation of one state (energy field – phenomenon, thing) into another, as well as the laws of the interaction of polar forces. The lines are interpreted as signs of the universal forces Yin and Yang, and their binary, trinary and other combinations – as signs for the more concrete embodiments of Yin and Yang in all spheres of being.
The philosophical understanding of Taiji is also related mainly to the names of Lao-zi and Zhuang-zi, who were the first to give definitions and form the concepts of Taiji. Their names are related to the treatises Dao De Jing and Zhuang-zi.
- Historical perspective
It is generally accepted to connect the history of the development of Taiji quan with the Chen family, namely with the legendary founder Chen Bu– an extraordinary practitioner and master of martial arts, born in 1368 in Shaanxi province. It is known that in 1374 Chen’s family moved to Henan province.
- Alchemical perspective
The alchemical understanding of Taiji stems from the daoist cosmological conception. From this perspective, Taiji forms represent rituals or schemes which are inscribed in the macrocosmic laws.
Historically, this line in the development of Taiji is connected to the name of Chen Bo – a daoist recluse and one of the first to give practical form to cosmological knowledge.
Chen Bo founded the basis for the understanding of space as unification of the Infinite, which was later developed by Zhang Sanfeng and evolutionary concluded by Chen Wangting (1600-1680). However, we should keep in mind, that it will be historically untrue to ascribe the introduction of alchemical elements in the development of Taiji only to Chen Wangting, since all of these teachings were developed and practiced long before him. Chen Wangting’s merit consists in the application of these teachings in Taiji quan as an art form, incorporating the knowledge of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, pressure techniques of tuina, as well as the Dao-yin system. It is considered that it was Chen Wangting who created the notion and the practice of the “reeling silk”.
The initial set of Chen Wangting’s practices was composed of five Taiji Quan routines, the Paochui routine (“canon strike”), and the Changquan routine (“the long fist”) consisting of 108 forms. Besides these there were also the “18 ways of the diamond grip” fighting techniques and the “short blow” technique.
In this way we can consider Taiji Quan’s birthplace Chen family’s village on one and, and the Huashan and Wudang mountains – on the other.
Today as result of the development and the establishment of Taiji its principle has become applied in three basic directions:
By keeping a common fundament, each of these directions nevertheless represents different angles of work and development.
- therapeutic, represented in exercises and practices like qigong and neigong;
- martial, represented in techniques like taiji quan and different styles of wushu;
- alchemical, which includes exercises and techniques directed at internal improvement.
INBI represents and develops the alchemical line of Taiji. The study program of this practical knowledge consists of three levels:
Art of Taiji from the perspective of the Art of the Yellow and White (Huangbaizhishu)
- alchemy of the nine extraordinary vessels (jiu da dan gong)
- 13 principles of body position (shenzi shisan faze)
- taiji meditation (Zhang Zhuan)
- balancing of the work of the five yin organs (wu yingong pingheng)
- opening of the vessels of the arms (song bi)
- opening of the vessels of the legs (song tui qi)
- weaving of the reeling silk (chan gong si)
- first level of internal work in taiji quan (Lao jia form)
- working with the forces Lu and Peng
- gathering of the Unified center(shou shenqiao)
- strengthening of the lower and middle cinnabar fields(qianghua xia zhong dantian)
Directed at understanding of the development of the Taiji formula from the perspective of the middle cinnabar connection (field).
- second level taiji meditation
- working with the forces An and Ji
- 13 extraordinary cohesions (shisan da jie)
- art of the three changes
- art of the five connections
- art of the development and control of directed energy (fa jing)
- internal work in taiji quan (Xinjia form)
- strengthening of the lower, middle and upper cinnabar fields
Directed at understanding of the development of the Tai Ji formula from the perspective of the upper cinnabar connection (field).
- third level taiji meditation
- working with the forces Lie, Cai, Kao and Gen
- art of the formation of alchemical ingredients
- art of the making of miraculous elixir
- art of alchemical work in taiji quan
- art of power control
- internal work in taiji quan (Pao Chui Laojia, Pao Chui Xinjia forms)
- art of energy distillation in the lower, middle and upper cinnabar fields