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Last week, we saw the importance of the ‘qi’ energy in Taichi. This life-force actually plays a much more important role than only in martial arts or health, and is taken into account in every day situation as well. In fact, Taichi uses the principles of Feng shui (pronounced ‘fung shway‘ and meaning ‘wind-water’) that studies the balance between humans and the universe. This balance is achieved through the measure — to say it in maybe too technical terms — between yin and yang (referred to in this post).

Traditional Feng shui architecture

One of the uses of Feng shui is in architecture and follows 15 core principle such as:
– ‘Analyse the Suitability of Water‘: influences the quality of life and health of humans and cattle;
– ‘Suitably Located in the Middle and Residing in the Middle‘: a main room is surrounded by various other rooms but also refers to the geographical position of a city (Beijing is located ‘in the middle’ of China);
– ‘Greening the Environment‘: to have numerous trees around the house is more beneficial as wood is a very important material in Feng shui;
– ‘Being Timely and Affectionate‘: that is, to like living in the same place to accustom the body to love it.

Although these are parts of a general set of rules, different architectures and styles of houses were invented throughout China whitout breaking the rules. Even nowadays, architects can comply with them and build something totally unique:

Feng shui doesn't necessarily mean old fashioned (design by Ephraim Henry Pavie)

Feng shui also affects the dates of marriages, important ceremonies or the closure of good deals. All these dates depend on your birth date and on astrological symbols. The reason comes from the relationship between humans and stars.
Chinese calendars are circular (as opposed with linear calendar for us: each year adds to the previous one and we’ll never see 2011 or 1574 again in our lives): although they have years as well, the circle of the 12 zodiac signs instils this circle pattern that everything will come back again — everything will be balanced.

Finally — and this may be something more of a personal view — Taichi affects the way Chinese people walk, even for those who don’t do it, as they must’ve copied it from the mass or their ancestors who themselves did it. That might be the smallest difference between westerners and Chinese (as I didn’t feel the same in Japan for exemple), but to me, this is what makes a foreigner feel in a totally different culture. ‘What is it?’ you might wonder; well, Chinese cannot walk straight.
It only very rarely happens in London, or even Europe, that you actually have to stop in front of someone who’s walking towards you because you don’t know whether he’s going right or left to avoid you but this is of a constant preoccupation in Hong Kong.

The most efficient route to go from point A to B for Chinese people

Let met explain it in more details: when you’re on the pavement and that someone walks in your direction, you usually imply which direction you wish to go by them: either right or left. This intention is expressed in a very subtle yet very clear way. You don’t have to turn your body 45° to make the passer-by understand where you wish to go. Sometimes two people want to go left at the same time thus change to right at the same time and this several times, ending in a funny situation where you clearly move right or left, but generally, you don’t have to do this, you just walk freely.

However, the situation is very different here: you never quite perceive which way they intend to go and it results either in avoiding the collision at the last moment by you jumping on the side or by the two parties stopping, looking at each other like two fish.
Maybe that’s because they’re constantly walking looking at their phones; maybe that’s because you’re a stranger and they don’t care about moving an inch to let you pass.
Or maybe it’s because this fluid circular motion that comes from Taichi that is so deeply seeded in their genes that they can’t quite figure out a straight, clear and secure way and always have to walk as if their stumbling on the deck of a ship tormented by a mighty storm.
This cultural difference illustrates perfectly how Taichi has influenced Chiniese culture over the centuries.

'Where you going mate?' (drawing by krazygrrl70)

Next week, I will talk about my first real Taichi experience among decades-long practitioners in Lok Fu Park.