Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing, closed eyes

Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing, closed eyes

Tāixī 胎息 embryonic breathing

On the beginning of use of taixi term Catherine Despeux, a sinologist, says: “One of the first mentions of taixi occurs in the fifth-century biography of Wáng Zhēn 王真 (Later Han), which states that he and others “were able to practice embryonic breathing and feed themselves like an embryo (tāishí 胎食).”

Soon after that we can find a couple of citations which should probably had the intention to explain basics or give some important details to readers (actually, they don’t), and they look like these: (1) “In one of its two meanings, taixi designates a way of breathing similar to that of embryo. Breathing through the nose appears to stop and is replaced by breathing through the navel and the pores of the skin. In the second meaning, taixi is performed by neidan adepts in the abdomen.” I have a strong feeling of uncertainty that you, me, or somebody else can ‘stop breathing through the nose’ and ‘appears to stop’ doesn’t help either. “Replaced by breathing through the navel and the pores of the skin”(K. Despeux)? — Is there anybody who did such things yesterday, or the day before yesterday? Just don’t.

Another approach sounds like this: (2) “In the Tang period (618-907), the Yanling xiansheng ji xinjiu fuqi jing (Scripture on the New and Old Methods for the Ingestion of Breath Collected by the Elder of Yanling) defines the technique as follows: “One must carefully pull the breath while inspiring and expiring so that the Original Breath (yuanqi) does not exit the body. Thus the outer and inner breaths do not mix and one achieves embryonic breathing.”” Well, we have sources, authors, traditions, quotes, scientists’ opinions, thousand of followers, history of taoism, Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008… What we haven’t is called plain English now.

I don’t belong to inner circle of practitioners of neidan or taixi techniques in China specifically and I don’t belong to established circle of Asian Study specialists but I am a passionate reader of both and somehow I feel I should deal with this term tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. For that I suggest reread Ge Hung’s (283-343) Baopu zi, Chapter 8, today. The Tāixī 胎息 resembles now a very slow meditative breathing through the nose (welcome, nose!) and pulling the breath (yes, stop inhaling)  until 120 beats of heart (Baopu zi) and then very slowly exhale through the mouth (yeah, mouth!). Next step is 1000 beats stop (Baopu zi again) and a couple of paragraphs after that  should be definitely added to those wonderful abilities we have been spoken a bit earlier (Shèngrén 聖人 saint, sage, saintly man). In plain English (I promised earlier) for yoga practitioners it is the Lotus Pose with 4-3-2 (for beginners) or just 1 inhale-exhale cycle in minute or more than a minute. So, if I have a pulse 80 beats per minute, 100 bpm will mean a pause after inhalation more then a minute which is difficult but possible to achieve, I guess, for patient followers. Are you in or what?



As far as I can see I don’t choose easy topics for comments but the difficult ones. For example, just read how Isabelle Robinet opens her article on Taiji tu diagram in the Encyclopedia of Taoism (Routledge, Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2008): “Neo-Confuacians adopted the Taiji tu after Zhou Dunyi’s (1017-73) Tàijí tú shuō 太極圖說 (Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate) was placed at the head of the Neo-Confucian system by Zhu Xi (1130-1200). There is evidence, however, that this diagram originated in a Taoist milieu together with the Xiāntiān tú 先天圖 (Diagram of the Noumenal World) and the term wújí 無極 (Ultimateness, Infinite). Several sources in particular report that the Tàijí tú derives from the Wújí tú 無極圖 (Diagram of the Ultimateness), which according to the Fozu tongji (Comprehensive Chronicle of the Buddhas and Patriarchs) was transmitted by Chen Tuan (ca. 920-89) in 971. Taoist sources mention a line of transmission that begins with Chen Tuan and his master Mayi daozhe (The Hemp-Clad Man of the Dao) and then divides in two branches, the first leading to Neo-Confucians, and the second either to numerologists or to neidan authors.”

