The Tai Chi Classics, or Taijiquan Classics, are a collection of articles or texts on the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi Chuan written by the art’s master practitioners over the centuries. They cover everything from the underlying Taiji philosophical principles, to methods of practice and application.
Previously passed down orally and in secret from generation to generation, in whole or in parts through various lineages, they achieved classical status as they became public starting in the mid-1930s. Together they now serve as the single authoritative guide for the development and usage of Taijiquan skills. Written mostly in classical Chinese, they are used today primarily by the more serious martial art practitioners.
While great antiquity is usually claimed for texts by legendary authors, modern scholarship has not been able to date any of them earlier than the 19th century.
There are many translations available but inevitably due to differences in culture and language they are not able to reflect the same poetic and underlying meaning of the original texts. Translations of ancient texts are always subject to different interpretations, even for native speakers of that language. Therefore there are also several variations circulating of the same poems and texts.
That said, there are however great translations available with even better commentaries on which we can rely. Like many Western authors have said before, it is often easier to borrow terms from Chinese and Taoism than trying to attach new meanings or connotations to English (or any other modern Western language).
At times, the classics may appear to be somewhat elusive. Especially for the beginner, one may find the wording mysterious and vague which leads to difficulties in understanding some of Tai Chi Chuan’s most fundamental concepts. Nevertheless, do not be discouraged, if you find this to be just a bunch of ‘floaty’ sayings, you will get to understand it much better after you practiced for a while and read some of the more “general” books about the art first. For an overview of these, please refer to my Books section.