Symbolic Meanings of Tai Chi Posture Names
Derived from hexagram 35. At the start of the day the
sun moves slowly higher and higher over the earth. This
posture represents progress and the development of virtue.
Grasp Sparrows Tail
Derived from hexagram 1. The left hand is held at chin
level as though grasping the head of the bird, the right
hand placed to the side of the hip as though smoothing
the bird's tail. The bird is a symbol of consciousness,
air, spirit and breath.
The hands, when pressed forward, represent the new moon
waxing to the full. gut in the flow of nature, when
the moon is full it begins to wane. Therefore, you separate
the hands and rest backward (withdraw) -indicating the
With the hands parallel to each other in front of the
body, it is a symbol of strength outside and emptiness
within. The act of pushing forward recalls the arc of
the sun as it goes forward across the heavens.
Derived from hexagram 49. Heaven and earth bring about
revolution, and the cycle of the four seasons is complete.
The body turns, with the arms still parallel, in a gentle
flowing motion as a light wind. The fingers are pinched
together to form the bird's beak.
Derived from hexagram 17. It is a joyous activity to
strum the ancient Chinese lute - an oval-shaped wooden
stringed instrument called a pilpa. The posture requires
a firm stance as the foot is aroused, lightly touching
the floor and ready to kick. Strumming the lute means
to be without worldly desire and ambition, i.e. to enjoy
nature. It signifies the use of the legs, arms, hands
Derived from hexagram 34. The posture suggests a goat,
or similar animal, becoming aroused like thunder and
with much strength moving forward to butt a fence.
Derived from hexagram 22. Signifies grace and beauty
in movement. Picture a white wild water-bird flying
on the outskirts of a forest lake, with one wing high
(placed above the eye) and one wing low. It also symbolizes
longevity, communication with divinity, and the concept
of freedom to search for the "Tao".
Brush Knee and Twist Step
Derived from hexagram 18. Means to work on what has
spoiled and to remove the source of decay. Picture a
person stepping forward and gently pushing (like the
wind blowing through a willow tree) against a mountain.
Step Forward, Deflect Downward, Parry and Punch
Derived from hexagram 16. The posture flows like water
and is soft. However, when the punch is released it
is like an arrow being shot from a drawn bow, powerful
as thunder. The arrow is aimed at the heart.
Apparent Closure and Push
Separate hands and push forward as if you were shutting
Derived from hexagram 36. Signifies the sun sinking
beneath the earth and marks the end of each section.
Carry Tiger and Return to Mountain
Derived from hexagram 52. The tiger stands for power
and flow of energy. It is also a semimythical figure
that guards burial graves, by frightening away evil
spirits. Your lungs and respiration are important as
the posture symbolizes the tiger being embraced (carried)
and related (returned) to the mountain. The mountain
is the place of worship, stillness and rest. You give
your vital energy to the stillness, where it stays,
until you are ready to start again.
Fist Under Elbow
Derived from hexagram 27. Picture a tiger, with insatiable
bravery, spying about with sharp eyes. The posture indicates
a simultaneous arousing movement of feet, hands and
fingers. What is suggested in the spirit of the form
is the scrupulous attention to the movements of the
opponent, as the combatant waits for an opening to strike
a sudden (hidden) blow with the fist or foot.
Step Back and Repulse Monkey
Derived from hexagram 33. Monkey fairy, in Chinese mythology,
represents human nature that is basically good, but
easily yields to temptation. The monkey mind jumps about
everywhere, uncontrolled and unfocused. The posture
implies the gentle application of energy. Success lies
in retreating because you refuse to use strength against
strength. Retreat and then wait for the right time to
Derived from hexagram 59. A chicken, flying low in a
slant position toward the sloping banks of a river,
must continue its trajectory until it finds flat ground
to land on, or it will drown. When the magic bird is
standing on one leg and spreading out wings, it is asking
for rain. The movement implies a blow to someone's ear
Needle at Sea Bottom
Derived from hexagram 62. Indicates a lake, with unfathomable
depths, rising al~ove the trees. Waves pile upon one
another. Implies a long straight golden-metal needle
- a magic divining rod. When you pluck the needle from
the bottom of the sea, it means a transformation of
human destiny. You find source of creative inspiration
Fan Through the Back
Derived from hexagram 26. A fan is the symbol of immortal
age, and is believed to be capable of reviving souls
of the dead. The posture gives substance to the image
of the hands, moving like a Chinese fan. A folding fan
can be both small and great. Your hands move upward
toward heaven. The movement may also be considered as
shooting an arrow, meaning to bring creative work up
to conscious level.
