Chinese Medicine and Culture

: 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 29--32

Extract and simple explanation on the principles of taiji studies

Feng Xu1, Bin Xiao1, Weili Qian2,  
1 Taiji Health Center, Shanghai University of TCM/Shanghai Academy of TCM; Shanghai Qigong Research Institute, Shanghai University of TCM, Shanghai, China
2 Liaison Office, Taiji Academy of North Germany, Germany

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Feng Xu
Taiji Health Center, Shanghai University of TCM/Shanghai Academy of TCM, Shanghai


Taiji studies are a field of study that has its roots in the philosophical thought of the Yi Jing or Book of changes. It integrates the self-cultivation traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism, and centers its academic system mostly on the perspective of the “states view” (jing jie guan). From the standpoint of its philosophical theory, Taiji studies divide the understanding of Dao into three theoretical states: the state of existence (you jie), the state of existence-nonexistence (you wu jie), and the state of nonexistence (wu jie). It also establishes a theoretical structure that mainly includes “three states and nine axioms,” “One Dao and Nine theory sections,” and “Three practice levels and Nine secrets.”Based on traditional Chinese culture and philosophy, Taiji studies are continuously integrating the essence of them for better understanding and raising, and finally set up a rational school of Taiji Da Dao.

How to cite this article:
Xu F, Xiao B, Qian W. Extract and simple explanation on the principles of taiji studies.Chin Med Cult 2020;3:29-32

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Xu F, Xiao B, Qian W. Extract and simple explanation on the principles of taiji studies. Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2020 [cited 2020 Oct 19 ];3:29-32
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Taiji is the highest notion in traditional Chinese philosophy and also the core idea and wisdom of a great number of schools of thought from all three Doctrines (Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism). The word “Taiji” first appears in Yizhuan Xici: “In Yi (changes), there is Taiji, Taiji generates the dual elementary forms (yin-yang), the dual elementary forms produce the four symbols, and the four symbols produce the eight trigrams (Bagua).” In the Dao De Jing, there is a description that points to a state as Taiji itself but with a different name: “There was something undefined and complete, existing before Heaven and Earth. Silent and deserted, standing alone without ever-changing, it circulates boundlessly. It may be regarded as the mother of the world. I do not know its name. In an effort to word it, I say it is great (da), in an effort to name it, I call it Dao.” Great Dao (Da Dao) and Taiji became meta-concepts in the early stage of the formation of Confucianism and Taoism in the spring and autumn period. Zhou Dunyi's Tai Ji Tu Shuo ( 《太极图说》 Explanation of the Diagram of the SupremeUltimate) in the Song Dynasty takes “Taiji” as the universe's creation itself and the law of all changes. Zhu Xi explained in his Taijitu shuojie that “Taiji is the Dao beyond form; Yin-Yang is the instrument of form.” Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties gradually emerged a Daoist philosophical school called Taijimen that integrated Laozi's ziran (naturalness) and wuwei (nonexertion) thought as well as the mathematical philosophy of the Yijing. In the late 1980s, Daoist Taijimen scholars, represented by Mr. Lu Jinchuan, turned the “Daoist Taijimen” school into “Chinese Taiji Studies,” thus presenting Taiji Dadao to modern society as Taiji wisdom culture. Chinese Taiji studies have since then gradually become a popular field of study. In 1995, the Taiji culture experts committee of the Chinese Yanhuang Cultural Research Association was established in Beijing. Mr. Lu Jinchuan, a famous Taiji scholar, and General Xu Huaizhong, an old military writer, were successively its chairmen. Mr. Zhang Dainian, a famous professor in the Department of Philosophy of Beijing University, served as an advisor. Since then, the research and dissemination of Taiji Culture and Taiji studies have opened a new chapter.

This paper is an extract, and a simple explanation of the long-standing wisdom and knowledge found in Taiji studies – the principles of Taiji. The quoted academic framework and the theoretical trend in this article derive all from the publications of the Taiji culture experts committee. The purpose of citing and explaining Taiji studies is to clarify the line of thought and broaden the perspective of scholars at home and abroad on Taiji Health from various points of view such as the mode of thought, the academic theory, and the technical application. We even hope more that in theadvent of the era of health, we would be able to provide the generalpublic a new way to examine their own physical, mental, andspiritual health.

The terminological citations in this article include five parts namely Taiji studies overview academic outline philosophy of the tree states Theory of the “state of existence” and integration of knowledge and practice.

 Introduction to the Theoretical Principles

The purpose of the establishment of Chinese Taiji studies is to help future scholars better understand and put into practice the “da Dao” thought from Chinese culture. Because “Dao” is beyond understanding and beyond words, it can hardly be probed or grasped by the conventional thinking bound by a certain level of cognition. Therefore, Taiji studies tries to establish an academic framework from the perspective of the “states view,” analyzing section by section, from Dao to theories, from theoretical exercise to Qi-Dao theory, Qi and practice,...with one principle connecting all, to help future scholars setup a dialectical thinking to better understand Taiji thought and put Taiji da Dao into practice.

