Tai Chi developed out of the tradition of therapeutic exercise in Asia,
most notably in China and India.
cultures, history and archaeology indicate that well before the birth
of Christ, these cultures had rich traditions of therapeutic exercise.
traditions were and are to this day different in orientation from exercise
science in the West. In Asia, exercise is typically combined with philosophical
principles and a meditative frame of mind.
this, it is helpful to look at the meaning of the word "Tai Chi." This
is a philosophical principle in Chinese culture which indicates the
integration of Yin and Yang (or active and passive energies) such that
a great harmony results.
be contrasted with the most common tradition of therapeutic exercise
in India, Hatha Yoga. The words "Hatha Yoga" mean sun (ha) and moon
(tha) yoked together in unity, indicating that the principles of Hatha
Yoga and Tai Chi are very similar in concept.
is no doubt, however, that as time went on, these exercise systems in
China and India, respectively, developed some differences in character
and emphasis. They have always retained, however, the use of similar
philosophical ideas and an emphasis on meditative mindfulness.
500 A.D., legend has it that the first patriarch of Buddhism, called
Ta Mo, visited China. At about that date, Ta Mo is considered to have
arrived at Shaolim Temple in China from Northern India.
he found the monks to be unhealthy from lack of exercise, so he developed
exercises that would promote their health. In China, a culture with
frequently warring states, these exercises also developed martial qualities
these exercise traditions of physical development based on philosophical
ideas continued in the Chinese Shaolim Temple and in other Taoist termples
until the 14th Century; a Taoist Monk, Chang San-Feng, developed the
first true Tai Chi exercises.
the various stories that exist about the development of Tai Chi tells
of Chang looking for an effective and spiritually acceptable martial
art, with which he could travel safely through China. Supposedly, he
was inspired by watching the movements of a snake and a crane fighting.