Speaking about “the well-known spiral form of the taiji, called “fishlike form,” it is not found in the Daozhang; it seems to have first appeared in early Ming times (1368-1644) and is common in taiji quan milieux.”—I. Robinet. Well, some scientists believe that a philosopher He Yan (III century) described in one of his texts this symbol well enough, and some scientists put the time of this symbol back into the second half of the Tan dynasty (618-907). If we have reason to agree with academical source of Encyclopedia of Taoism (why not?) the time will be 1368-1644 (Ming dynasty) at least.

Let’s make our point of view stronger adding graphical symbols which you cannot find in the text of encyclopedia but everywhere online. In general, I have drawn six pictures too, and every one has right to exist. What follows now could be called a mini-lecture How to Choose the Right Taiji Symbol for You, Your T-shirt, or your next big tattoo 🙂

taiji tu AB

VARIANTS A & B Traditionally for China, the South Pole is up, East is right or left considering what kind of rotation you will choose: clockwise (rotation of the Earth surface) or counterclockwise (Heaven’s Sphere). Actually, they are the same form of rotation just seen from different points of view. Energy is born on the Northern Pole in this case (small dots of yin-yang are vertical), and if you are peaceful (yin quality) person, probably you would choose clockwise direction following Earth’s biorhythms. Counterclockwise direction suits better for martial art practitioners, or just people (with yang quality) who like contradict and fight everywhere and every time about everything, so called ‘creative type’ 🙂

taiji tu CD

VARIANTS C & D Energy is born on the East side because of the rising Sun; the yin-yang small dots are located horizontally, and recommendations for the rotation choice are the same, I guess.

taiji tu EF

VARIANTS E & F The explanation for these variants is the most interesting and concerns traditional Chinese location of star constellations. Fourteen star constellations from Fáng 房 to Bì 畢 are yang and fourteen others (from Áng 昂 to Xīn 心) are yin. Fish’ eyes (small dots inside) will be located diagonally in this case, conjoining stars’ locations on the heaven’s map. I think, it is more appropriate for the T-shirt or tattoo design not only for astronomy lovers but for all Fēng shuĭ 風水 prediction practitioners too.

So, now you can analyze and muse on the whole picture of the Tàijí tú 太極圖 (Diagram of the Great Ultimate) symbols (online and/or offline) because they are everywhere and they are so different in size, texture, color, and meaning. And frankly, “taiji quan milieux’ joined to feng shui fans should be totally happy now :)))

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (HELL HEALTH NOTE): Tàijí quán 太極拳 ‘boxing of the Great Ultimate’

I knew it! I knew that the Chinese girls practicing taiji quan are absolutely amazing creatures!

I knew it! I knew that the Chinese girls practicing taiji quan are absolutely amazing creatures!

Tàijí quán 太極拳 ‘boxing of the Great Ultimate’

Some terms to help to become familiar to subject are fixed steps (tuīshŏu 推手), free steps (sănshŏu 散手), “inner boxing” (nèijiā quán 內家拳) as opposed to “outer boxing” (wàijiā quán 外家拳), muscular force (lì ), “inner force” (jìng ), and the real pneuma (zhēnqì 真氣) unobstructed circulation. That is from the beginning of an article written by my another favorite sinologist, Catherine Despeux. Instead of solo ‘jing’ term most preferable among practitioners of taiji art is ‘fājìng 發勁’ (‘an outburst of inner force’).

“The legendary origins of tàijí quán (太極拳) can be traced back to Zhāng Sānfēng (張三丰 or 張三峰) (“Zhang Triple Abundance” or “Zhang Three Peaks”), an immortal said to have lived between the Yuan (1260-1368) and beginning of the Ming periods (1368-1644). As far as the rare documents allow us to reconstruct its history, this martial technique developed from the seventeenth century onward within the Chén 陳 family of Chenjia gou (Henan), whose first known member associated with tàijí quán was Chén Wángtíng 陳王庭 (1600-1680).”—C. Despeux.

Just now I would like to make it clear for myself and other occasional readers, what I am doing now is putting in the list all names from the point of view of compilers of the Encyclopedia of Taoism. The point is to synchronize my humble opinion with editor’s one, nothing more. Sometimes I think that I am a little bit envy of those Chinese with pure heart believing in the legends, yes, I do, but the list of masters looks more reasonable beginning from the first documented name.