The idea of the “states view” is embodied in two aspects of Taiji studies: “knowing” and “doing” of Taiji studies, that is, the two levels of “theory practice” and “Dao practice” of traditional cultivation theories. Taiji studies attach a special importance to practice of theory, clarify all the theory sections of Dao to break obstinations and dead-end in the cognitive field, and gradually to vivifying people's thinking, according to the fluently round Taiji. Several key academic terms of Taiji studies have been chosen to be explained in the following sections.

 Three States (三界 San Jie)–three Cognitive Levels

The theoretical system of Taiji studies contains three levels of the world of human cognition: state of existence, state of existence-nonexistence, and state of nonexistence. Inthe cognitive state of existence, the six senses (liu gen) of the human being cognize all existing things in the world with form and quality: things and happenings, feelings and theories. The state of existence-nonexistence means those things without clear form or quality for human cognition, such as qi (气 vital force), qi (炁primordial vital force), and chang (field in which these these forces manifest themselves).. The cognitive state of nonexistence refers to that in which the six senses (liu gen) of the human being cognize the nonexisting things, without form nor quality in the world: such as “original nature” or “spirit.” Since these three states are differentiated according to the “six senses” of human cognition, their connotations must modulate and change according to the evolution of times and the raising of human understanding. Therefore, the “three states” refer to something living and sagacious in the present time, place, and person, and not to something fixed and unvaried. The establishment of the concept of “three states” provides a rational framework for clarifying philosophical concepts such as Wuji, Taiji, Dao, Qi, Wu (无 nonexistence), and You (有 existence), which are otherwise hard to explain in terms of theory. The “three states” are the core expression of the “states view” in contemporary Taiji studies.

For example, regarding the cognition of “life,” if we unfold itusing the “three states”, it can evolve into “three statesof life”, that is, existing with form and quality, indicating that all kinds of biological lives in the “state of existence” can alsobe in the “state of existence-nonexistence”; existing without clear form or quality, such as qi-body life, indicating that this state might be quite bizarre and even deduce the presence of life with neither form nor quality, referring to indescribable life in the state of nonexistence, even if his kind of life cannot be put into words. Because the “three states”are only a kind of rational differentiation with the purpose of facilitating communication; therefore, the “three states” exist in a relationship of “I am within you, you are within me,” that is, the “three states” are just one. Therefore, the phenomenon of “life” can be expressed as the trinity (three bodies in one) of the physical body, the bioenergetic body or the qi field of life, and nothingness itself, or they can exist in various possibilities of separation and combination between them. All at once, the “three states” thinking opens up some fixed patterns and obstacles found in the understanding of the phenomenon of “life” in our daily thinking awareness.

 One Dao Nine Theory Sections (理 Li)–the Rational Cognition of Da Dao

The theoretical part of Taiji studies also fully reflects the “states view” thinking. For example, to clarify the word “Dao,” in Taiji Studies one starts to expound from nine theoretical perspectives and then can continue the rational elaboration further deducing toward infinity. The reason for dividing them into nine theoretical perspectives is to emphasize their differences in “state,” and to emphasize that in any debate, both sides must be in the same “state” when reasoning, so as to avoid the farce of having a situation of dispute in which both sides talk on different channels.

The nine theory sections are: philosophy, studies, earthly life, metaphysics, mystic, religion, cultivating methodology, practice and evidence. Nine theory sections combine into one Dao and one Dao reflects in nine theory sections. Their academic categories and contents are the following:

Philosophy – The philosophy of the Yijing (Book of changes), Yin-yang, and the three kinds of changesStudies – The theory of ziran (naturalness), wuwei (nonexertion), and returning to the originEarthly life – The common world logic of previous, latter, end, beginningMetaphysics – The theory of the uncommon world- one Dap with nine theroy sectionsMystic – The truth of seclusion, manifestation, and transformationReligon – The traditional Buddhist and Daoist teachings about karmic retributionMethod – The method theory on existence-nonexistence, moving-quiet, rigid-soft, and slow-rapidPractice – The practice theory of perfecting the form, perfecting the qi, and perfecting the spiritEvidence – The verification of the truth of the unity of the trinity and the return to nothingness (san ji he yi gui wu).

 The Three Axioms (晳 Xi)–philosophy of the State of Existence

In the rational exposition of the “state of existence,” “state of existence-nonexistence,” and “state of nonexistence,” Taiji studies considers the “three apparent axioms” as the essence of the philosophical theory of the “state of existence,” and the classical representative of what the ancients called “Entering Dao via Theory.” The Axiom (Xi) is the philosophical part of the theory, the essence of rational reasoning. The three axioms (San Xi) are three highly abstract and generalized philosophical formulations of the reasoning in the “state of existence,” namely the “law of transformation and emergence,” the “view of relativity,” and the “principle of development and change.” When reasoning in the system of Taiji studies, it must be “three in one, one in three” moving simultaneously in and out, just like beads running on a plate, producing infinite variations. The separate explanation of each of the three axioms of the “state of existence” rationale is as follows:

“Law of transformation and emergence” – includes oddnumbered birth, even-numbered birth and arising from change; “transformation and emergence” contains “relativity” and “development and change”.

