Chinese Terminology

This is a small glossary of Chinese terms that are used frequently among Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Chinese Martial Arts practitioners.  I do not require my students to learn these terms, but I want to make them available to anyone who is interested in learning them.
(Special thanks to Eric W. for helping me catch some typos on this page)

  • Ba Men (八門) which literally means, "8 doors."  This refers to 8 basic moving patterns that are foundational concepts for Tai Chi movements and techniques.  These 8 doors are commonly compared to the "Bagua" or "8 trigrams" of the Chinese Yin-Yang theory.  The 8 doors are as follows:
    • Peng - Means to ward off
    • Lu - Means to yield or roll back
    • Ji - Means to press or squeeze
    • An - Means to press or push
    • Cai - Means to pluck, grab or control
    • Lie - Means to split
    • Zhou - Means to use the elbow
    • Kao - Means to bump
  • Ba Shi which means "8 Stances."  These stances are common in Northern Chinese Martial Art styles including Tai Chi.  They are generally practiced to develop strong legs to give a practitioner a strong base from which to draw power for martial techniques.
  • Bagua (八卦)which means "eight symbols" or "eight trigrams." They are related to Tai Chi philosophy and are, as wikipedia puts it, "...eight diagrams used in Taoist cosmology to represent the fundamental principles of reality, seen as a range of eight interrelated concepts. Each consists of three lines, each line either "broken" or "unbroken," representing yin or yang, respectively. Due to their tripartite structure, they are often referred to as "trigrams" in English"  
  • 八卦 Bāguà—The eight trigrams
    乾 Qián
    兌 Duì
    離 Lí
    震 Zhèn
    巽 Xùn
    坎 Kǎn
    艮 Gèn
    坤 Kūn
    Heaven/Sky Lake/Marsh Fire Lightning Wind Water Mountain Earth
    天 Tiān 澤(泽) Zé 火 Huǒ 雷 Léi 風(风) Fēng 水 Shuǐ 山 Shān 地 Dì
  •  Baihui is a very important acupuncture point on the top of the head which means "100 Meetings" and is focused on during some Qi Gong exercises.  
  • Chin Na (擒拿, Qin Na) refers to the joint locking and controlling side of Chinese martial arts.  Chin Na consists of techniques designed to force an opponents joints, muscles, and tendons to move in ways that inflict pain and allow the person applying the techniques to control, immobilize, or break their opponent's body to neutralize an attack.  Chin Na is an important part of Tai Chi pushing hands at an advanced level, but is not necessary to know to enjoy the health benefits of Tai Chi.
  • Da (打) simply means to hit or strike, as in punching, palm strikes, and so on.
  • Dan Tian (丹田)  means "elixer field."  
    • Xia Dan Tian (丹田) of lower elixir field is an area in the lower belly (about an inch and a half below your bellow button) that can store your qi energy and is focused on frequently in Qi Gong practice to help cultivate more qi.
    •  Zhong Dan Tian (丹田) The middle elixir field located in the solar-plexus region. 
    •  Shang Dan Tian (丹田) The upper elixer field.  Also referred to as the third eye.  This is an important point in Qi Gong practice.
  • Gong Fu or Kung Fu (功夫) literally means "energy/hard work, time/patience."  It is commonly misunderstood to mean a particular style of martial art, but it actually refers to anything that takes a large amount of time, patience, and energy to accomplish.  For example, if someone is learning to play the piano, that is their kung fu because it will require a lot of time and energy to become proficient in that art. The concept of Kung Fu applies to the martial arts as well, but in the west we tend to assume it is exclusively a martial arts term or a particular style of martial arts and it is not. 
  • Gong Fu Guǎn (功夫馆) a training place for Chinese martial arts.
  • Huiyin is another important acupuncture point that is used frequently in Qi Gong exercises located in the perinium.