  • Chén Wángtíng 陳王庭 (1600-1680)
  • Yáng Lùchán  楊露禪 (1799-1872), came from Yongnian (Hebei) and served the Chens family (and Edward Snowden comes to my mind), created the Yang style of taiji. Yáng Lùchán transferred his knowledge to his three sons and his grandson, Yáng Chéngfŭ 楊澄甫.
  • Yáng Fènghòu  楊鳳候 (one of Yang Luchan’s son) handed this style down to Wú Quányòu  吳全佑 (1834-1902), whose son Wú Jiànquán  吳鑒泉 (1870-1942) created the Wu style.
  • Wŭ Yŭxiāng  武禹襄(1812?-1880?) who learned under Yáng Lùchán  楊露禪 and Chén Qīngpíng 陳青萍 (1795-1868), in turn handed it down to his nephew, Lĭ Yìyú 李亦畬(1832-92), the Li style.
  • Lĭ Yìyú 李亦畬(1832-92) transmitted it to Hăo Wéizhēn 郝為真 (1849-1920), the Hao style, and then it was finally passed to Sūn Lùtáng.
  • Sūn Lùtáng 孫祿堂(1861-1932), the Sun style.

Once again, it is only a version of a taiji styles’ genealogy from Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge Edition (2008), and that is exactly what I have been intended to place in my blog in Traditional Chinese with Pinyin and tones for further reference.


ENCYCLOPEDIA OF TAOISM (ONE NOTE ON ONE): Shŏuyī 守一 ‘guarding the One’


Shŏuyī 守一 ‘guarding the One’, ‘maintaining Oneness’

“The term shŏuyī (守一), which appears in Taoist literature from an early period, indicates a form of concentrative meditation that focuses all attention upon one point or god in the body. The purpose of this practice is to attain total absorption in the object and thus perceive the oneness of being.” — Livia Kohn, and it sounds wonderful, especially ‘all attention upon one point,’ and the best point which comes to the mind first is ‘breathing’.

Another proof for the usefulness of such kind of meditation is another quotation: “The shift from visualization to mental tranquility continues in the Song dynasty (960-1279), where shŏuyī (守一) appears as a basic exercise in the texts of inner alchemy (neidan), whose purpose is to protect the center of life within and thus allow the transformation of bodily energies into pure spirit and Dao. In all cases, however, the term indicates one-pointedness of mind, which focuses on a single object of meditation.”— L. Kohn, one of my favorite sinologists.

And guess, what? Another quotation for the first two proves for the previous quotation (Encyclopedia of Taoism, Routledge edition) is the whole chapter of Yoga Sūtra by Patañjali: ‘samādhi pāda’. God bless all people practicing yoga, they deserve it, especially after reading and getting the ‘oneness’ with the whole corpus of sutras.

Of course, I could suggest now a small, collective meditation on these two cultural achievements of China and India to “guard the One,” or “to maintain Oneness” but it will look like a little bit cheap trick. What doesn’t look cheap definitely is your private experience (as well as mine) of meditation on, yes, ‘breathing technique’. For instance, when I have discovered first time that my breathing wave inside my lungs strongly resembles the feeling inside the palms in the famous exercise (you keep your palms ‘face-to-face’ for some time and when you begin move them slowly closing the space,  you feel how air between the palms turns into sort of a spring, or a balloon), and that was so amazing, and I keep the feeling of this air spring every time I meet my yoga mat-à-mat again and again. By the way, you should  really be in the state of deep meditation and somehow 3-5 breathings per minute help to achieve this goal.

In general, shŏuyī (守一 ‘guarding the One’) is what we, linguists, philologists, sinologists, psychologists, and their crazy fans call ‘pure joy.’


shengren copy 1shengren copy 4shengren copy 2shengren copy 3


“The saint is evanescent, unpredictable, dynamic, flexible, and ubiquitous. He is forever unchanged and centered in the Dao, but is as elusive as the Dao and emptiness itself. He can die and be reborn. He flies through the air and goes beyond the world. He is master of the elements and space and time, and commands demons and spirits. He hides himself at a distance from the world or lives in the very midst of it, for example in the marketplace.” (Isabelle Robinet). I don’t feel I could say it better I just enjoy typing what I. Robinet wrote.