“View of relativity” – includes the relative, absolute, and nonrelated modes of relationship; “relativity” contains “development and change” and “transformation and emergence”.

“Principle of development and change” – includes stability, variability and constant change; “development and change” contains“transformation and emergence” and “relativity”.

The “three axioms” are like open thinking rings, which are interlinked. When using the “three axioms” to study and understand the phenomena of nature, the three rings come out together, breaking the mud and sweeping away all kinds of stereotypes and rigid perceptions hidden in the thinking and understanding, just like a sharp sword breaking through fixed patterns of thinking. In Taiji studies the importance of learning the “three axioms” is emphasized, not only because it represents the epitome of cognitive patterns in the “state of existence,” but even more because it is a gate to wisdom to break through the crust of cognition in the “state of existence” and enter a higher states of cognition such as “the state of existence-nonexistence” or “the state of nonexistence.” Having the thinking of the “three axioms” is the first step to possess the ability of Taiji thinking.

 The Nine Axioms (晳 Xi)–reasoning of the “three States”

The system of the “three axioms” is ingenious; it responds cleverly to all things in the “state of existence.” However, the cognition of the “state of existence” is only one part of the human cognitive world, a part that emerges through the “six senses” of human beings. Aside from the “state of existence,” the theory includes other states of cognition that do not emerge through the human “six senses,” or in other words, realms that cannot be cognized through the human “six senses,” such as the “state of nonexistence” or the “state of existence-nonexistence.” The understanding and philosophical conclusion of all states of cognition belong ultimately to Dao. Taiji studies summarize this into the “three states” and “nine axioms,” distributed as follows:

“State of nonexistence” – 1 axiom: In the state of nonexistence, nothingness is reason, and no reason can be shown, that is how it is“State of existence-nonexistence” – three axioms: The state of existence-nonexistence in itself is one, its functions are two“State of existence” – five axioms: In the state of existence of all things, we find three apparent axioms and two hidden axioms.

The reason why there is the principle of “nine axioms, one Dao” is because with the cognitive patterns and language explanations of the “state of existence” there are many states or realms that we cannot deal with and cannot explain, because they transcend the “state of existence,” such as Taiji and Wuji. These are not only the natural phenomena of different existential states or realms but also the inevitable manifestation of the “states view” philosophy in Taiji studies. The principle of the “nine axioms” is the complete theory of Taiji studies. It is not supposed to be a crammed at once into the mind, but rather, it starts with the principle of the “three axioms,” letting wisdom continuously reject and discard, thus returning to the origin. Thus, it is the gate to Knowledge of da Dao.

 Taiji Theory and Dao: a Dialectical Relationship between Knowing and Doing

The reflection of both knowledge and practice in Taiji studies lies in the “Theory of Taiji” and the “Dao of Taiji”. The unity of knowing and doing is the dialectical unity of the theory of Taiji and the Dao of Taiji. Their relationship can be described as “one and so two, two and so one.” As theory, thousands of words are spoken, in sequence of one two three four five six seven eight nine; as practice, cultivation exercise returns to Dao, from nine eight seven six five four three two to one. They engender mutually and turn one into the other just like yin-yang. This is also inevitably the case of the “three axioms” of the “state of existence: “law of transformation and emergence,” “view of relativity,” and “principle of development and change.” However, reasoning lies in intelligence, practice lies in qi. They may have different names, but they are carried out in the same way, and this is also the dictate of the “three states” existence.

The “Theory of Taiji” – in theoretical debates, the “states” are divided into three; according to different states, there are “nine theroy sections”.

The “Dao of Taiji” – the practice of ziran (naturalness) and wuwei (nonexertion) is the way of return, in agreement with one and Wu (nothingness).

In short, the “Theory of Taiji” gives service to the “Dao of Taiji.” The “Theory of Taiji” breaks in a rational way all kinds of fixed frameworks and chains, leading the mind into the unfettered state of Taiji, which is called “wisdom penetration.” From the opposite perspective, the “Dao of Taiji” is the corroboration of the “Theory of Taiji.” The “Dao of Taiji” grasps through practice the authenticity of the “Theory of Taiji” state, and leads body, mind and spirit to return naturally and inactively (wuwei) to the original Truth. This is called “practice penetration.”


The establishment of the theory and method of Taiji studies is based on the Daoist notions of wuwei and ziran in both of its dimensions (theory and practice). The purpose of learning the Taiji theory and method is to help future scholars to establish Taiji thought, get rid of attachments and obfuscation in thought patterns, and fully comprehend and put into practice the da Dao way of ziran and wuwei. The principles in Taiji studies are crossed transversally by the “three states” and vertically joined in a single Dao. Its terminology is concise and comprehensive, among its key terms we find: “three states view,” “three axioms,” etc., In the present discussion of the great proposition of our times “Taiji thought for the advance of human Health,” this may certainly serve as a stimulus.

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