  • Jing or Jin ( 勁) is the term for Chinese martial art power
  • Jing () means "essence" and in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is believed that human jing is what the body uses to produce qi.  The quicker the essence or jing is drained the quicker the body ages and dies.  Certain Qi Gong practices are focused on developing and refining qi to convert it back into essence to produce longevity.
  • Laogong () another essential acupressure point that is used when practicing Qi Gong or Tai Chi located in the center of the palm.  It is believed that qi is both emitted and absorbed through this point.
  • Li () means "power" as in power from muscular strength.  
  • Qi ()simply means energy.  Anything that has energy or can give energy is said to have Qi.  Electricity, for example is called Dian Qi or "electrical energy" in Chinese and the weather is called Tian Qi or "heaven energy."  Qi is believed to be the energy of the universe that keeps everything going and on a personal level it is believed to be the energy that keeps a human body alive.  Much of the purpose to Qi Gong practice is to cultivate this energy and store it in the Dan Tian so it can be harnessed and used for various purposes such as longevity, health, strength, enlightenment, and so on. 
  • Qi Gong or Chi Kung (氣功) means "energy work" and includes an exercises that are meant to develop qi in the human body.  These exercises include certain breathing practices that are combined with movements or static postures and have become very popular for the calming effects they have on the mind and body.
  • San Bao () means "three treasures" and refers to one's essence (jing), energy (qi), and spirit (shen) the cultivation of which is the main focus of many styles of Qi Gong.
  • San Shou or San Da (, 打) refers to freestyle sparring where one can practice applying there techniques with another in a fighting situation.
  • Shi San Shi (十三) refers to the 13 postures or moving patterns that Tai Chi Chuan is based on including the eight doors (Ba Men) and the five steps (Wu Bu).
  • Shuai Jiao (摔角) refers to Chinese wrestling and consists mostly of take-downs and throws.
  • Tai Chi or 'Taiji (太極) (literally "great pole") is a Chinese cosmological term for the "Supreme Ultimate" state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potentiality, contrasted with the Wuji (無極) "Without Ultimate"' (Wikipedia) and is based on the concepts on yin and yang.
  • Tai Chi Chuan or Taijiquan (太極拳) literally means "supreme ultimate fist" and is a fighting style based on the concepts of Tai Chi.
  • Taolu (套路) is a set of martial arts techniques that are practiced to refine fighting skills and better understand the concepts of an art.  Often this term is shortened to simple "Lu" which basically means "road," but is understood in Chinese martial arts to refer to a prearranged set of techniques practiced in a specific sequence.  For example the Old Frame Chen Style Taiji Long Form is called "Lao Jia Yi Lu" which literally means "Old Frame First Road"  They are commonly called forms or, in Japanese styles of marital arts, katas. 
  • Ti () means "kick."
  • Tui Shou (推手) refers to "push hands" which is a training method in Tai Chi Chuan as well as other internal martial arts designed to develop sensitivity to an opponents attacks and to help refine the practitioner's ability to find openings in the opponents defense.  Usually in beginning push hands practice the main point is to try to take the opponent off balance, but in more advanced stages joint locks, take downs, and knee wrestling techniques are used to attack the opponent.
  • Wu Bu () literally means "five steps" which, in Tai Chi Chuan, refers to the five directional stepping practices that are used to learn better body positioning in relation to an opponent.  These five stepping practices are a part of the 13 basic postures of Tai Chi Chuan. 
  • Wu Tiao (調) refers to the 5 regulations of Qi Gong practice which are regulating the Body, Breathing, Mind, Qi, and Spirit.
  • Wushu (武) literally means "martial techniques" and is a more proper term to use when referring to Chinese martial arts than "kung fu."  Many westerners mistakenly believe that the term wushu refers only to flashy martial arts forms that are great for competitions, but have little practical use.  This belief, however, is incorrect.  The term wushu refers to all forms of Chinese martial arts which include both the traditional fighting styles and the modern competition styles.