THE SAINT CAN BE YOUR NEIGHBOR BUT (by the way, it’s totally my idea about ‘neighbor’)

“The saint accommodates himself so well to his environment as to pass unnoticed: ordinary people cannot see him. Alone and unique, “he remains in Unity and knows no dualism” (Huainan zi 7),  yet can be both here and there and multiply himself. His sight and hearing are sharp and penetrating; knowing the secrets of time, he can predict the future. He is “dark and obscure, and as brilliant as the sun and the moon” (Huainan zi 2), and is “a mirror of Heaven and Earth” (Zhuangzi 13). He can make himself invisible because he knows how to recover the subtle, ethereal state. Returning to the Original Pneuma (yuanqi) and the original darkness, he can become no longer perceptible.” (I. Robinet again)

This part ‘multiply himself’ is absolutely amazing, people with bipolar disorder can stay aloof from ‘us’ and rest alone.


“For those who reject the devotional and religious aspect of Taoism, the saint plays the same mediating role that a god does in religion. He is the model of perfect and complete humanity and its inspired guide, a cosmic figure who embodies emptiness or the Dao in an abstract, anonymous, yet vivid way. He transcends the opposition of life and death and embraces all immortals and gods.” (I.R.)

Frankly, I don’t see how it can be said about all aspects of Shengren better than it was done by a professional researcher Isabelle Robinet. But somehow I feel that several notes should be added to calm my mind.


Some lines from old makimono (containing the hidden code of behavior of a warrior).

04   I haven’t a means of subsistence — following  nature is my means of subsistence.

06   I have  neither  life nor death — life and death are fused with eternity.

08   I haven’t the eyes — flashes of lightning are my eyes.

09   I haven’t the ears — five feelings will compile my hearing.

15   I haven’t any principle — rinkiohen (adaptability to all) is my  principle.

19   I haven’t the castle — fudoshin (calmness of spirit) will become my castle.

20   I  haven’t a sword yet — mushin (spirit in emptiness) is my sword.

I took only 7 lines out of 20 which sound more or less appropriate here, and I am not going to prove by this anything: psychologists call it ‘associative thinking’, I call it ‘associative thinking’ too, and I like it.


3.34 …by intuition, one has access to all knowledge.

3.40 By mastering the upward-moving life-force, one may pass over water, mud, thorns, and the like and remained untouched by them, as well as gain the power of levitation.

3.41 By mastering the balancing life-force, one masters fire, and the body emanates a blazing brilliance.

3.42 By samyama on the relationship between hearing and ether yields the ability to hear all sounds, struck and unstruck.

3.43 By samyama on the relationship between the body and ether, and by fully fusing with the essence of lightness, like that of cotton, one may travel through space.

3.45 By samyama on the elements, in their gross forms, their essences, their subtle forms, their interconnectedness, and their significance grants mastery over them.

3.46 Then, occult powers manifest, like the ability to become as small as an atom, and others; the body attains perfection and transcends all laws of nature.

So, I was deeply wrong when I said nobody can write better than authors of Encyclopedia of Taoism; Yoga Sutra by Patanjali is pretty stylish too.


One should study the technique of ‘shutting the jade stalk’ to control one’s desire and gain the opportunity to become immortal.  Used once [this technique] sharpens the eyes and the ears.  Used twice: the voice improves.  Used thrice: the skin becomes smooth.  Used a fourth time: the spine obtains power.  Used a fifth time: the buttocks gain strength.  Used a sixth time: the urinary ducts flow well.  Used a seventh time: the willpower becomes resolute and strong.  Used an eighth time: satisfaction spreads all over [the body].  Used a ninth time: it leads to heaven’s blossom.  Used a tenth time: you receive spiritual evidence [inside self]. — Extraction from Tian Xia Zhi Tao Tan (天下至道談), ancient erotical text (by the way, translation was mine but invention of the technique of course not, sadly).


