Etymology of Tai Chi Chuan

Many times understanding where the characters have come from tells you a lot about it's history and "hidden truths".

太极拳 (pinyin = Tàijíquán)


Tài 太:

Pictograph:An adult 大 (woman=大大) with a child between the legs. Maybe a pregnant woman (??)
Definition:very, too, much, over; big, large; extreme


Jí 极 is a composite of 木 + 及

Pictograph:Picture of a tree with branches extending outwards and roots extending downwards (like a banyan tree).
Definition:tree; wood, lumber; wooden
Pictograph:A hand 又 reaching out to someone 卩 / to grab 又 a person 亻人
Definition:Continue, to proceed, to extend or reach, come up to

Therefore, for 极 :

Pictograph:See above … could be interpreted as "to reach or extend to the top of the tree"
Definition:extreme, utmost, furthest, final, pole (geography, physics), top


Quán 拳:

Pictograph:something done with the hand 扌手 - make a fist
Definition:a fist, sparring feats, various forms of boxing, strength, shadowboxing


Definition of 太极拳 Tàijíquán:

Initially we have the common translation of "Supreme Ultimate Fist". In this we can see that it is a descriptive of the efficiency of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art.

But some researchers speculate that it holds some sort of instruction for the inner principles of Tai Chi. The two "extreme poles" of Tao are Yin and Yang, thus Tai Chi Chuan could be an instruction to use the extremes of Yin and Yang within your fighting technique. This would certainly coincide with Yang Chengfu's instruction of "differentiating Yin and Yang".

Perhaps this last note is just idle speculation.

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