Clarity in the Words: Languaging the Chinese Arts of Self Healing and Personal Vitality Enhancement

If you have wondered whether Qigong and Ch’i Kung and
Chi Gung are all the same thing, you are not alone. If you
have wondered about the difference between T’ai Chi, Taiji
and Taijiquan your questions are shared by millions. Why do
some writers translate the Chinese character for energy or
vitality as Qi and others as Ch’i?

There are two systems for translating Chinese
characters into phonetic words. One is the Wade-Giles system
developed by academic thinkers in the Western tradition. In
the Wade-Giles system the capital city of China is
phonetically spelled – Peking. The other is the Pin Yin
system that has been developed by the Chinese in Mainland
China. China’s capital city in Pin Yin is phonetically
spelled – Beijing.

Much of the confusion that people experience regarding
the self healing and empowerment practices of China is due
to these two systems of spelling and their phonetic

For example, there are many kinds of self healing
exercises in China. These practices are generally called
Qigong (Ch’i Kung in Wade – Giles). One of the most widely
known forms of Qigong is Tai Ji Quan or Taijiquan (T’ai Chi
in Wade – Giles). The character for energy and vitality Qi
(Ch’i) is in neither T’ai Chi nor in Taiji. Ji (Chi) means
ultimate, pure or absolute.

All of these words describe wonderful concepts. It may
help you in your quest for self healing and spiritual
balance to get the language clear.

Qi =

Chinese (Pin Yin) transliteration of the
character which means energy, vitality, and

Ch’i =

European (Wade – Giles) transliteration of
the character which means energy, vitality, and

Ji =

Chinese, Pin Yin, meaning ultimate, pure,

Chi =

European, Wade-Giles, meaning ultimate, pure,

Quan =

Chinese, Pin Yin for fist or boxing

Ch’uan =

European, Wade-Giles for fist or boxing

Gong =

Chinese, Pin Yin for practice, exercise,
refine, cultivate

Kung =

European, Wade-Giles for practice, exercise,
refine, cultivate

Tai =

Pin Yin for big, huge, grand, immense,

T’ai =

Wade-Giles for big, huge, grand, immense,

Dao =

Pin Yin for The Way, as in Daoism, Dao De

Tao =

Wade Giles for The Way, as in Taoism, Tao Te

Taiji =

Pin Yin for Supreme Ultimate, Immense
Absolute or Big Pure

T’ai Chi =

Wade-Giles for Supreme Ultimate, Immense
Absolute or Big Pure

Qigong =

Chinese, Pin Yin, for cultivation or refining
of energy or vitality

Ch’i Kung =

European, Wade – Giles, for cultivation or
refining of energy or vitality

As you can see the word Taiji (T’ai Chi) doesn’t
suggest either martial arts or health improvement. It is an
all-encompassing philosophical concept. When one brings this
concept to either fighting or healing it is profoundly
enriching. This is one of the beautiful features of Chinese
culture. It makes philosophical poetry out of the fighting
arts and the healing arts.

Taijiquan or T’ai Chi Chuan is one of the most famous
of all Chinese health enhancing exercise systems. It has
strong links to the martial arts as well. Taijiquan includes
108 movements in the long form or between 20 and 40
movements in the short forms. There are dozens of kinds of
Taiji. The Yang style is the most broadly practiced in
China, however the Wu style and the Chen style are very
popular also. All of the styles of Taiji may be considered
as varieties of Qigong (Ch’i Kung).

If your goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the
words please continue. However, if your goal is to look at
the practical applications of Taiji of Qigong you may want
to go on to the next page.

These two words, Tai Qi or T’ai Ch’i, sound like Taiji
(T’ai Chi) but they are not. Neither, you will be surprised
to find, are names for any typical exercise or self healing
system. These words describe big vitality, supreme energy or
radiant health. Tai Qi is not the same as Taiji nor is T’ai
Ch’i the same as Tai Chi. This has been very confusing to
many. Someone who has big health or grand energy (Tai Qi or
T’ai Ch’i) probably does health enhancing methods on a
regular basis. It is very likely that whoever has Tai Qi or
T’ai Ch’i does Taiji or T’ai Chi every day, with
perseverance. They may also do some other form of Qigong
(Ch’i Kung).

There are literally thousands of kinds of Qigong (Ch’i
Kung). Taiji (T’ai Chi) is only one kind. All kinds of
Qigong (Ch’i Kung), including Taiji (T’ai Chi), help an
individual to develop strong and enduring health which is
called big vitality or Tai Qi (T’ai Ch’i). There is a big
difference between Qi and Ji. And there is a big difference
between Ch’i and Chi, even though they all sound

Taiji (T’ai Chi) is one of the longest and most
difficult forms of Qigong (Ch’i Kung). Many forms of Qigong
(Ch’i Kung) are very easy to learn. Taijiquan or T’ai Chi
Ch’uan means Supreme Ultimate Fist or Grand Absolute boxing.
In this solo practice one fights (boxes) with one’s ego to
attain the highest refinement of self. In both the West and
in China the ego is like the shadow of one’s supreme self.
The Chinese often call Taijiquan shadow boxing. The
individual Taiji practitioner is in a battle with his or her
own shadow, the ego.

Dao Tai Qi (Tao T’ai Ch’i, Wade-Giles) means The Way
of Supreme Energy or The Way of Immense Power, both are
developed through Taiji (T’ai Chi) and other forms of Qigong
(Ch’i Kung).

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Written by Roger Jahnke OMD

Explore Wellness in 2021