Turn, Parry and Punch
Derived from hexagram 28. The posture evokes the image
of a person turning, and delivering a sharp blow (fist)
in a backward action to the opponent's head. The fist
drops like rain.
Wave Hands Like Clouds
Derived from hexagram 3. The hands pass across the belly,
moving (waving) peacefully like clouds, floating by
in the sky. There is no beginning, no ending. The image
of difficulty at the beginning brings order out of the
confusion. The position of the legs suggest a person
mounted on a horse.
Forward and Punch with Fist
Derived from hexagram 15. Denotes trying to push down
into unconscious, unpleasant sensations. The posture
represents a fist and the genital area. Hence, the movement
is to step forward and punch below the abdomen.
Derived from hexagram 42. Denotes increase, gentleness,
tiger, the temple and ribs area of the body. The hitting
blows are delivered gently, one fist strikes the temple
while the other strikes the ribs.
Strike Opponent's Ears with Both Fists
Derived from hexagram 21. Tiger moves are connected
with taking control of yourself. The meaning of the
posture is to bite through. There are two parallel fists
that show the image of striking the ear or forehead.
The person's neck is fastened in the wooden cangue (an
ancient device for punishment, consisting of two pieces
of wood that grip the neck, so that the ears disappear).
Parting Wild Horses Mane
Trying to get near to a wild horse.
Fair Lady Works at Shuttles
Derived from hexagram 60. The Jade girl works at the
shuttles, because she was a serving maid to the Taoist
immortals. The Chinese believed that the world was square
and that the heavens were held up by the four legs of
the tortoise. Its legs represent the four points of
the compass, like the four corners of the earth. This
sequence is also connected with the theory of the Five
Elements. The four corners of the earth are represented
by four mythical animals. South-Red-Bird-Fire; EastGreen-Dragon-Wood;
West-White-Tiger-Metal; North-3lack~ Snake-Water. The
Earth is in the centre. The Fair Lady moves the wooden
shuttle with smooth body turns, again and again like
a water wheel. There are four turns - the number of
seasons in the year. When used in self-defence, one
hand blocks offensively. and the other hand pushes forward.
Snake Creeps Down
Derived from hexagram 7. The posture suggests a snake
creeping on the earth or in water. When you perform
the movement your body is lowered so that the belly
is close to the knees. In the face of a superior enemy,
with whom it would be hopeless to engage in battle,
an orderly retreat is the only correct procedure, because
it will save the army from defeat and disintegration.
It is by no means a sign of courage or strength to insist
upon engaging in a hopeless struggle regardless of circumstances.
The purpose of this retreat is to be able to advance
later with more success.
Golden Cock Stands On One Leg
Derived from hexagram 61. The knowledge and learning
snake represents It is also the symbol of perpetual
renewal. During the posture "Snake Creeps Down" into
the water you must let go of knowledge and learning.
From the depths of water the "Golden Cock,' is born.
This is an offensive movement. one leg is raised to
strike with the knee and the other is planted firmly
on the ground like a mountain. The hands are held above
Step Forward to Seven Stars
Derived from hexagram 55. Seven Stars stand for rebirth
on a higher level. The polestars are a cluster of seven
stars. The sun is the star of the solar system. The
posture represents the sun at midday (two fists close
to the middle of the chest), when it then begins to
Step Back to Ride Tiger
Derived from hexagram 53. To ride the tiger means that
you have achieved perfect control over self.
Turn Body and Sweep Lotus With Leg
Derived from hexagram 64. Rising out of mire the Lotus
flower unfolds all its petals as it slowly turns itself
toward the west, and the setting sun. The whole body
turns like a wheel. There is a shock as the kick _s
delivered to the midsection of the opponent's body.
The kidney is known in the Taoist system as "the Devil's
Bend Bow and Shoot Tiger
Derived from hexagram 40. It is believed that everyone
has two souls. The poor body soul which sinks to earth
and becomes a Kuei or ghost being, and the Hun or spirit
soul which becomes the Shen. The Shen will in time become
one with the Tao. The movement has an image of shooting
a tiger with a bow and arrow. The fist is pressed forward
and aimed at the opponent's temple or ribs.
The lowering of the sun at the end of the day. Conclusion
of Grand Terminus.