“My next visit to Chang, was different. I told him that he was not doing Taiji but rather living Taiji. He answered again in the negative. “No, you are still wrong, I am not living anything, I am Taiji”. He went on, “You are trying to do Taiji, so you will never realize the fighting of Taiji nor the healing of Taiji. You are much stronger than me, and faster, but I seem faster and stronger than you. I am not. I am Taiji.” From then onward, I tried to be Taiji with every waking and sleeping moment being as if I were still doing the form. That was his greatest gift to me. To show me to not do Taiji.” — Extract from Chang Yiu-chun, The Last Interview by Erle Montaigue.

 Two next extracts are from: Wudang: The Original T’ai Chi by Dong Kit-yung, translated by David Chow, London University Hong Kong. (A word From Erle Montaigue: “Liang Shih-kan at the time of this interview was the second in command for the original Wudang system of “T’ai chi”.)

“One short set of movements is learned every two years until the whole twelve sets of movements are learned. This takes the child into early adulthood, and it is here that we begin the inner training. The inner training begins with simple breathing ways and then we teach them to lower the breath. No, not just the external physical breath, I mean the inner breath. But here again I am finding it quite impossible to explain something that is just learned through experience. I can tell you something now and you will feel something immediately and you will say to yourself, “Ah yes, this is what he means”. But this is wrong as you will only have the first physical experience of Ch’i Kung and this is not what you are looking for. You see, it will take you another twenty years or more before you will know what I am talking about so you will write in your newspaper that you have experienced Ch’i Kung but this will not be true and after that twenty years you might want to explain it to someone and you will also have the same problem. So it is not good to try and explain Ch’i kung to anyone who has not yet been learning it for many years.”

Well, sometimes old masters are too long or too cryptic, but they are always so right in the main things they wanted to say and reading them and watching them is kind of a great relief after long days.

“There are sometimes very special people, who with only a small amount of the correct teaching will be able to know how to teach themselves. Some people are able to learn through the inner mind even though it has not yet been opened. These people are known to us as ‘large people’ (rough translation, there is no real translation to this word), they are able to take in information from the without in order to teach the within. Most of these people will never know that they have this ability, only that they are able to understand their own inner martial arts better than anyone else and sometimes there comes to them in dreams or just ideas, methods that have taken hundreds of years to perfect. This leads us to believe that these people are able to communicate with the outer world and the spirits of this world.”— Close to our topic today: Shèngrén 聖人 saint, sage. Almost.

Well, you can say now it looks like a compendium of outtakes from a private archive. Yes, it is exactly the compendium of outtakes from my private archive.

AND ONE LAST THING. Sometimes people ask me why I do not draw Sri Yantra pictures on a regular basis,  every month, every week; I could sell them $5 a piece like another Christmas card yet! — Twenty years are passed already. Maybe, I am not Sri Yantra Master alive anymore. I am Sri Yantra 😉




Sānyī 三一 Three Ones, Three-in-One

In general

Livia Kohn opens the encyclopedia entry: “The Three Ones, or Three-in-One, emerge when the original Oneness (yi) of the cosmos first divided into Yin and Yang, and then rejoins these forces in a new harmony. In this way a set of three is created that recovers a renewed original Oneness. The notion of the Three Ones also applies to the three fundamental powers (sāncái 三才) of the universe—Heaven, Earth, and Humanity—and to the basic factors of human life—essence, pneuma, and spirit (jing, qi, shen).”

In Shangqing Taoism

Livia Kohn writes: “The Three Ones are deities who reside in the Cinnabar Fields (dantian), the main energy centers of the body.” And the description how visualization of the gods works follows, and in the end we have a statement: “The Three Ones with their attendants thus control the entire body. They are present in all human beings but seldom display their immortal powers because ordinary people are likely to ignore or even harm them. As one neglects this power of cosmic purity within, one’s body becomes weaker and sicker and eventually dies.”

So Taoism goes. To death for those who do not belong to it.

When I see myself in the mirror I don’t see a Taoist, I see a man who belongs to Humanity (y’know, no choice) and what enjoys me more that is the facts: (1) I walk on the surface of the Earth (and run when I want to run) and (2) I can breathe air and watch Heavens with a deep, deep amusement and gratitude (I know exactly how people die when they cannot breathe anymore). Thus again: Heaven, Earth, and Humanity.

So I go. And never die.