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Taijiquan and Standing-posture Meditation (Zhan Zhuang)  

By Chen Yaoting

   The majority of Taijiquan practitioners would practice the set forms regularly but very few would practice the standing-posture meditation (known in Chinese as Zhan Zhuang). Actually, the Zhan Zhuang is a very important component part of the Taijiquan practice, it is beneficial to both preserving the health and the training of martial application. In a secret Taijiquan book written in Qing dynasty, there is a chapter of "The essential method of gongfu training ― standing-posture meditation (the folk name is known as zhan zhuang in Chinese )" which stresses the importance of preserving the position in the middle and practicing the middle-preserving force, saying: "The difficulty of practice is to preserve your position in the middle (the earth) " and "Firm standing implies the strength of the legs as if the feet being deeply rooted ." In the book of "The Standing-posture Meditation of Taiji, Bagua and Nine Palace", it says: "The standing-posture meditation actually serves to cultivate the quiescent force, but during the practice the idea of activeness should be contained in the quiescence, since Taijiquan is featured by the quiescence while its martial application relies on the activeness." Through my years' practice and teaching of Taijiquan, I feel from the bottom of my heart that there is an important significance of Zhan Zhuang in making good improvement and deepening the understanding of Taijiquan so I present the basic postures of Zhan Zhuang in Taijiquan as follows. There are many postures of Zhan Zhuang in Taijiquan, or we can even say that every posture of Taijiquan could be taken as Zhan Zhuang. However, the basic ones are Wuji Posture and Taiji Posture.

  I. Wuji Posture The preparatory posture of Taijiquan is the Wuji posture. In his book "The Book on the Practice and Martial Application of Taijiquan" Yang Chengfu says: "When standing upright, the head should be straightened up tending to push up slightly, the eyes look straight forward, the chest draws slightly in and the back is upright… keep yourself in the quiescence to wait the opponent to move first, so your interior is well coordinated with the exterior, you could do either the practice of the set form or do the martial application." "Usually the practitioners would neglect the preparatory posture because they do not know this is the ground of all the practicing methods and martial application." What Mr. Yang said could imply the importance of this posture, so it should be practiced solely, getting aware tentatively of the feelings of hanging the head slightly, sinking the shoulders and the elbows, relaxing the waist and the hip, lowering the breath down to the lower abdomen and try to grasp the self-control and self-regulating ability. The breath should be natural, exhaling first and then inhaling. While exhaling, there is a thought of relaxing the body, imaging the relaxation moves down from the neck to the shoulder, back, waist, and hip, one after another, until down to the planter of the feet. While inhaling, the mind is kept quiet, the chest draws slightly in, and the back is kept upright, imaging that the above-mentioned parts of the body be elevated one after another. Then, together with the respiration, the down-relaxation and the elevation of the body is continuously repeated. But the attention is laid on the down-relaxation.

  II. Taiji Posture From the starting posture, both hands moves to the front of the chest as if to hold a ball in between, the height of the ball is up the chest. It seems as if holding a balloon. The fingers are separated from each other with the thumb pointing upward. The shoulders and elbows are relaxed with the arms away from the body. The posture requires the force of opening (pushing away from the body) and closing (taking into the body), the opening force is about 30% and the closing is around 70%. During the exhalation, the closing force and the relaxation are more required as if the ball becomes flat and the practitioner becomes smaller while in the inhalation, the opening or the warding off force is more required as if the ball is dilating. In addition to the practice of the opening and closing force, the down-relaxation and elevation in the Wuji Posture should be combined, i.e. down-relaxation during the exhalation as if diving deep into the bottom of the sea, and drawing the chest in, keeping the back upright and hanging the head in the inhalation as if floating from inside the water, up to the top of sky. Apparently, in this way, the Taiji Posture could include the major part of Wuji Posture. The practice of the standing-posture meditation should be done in a relaxed and carefree way, and it is forbidden to use the clumsy force. A kind of mind state like the floating clouds and flowing water is required, so the practitioner could let the mind fly over the earth as if in a dream and mirage. In this way, the mind could be refreshed and the Qi could be cultivated. Keeping on the practice, the internal Qi and internal force will be developed which is such a wonderful feeling that the practitioner feel it endless all the time. Up to such level, it is the awareness of the Zhan Zhuang, a special feeling that you are as great as the rainbow up to the sun and the entire universe is taken into your body. The following is the summary of the Zhan Zhuang: "Done in the practice of Zhan Zhuang is opening-closing force, nothing is special but the carefree and relaxation, the activeness is contained in the quiescence, and the gongfu could be obtained in this mindless meditation."

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