What Is Tai Chi And I Ching?

According to legend, it was in the I-Ching or the Book of Change in which the Great Ultimate, Tai Chi, was first founded. I-Ching was written by Zhou Wen Wang who was the first emperor of the Zhou Dynasty. This is why I-Ching is sometimes called Zhou-Yi (which means changes in the Zhou Dynasty).

As its name implies The Book of Change or I-Ching states that life is a never-ending series of changes. In pinyin, the word Chinese word ‘I’ means ‘change’. It is derived from the Chinese characters of the moon and sun, which represents yin and yang respectively.

In the I Ching, there’s a passage that says, “Changes has The Great Ultimate that engenders the Two Elements. The Two Elements bring in the Four Phenomena and from the Four Phenomena the Eight Hexagrams spring forth, etc.”

The Great Ultimate or Tai Chi actually equates to the earliest of all things and events, the genesis, or the beginning. It is also referred to as the Universe itself by the ancient Chinese people.

There is a verse in the I Ching that states “the one ying and one yang is The Path.” Some believe it means that all events and everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen in the universe, is caused by the conflicting and yet complementary forces of yin and yang.

This belief may explain why from Tai Chi, the Two Elements of yin and yang come into being. If one assiduously observes a Tai Chi diagram, which the Chinese call the Two-Fishes diagram, they would observe a circle with two equal divisions. The whole circle symbolizes Tai Chi or the entire Universe, and the Yin & Yang or the Two Elements are depicted within this circle.

In Tai Chi, the division of yin and yang suggests the Universe is comprised of two opposing factors. This is signified by the black (yin) area and the white (yang) area. We can see, however, that the division is a curved and not a straight line which signifies that the two contradictory elements actually augment each other helping to shape a complete circle.

At first, this indicates that while the yin and yang are separated – they are also in union so much so that it creates a total completion or wholeness. The I-Ching principles are founded on the contradictory-complementary forces of yin and yang. Tai Chi uses these I-Ching principles/concepts, with yin/yang as its most basic principles/concepts to exemplify both the world’s meta-physical and physical features.

Furthermore, the curved division within the circle suggests that the Universe is in a constant state of fluctuating balance, which is another way of saying the forces of yin and yang within the Universe are in ever changing balance. A verse in the I-Ching reflects this idea, “The yang appears, when the yin becomes intense and vice versa”.

Another thing that you will notice in the I-Ching diagram is that if you look in a counterclockwise direction, you may perceive that as one element incrementally increases, and at some point, reaches its peak other elements begin to rise up in place. If you move along the black side hemisphere, for example, you might perceive that the black grows larger and larger and then comes to a point when it suddenly shrinks and the white this time begins to grow larger and larger then suddenly shrinks. This suggests that another force will begin to grow as one force becomes extreme.

Life Applications

The changes behind the interplay between yin and yang basically means that in all aspects of life, we need to have balance, and not only in one or just a few. We need to have balance between the spirit and matter, between kith and kin, between personal life and occupation, etc. If we do not balance all these factors, our lives will be ruled by disharmony.

Another thing to observe in the Tai Chi diagram is the lessening and increasing fluctuations of yin and yang. What this means is that our lives is constantly changing implying that we often experience a constant change between up and down, low and high, gloom and happiness, sadness and joy, bad and good, etc. This fundamental principle is referred to as dualism in I-Ching.

In life, there are always dual principles at play. We can see this in all aspects of life and in nature. But it is important to state that there is no such thing as absolute good and absolute bad. What we should observe is the amount of good or bad in people and things.

A person whom others generally consider as bad may have certain good qualities too and conversely, someone who’s considered good may have done something in life that may raise eyebrows. A good person may have committed bad deeds at some point in his life and a criminal may have performed or may have done some good act in the past.

With regard to events, disasters such as a flood or earthquake (bad) tend to provoke a benevolent response (humanitarian efforts). Some victims may have such a profound experience from the calamity that their whole lives have changed (usually, for the good). In “good” events such as winning the lottery, people who are humble, change because of their newfound wealth turning them into haughty and spiteful individuals. Some bad things can have positive sides in them and vice versa. What really matters is how we behave in a certain situation. This basically, is what the dualistic principles of I-Ching are all about.

In the I-Ching diagram, we may observe that each element in the diagram has a dot that has an opposite color. The black area has a white dot while the white area contains a black dot. What does this mean? It means that within a yang element there is always a small element of yin and within the element of yin a small portion of yang can be found.

Its Meaning in Life

The dot having the color opposite to an area it is in implies that in any situations, people, and things, there will be some opposing aspects within them. Hence, in good, there will always be some aspects of bad within; there will be some bad in good, just as there are some aspects of yin within the yang and some aspects of yang within the yin. You can observe this principle in sports where there are winners and there are losers. In some good events, there might some bit of bad news within, among winning, there’s also losing, within happiness there’ll be a certain amount of sorrow, etc.

People will often encounter a blend of low and high in their lives. They may sometimes experience victory and sometimes defeat, sometimes feel happy and sometimes feel sad, may be sometimes good and may be sometimes bad. In life, positive and negative always come in one package.


Wisdom is learning when to accept and when to resist. We need to give and share and accept the essence of life for what it is. Courageously and willingly acknowledge the bad with the good and rejoice in the good things. In so doing, you will be able to live a life filled with wisdom, harmony and balance.

The philosophy of yin and yang of Tai Chi is a major influence to the ancient Chinese. It was ultimately imbibed into their lifestyle, religion, arts, medicine, art of war, philosophy and theories. It also became a component of Daoism, which some mistakenly believe is where Tai Chi actually was derived. The opposite is actually true.

Realizing the principles and theories of I-Ching can make people better understand and acknowledge the essence of life itself which may help them deal with daily challenges and responsibilities in a much better and balanced way. We wish you harmony, good fortune, and success in your life!


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