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Master Li Gui Chang’s Tai Ji Songs

Master Li Gu Chang’s instructions on Tai Ji Quan, found in his book, Tai Ji Push Hands Training Instructions (太极推手演练指导Tai Ji Tui Shou Yan Lian Zhi Dao), are deep and profound. In this post we present two of the “Tai Ji Songs” written by Master Li that detail the fine points of the movements within the Tai Ji form – the “Opening or “Preparation Form”, and “Grasp the Sparrow Tail”.

Preparation Form (预备式 Yue Bei Shi

Inhale the new exhale the old Qi must circulate,

Absorb the true Jin and cook in the tripod. [1]

Lift and lead Ding Jin [2] to concentrate Jing-Shen (Essence-Spirit),

Sink the wrist and sink the shoulder so the posture is natural.

Receive Qi uphold the hands, raise from Dantian ascend to the chest.

The abdomen gathers Jing Qi (Essence-Qi) and raises it fully,

The posture is like rising up to Heaven.

When inhalation changes to exhalation,

Clear Qi sinks and turbid Qi is expelled.

Relax the abdomen and press the hand, returning to the origin,

Intermixed one breath becomes void.

Two kinds of Qi flow without priority, becoming six small heavenly circles.

[Say] He, Hu, Xu, Si, Xi and Chui, [4]

Both the interior and exterior are mutually engendered with a single intention.

Rotate Fa Lun Chang Zuan [3] frequently without stopping,

Drive out evil and usher in and increase Jing Qi.

The long path of hard work increases,

In appearance like the full moon, naturally round on the fifteenth day.


Grasp the Sparrows Tail (揽雀尾Lan Que Wei) [5]

The hand goes out in ward off (Peng) [6] containing like an enclosing wall,

Even if you encounter a formidable adversary [you] are not flustered.

Change into a circle to draw leftward and rightward,

The back standing Jin is the central beam.

Left removes (Ban) and right blocks (Lan) to injure the face,

Receive (Jie) or roll up (Lu) as you choose. [7]

Lift the hands with Peng to defend all things,

Avoid being too firm or tense in the upper posture.

Change Roll Up (Lu) into Squeezing (Ji) following the intention, containing the chest,

Raise the back and avoid leaning.

Peng, press (An) and double pushing (Tui) must be skillful,

All based on Yao and leg as the axis. [7]

Roll up (Lu) comes and Squeezing (Ji) goes according to the situation, [8]

Firmness and yielding mutually assisting without deviation.

Peng Upward and press downward (An) following the changes, [9]

Firmness and yielding mutually assisting too wonderful for words.

The Tai Ji circling method is wondrous and inexhaustible,

Sparrow’s tail generates Peng, Lu, Ji and An.

When one understands the subtleties of the Central Circle,

It is possible to move a thousand kilo weight with two ounces.

Peng Jin contains firm strength, An Jin is empty and yielding.

Lu is firmness within suppleness (yielding). Ji is suppleness within firmness.

Knowing the four directions is not outside the Tai Ji circle.


[1] The tripod (Ding: 鼎) is a reference to Daoist inner alchemy. The tripod represent the Qian diagram – composed of all yang lines . This represents the true yang. This may also reference “cooking the medicine” (Jing and Qi) – transforming them into Spirit (Shen)

[2] 顶劲 Ding Jin: Ding (carry on the head, push up from below); Jin (strength, energy, spirit). ie: “Propping up” Jin – energy and power pushing up from underneath.

[3] 小周天 Xiao Zhou Tian: Small Heavenly Circulation or Micro-Cosmic Orbit

[4] The Six Healing Sounds that vibrate in the five Zang organs and the triple heater.

[5] 揽 Lan: pull or take into one’s arms; fasten with rope; grasp.

[6] 掤 Bing. Literally “arrow quiver.” This character is usually Romanized as Peng and translated as “ward off”. Peng is and obscure word that suggests the idea of expanding, opening up, or releasing, as in releasing an arrow from a bow. Peng is sometimes described as releasing or pulling a cork from a bottle. It man also have something to do with the sounds these actions involve. How to Grasp The Bird’s Tail if You Don’t Speak Chinese. Jane Schorre (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books 2000) p. 19.

[7] 机关 Ji Guan: critical juncture; key point; key link; axis; mechanism.

[8] 挤 Ji: squeeze, crowd, push, jostle. To crowd or cram – like shouldering or squeezing one’s way onto a crowded bus or train. 捋 Lu: to stroke or smooth out with the fingers, to rub one’s palm along. Can also mean to roll up one’s sleeve. Often mistranslated as “rollback” in Tai Ji books.

[9] 按 An: press down, keep one’s hand on. Like the pressing technique in massage.