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2011年9月9日 星期五

Tai Chi in Stone

Tai Chi  (太極拳) is one of the most popular ancient martial arts in China. It is practised both for its ability to help defend oneself against attacks from opponents by skilfully diverting the direction of latter's force of attack at critical moments and for its ability to help exercise all parts of one's body which otherwise one would seldom use, including one's limbs, shoulders, hips, wrists, ankles, knees and various joints so as to improve the depth and smoothness of one's breathing and hence one's blood circulation. 

As a result of learning Tai Chi upon the recommendation of his master
Juju Yang (楊英風) in the 1970s, Ju developed a series of sculptures which
he entitled "Tai Chi" (太極). But he learns not only the forms of Tai Chi as a martial art. He fully absorbs the spirit of Tai Chi and turns it into a source of his creativity. Thus  the "Tai Chi" series of sculpture is deeply infused with the Taoist spirit of naturalness. He makes skillful use of the principles yin and yang, of the positive and the negative, of solidity and emptiness, of the visible and the invisible, of matter and spirit, of western techniques and eastern traditions. Instead of using the hammer and the chisel, Ju started to use the electric saw, which produces much cleaner and simpler lines. He studies the material used: its textures, its colors, its naturally formed lines and tailors his sculptures accordingly and thus immerses himself into his works. He first started the Tai Chi series by working on wood and only later did he switch to stone. He expresses his individuality by losing his individuality in the forms that he creates. He starts from everyday life and gradually transcends it through his creative spirit. Through absorbing the spirit of Tai Chi he learns of the need for a deep appreciation of the primal origin of everything, the need to respect its inherent nature and of the need to always keep to one's centre, one's core spirit, which is the principle of unity and of wholeness. Thus the materials that he uses are no longer simply vehicles for the expression of "his" spirit but also of "their" own inherent "nature" or "spirit" as wood, as stone etc. Form and content, he and his materials have become one in the forms that he creates.

In Tai Chi, there are a total of 108 "forms" (招式) some of which are repeated and some masters have reduced them to 42 basic forms and others have reduced them even further, into 24 basic forms. Each form has its own particular bodily postures involving the positioning of one's head, one's arms, one's legs and one's  torso. The basic principle is to describe circles and spheres and always from the centre of the body, a spot some 4 to 5 inches below one's navel, the centre of one's spirit (丹田) which is considered the very centre of Chi (氣) or the spirit of one's "life" itself and to keep in constant but flexible motion with suitable pauses at the right time and in the right positions.

The following are various Tai Chi figures which I photographed from his "Tai Chi Garden" (太極園).



                   


One Tai Chi practitioner throwing his opponent through the air after
getting the latter to lose his balance by skillfully making use of the very force
of attack of such an opponent.


                      

The start of the Tai Chi exercises when one must first lift one's left foot
with its tip still on the ground?

 
 

Two figures practising Tai chi. We can see how complimentary the directions of force of the two
 figures are.



One figure opening his arms and about to strike whilst the other lowers his body and raises
his hands to protect the most important organ, the brain within his head, which governs all
his thoughts and constantly monitors all action so as to maintain his all important "balance" and
"equilibrium" at all times.




One figure raising his right leg to kick and one of his fist ready to attack whilst the figure on the
left raising his left leg to fend off the impending foot kick whilst both his arms are raised in an
arc in front of his chest to fend off any fist blow from the first figure. 


                

A two Tai Chi figures engaged in arm locking or warding off practice?
Or a Tai Chi door with solidity and emptiness, upper and lower, left and
right, support and reliance?




The famous "Tai Chi Door": one side bigger and heavier, the other side smaller and lighter but
locked together in the middle. We can see the general direction of the lines in the middle which
are in a slightly twisted position as if the two sides are tied together by different strands of a rope.
We see how the "natural" lines of the stone have now become an integral part of the sculpture. 




The two figures in practice combat. The whole body as well as the limbs of the figure on the left
are inclined gracefully in a diagonal whilst the right leg of the figure on the right is firmly planted
on the ground for maintain stability to whilst the upper part of his body is poised to swing his right
arm forward either to attack or defend, depending on the next move of the figure on the left with
his own left arm raised to increase the force of the impending swing thus using the force of
the momentum not only of his arms but also the mass of his body.




The Tai Chi figure with its head lowered, his right arm swung forward and his left withdrawn
but with the left leg forward and the right leg as auxiliary support to get a firm grip on the ground.





A Tai Chi figure trying to fend off a beast?





Probably at the end of the practice when the figure opens out his arms with left leg slightly bent,
ready for the closing "form".





Another similar figure, but the stripes from the right lower neck to the left armpit much simpler
now. In wood?



                   


A crouching figure?



 
                  


A Tai Chi figure with both arms forward but legs bent and body lowered
to maintain the vital "balance" or "equilibrium" and to keep his "centre".


                  


Two Tai Chi figures with one with arm raised and the other with arms
lowered confronting each other?
 


                    


A Tai Chi figure with lowered body bent and inclined towards the left with
right arm folded in front of his chest and left arm swung to his upper left,
probably preparing for a down swing reinforced with the swinging weight
of his whole body as well.





Two Tai Chi figures. The one on the right in an attacking posture whilst the one on the left is
preparing to defend himself, his left leg forward, his left arm bent inward and his right lowered,
ready to be raised if necessary as a secondary or auxiliary defence move. Both his legs are
slightly bent forward the easier for quick change of position.






A woman in a bowing gesture?






This is one of the typical Tai Chi position with the right leg completely lowered and the left
stretched to one side and the left raised, ready to be swung quickly forward to either defend
or attack together with the swing of the torso in an arc or a straight line, depending on the move
of the opponent.





One figure toppling the other who loses his balance, and about to fall on his back.





A Tai Chi figure with a heavy load on his right shoulder? Or two figures locked in an embrace?






Two figures in practice in complementary positions, their heads turned in slightly different
directions, one higher and the other lower, one standing the other crouching slightly.

                   

One figure with long Chinese style sleeve with both hands extended forward and
about to terminate his exercises.



                   

                                                    A bear on a tree?




                                                              A dog?




                                                 A beast of some sort?





A beast or a man with his head bent towards his own feet, symbolizing the closing of the


Tai Chi "circle" or "cycle": the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?





A bigger version of the above figure but in a different kind of stone.








Two figures one with hands formed into a "bow" whilst the other is looking away?


                   


A figure in the process of raising his arm. Rather like a bird taking off
in flight?





Two figures engaged in practice, one attacking and the other defending?






One opponent having his head cowered by his opponent, showing perhaps that the one who
wins may not necessarily be the one who attacks first?