2013 Student-Faculty Fellows Program: Hanover College
Physical and Philosophical Daoism:
A Study of Taijiquan in Chengdu, China
Mentor: Aimin Shen, Philosophy
Students: Slaton Blickman ’15, Tylor Cunningham ’14, Elizabeth Hartman ’13, T. Patrick Reidy IV ‘13
Our research is focused upon a study of the relationship between philosophical Daoism and Wudang Songxi Taijiquan, a Daoist philosophy of motion. Each student is a philosophy major and studied the way in which a theoretical and abstract philosophy can be made physical – Taijiquan, as taught by Master Kai Li at the Green Ram Abbey in Chengdu, Sichuan China. Four weeks of study this past summer under Master Li provided the baseline experience with physical Daoism. Each student is currently engaged in a deeper analysis of Daoist texts to better understand the relationship between Taijiquan, philosophical Daoism and the overall wellness of the mind, body and spirit.
There are three main components in Daoism: dao and de, cultivation, and governing the affairs of the world. Taijiquan is an embodiment of Daoism, and the way of the universe enhances the man or woman who practices it. However, Taiji is not only a physical way of being, but also seeks to enable one to cultivate his/her chi (breath/energy), shen (spirit of thinking), and jing (physical body). My study is focused upon how to use these three parts of the human being properly, which is the quintessential goal of Taiji. Because they are intimately related, each must be concurrently employed correctly in the spirit of Daoist ideas so that true enlightenment can be achieved.
My study with Master Li at Green Ram Abbey revealed to me the clear physical benefits evident in the practice of Taijiquan. Now back on the campus of Hanover College, I plan to interact with several physical science departments, especially kinesthesiology, in order to directly measure the physical benefits evident in such things as heart rate and muscle use, that comes with blending Western science with Eastern exercise.
Our research in Chengdu was comprised of two parts: practice and lectures. Learning the two Taiji forms gave us an immediate connection with the philosophical concepts we were studying, while the lectures supplemented our practice with cultural, historical, and conceptual context. I plan to continue practicing Taiji daily, and also have several papers planned, mostly in comparative philosophy, based on this experience. I am currently working on a paper concerning the conception and formulation of truth as realized by Daoism and Pragmatism. Next semester, I will study the Daoist and Buddhist conceptions of desire in conjunction with that of Aristotle, and hope to present a culminating paper at Southern Illinois University’s Philosophy Department’s “Agora.” I am also submitting an abstract to The Society for the Study of Philosophy and the Martial Arts concerning the body’s role in knowing. The final and most permanent focus of my studies concerning Asian philosophical studies will be the enlightenment experience, what it means for epistemology, what that experience is like, and how one attains it.
T. Patrick Reidy IV
Although my grant experience in Chengdu ended the beginning of July, I am now living in China working as an English teacher. The time spent in Chengdu provided me with a lovely transition into life in China, and now here, I am able to continue my research focused upon the interrelatedness of Taijiquan, philosophical Daoism, traditional Chinese medicine, and Daoist meditation. My research will more specifically focus on the physical benefits of Taijiquan, coupled with traditional Chinese medicine, on the human body. This research will focus on the different methodologies utilized to balance the body via the regulation of qi flow, blood flow, and water flow using herbal medicine and Taijiquan.