Chuan (Chines: "Grand Ultimate Fist"), also called CHINESE BOXING, ancient
and distinctive Chinese form of exercise or attack and defense.
T 'ai Chi ch'uan is designed to provide relaxation in the process of body-conditioning
exercise and is drawn from the principles of T'ai Chi, notably including the
harmonizing of the yin and yang, respectively the passive and active principles.
It employs flowing, rhythmic, deliberate movements, with carefully prescribed
stances and positions, but in practice no two masters teach the system exactly
As a mode of attack and defense, T 'ai Chi ch'uan resembles kung fu
and is properly considered a martial art. It may be used with or without weapons.
Freehand exercise to promote health was practiced in China as early as the
3rd century, and, by the 5th century, monks at the Buddhist monastery of Shao
Lin were performing exercises emulating the five creatures: bear, bird, deer,
monkey, and tiger. The snake was added later, and, by the early Ming dynasty
(1368), the yin and yang principles had been added to harmonize the whole.
There have been many schools of T'ai Chi ch'uan, and two, the Wu and the Yang,
survive. Depending on school and master, the number of prescribed exercise
forms varies from 24 to 108 or more.
The forms are named for the image created
by their execution, such as "White stork displays its wings" and "Fall back
and twist like monkey." All start from one of three stances, weight forward,
weight on rear foot, and horse riding, or oblique.