The Thirteen Postures of Taijiquan

The Thirteen Postures of Taijiquan

Postby psalchemist » Sun Oct 12, 2003 8:38 pm

Greetings all contributors,

I am seeking all manner of information concerning the thirteen postures: The Eight Gates and Five Steps.

Please allow me to provide the little knowledge I have accumulated, as a novice in the art, as a simple basis for opening such a discussion.

THE 8 GATES...BAGUA (Upper-Body Energies)

4.AN.....PUSH ENERGY............NORTH



Based on the harmonization theories which Wushuer kindly provided in another forum, I deduce that one should combine a basic FIXED ENERGY with a DIAGONAL ENERGY to produce the combinations below.

Please feel free to add subtract or correct me completetly, if I have misinterpreted or strayed from the logic implied.


LU....CAI.........ROLLBACK/PULL DOWN. (Xia Shih-LOW form)
TSI...CAI.........PRESS/PULL DOWN.....
AN....CAI.........PUSH/PULLDOWN/PLUCK. (repulse the monkey)

I am wondering if all of these energies are contained within the long form...and if there are more than those listed.???

Also, I am curious to know how the five steps enters into the ideology...Is it independant from the eight gates, or do the five elements exponentiate in the same manner to produce 100 from 4(20) ?

I provided a couple of uneducated guesses at possible matches with their energies, as a suggestion to others who might like to expound on my meager and possibly incorrect examples.

All comments, ideas, assistance welcome,

Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-12-2003).]
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Postby dorshugla » Mon Oct 13, 2003 4:18 pm

From experience, this stuff is usually after one has trained in the martial aspect and a way of providing insight and memeory into entrainment of tradition.

The philosophical ramblings are useless for a beginner that is why it is "taught" (use to be and now, no longer viable) after the external/physical is completed.

What happens if you are using kao (shoulder strike-I rarely see it done today) and you are other than southwest, is the technique less uselful-i don't think so.

The application of the energies are still useless if no type of qin'ana or shuai/jiao applications. Peng erergy is useless with a gun. This is the modern day reality.

It is better to train cardiovascular strength, know and practice kao, li tsai etc., and apply with the above mentioned.

The energies are contained in the long form but that is why the "chan ssujin" (yes, I do practice Chen style) and the 3 main tuishou (of 5) limited experience.

My experience is that present Yang style is disconnected regarding expression of the movements you mentioned but I still enjoy it. It is flowing, relaxing and pleasing.

In a free situation, as you have mentioned, all of these concepts are thrown out the door, and it become pure grappling, hence qin'na, shuai jiao.
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Postby Wushuer » Mon Oct 13, 2003 9:25 pm

I have much to say on the subject, but that must be for another time. I have burned up all the "play time" I have for the day.
Wanted to touch base with you here and let you know that I will be a willing participant to this thread. I will answer any and all questions regarding this that I can, which won't be all that much until I get down to the bottom of the boxes in my basement and find my notes on this from the old school. I haven't had those notes out in nearly six years, I have to find them first.
I also have some reference material on the way from another source, but that will not be for several weeks.

No, Kao is not less effective if you are not facing southwest at that time. It works just the same in any direction, this is just the way to practice it, by imagining it's energy being southwest as if it were a compass point when you first train.
A training tool, as it were.
Once you find the meridian and can transmit the jin then you can, in theory, do it upside down standing on your head.
(Please, I would ask that we stop getting all caught up in time consuming word games, I say transmit, you say issue, I say Fa-jin, you say fajin, I say tomatoe, you say tomato, let's call the whole thing lunch.
In other words, if you know what I mean when I say "transmit" then please don't get snarky about which word I use to say it and insist on "issue" or something like that, if you DON'T know what I mean, ask me, but let it be known that you're not battling semantics, that you truly don't understand the concept of jin transmission, at which time I'll choose another word or words until you do understand. OK?)
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Oct 14, 2003 4:05 pm

Greetings Dorshugla,

You said:
<From experience, this stuff is usually after one has trained in the martial aspect, and a way of providing insight and memory into entrainment of tradition. > Dorshugla

Thanks for sharing your experience...

Could you be more specific about "being trained in the martial aspect" -Dorshugla-

Do you mean following 'Push Hands' training?

You said:
<The philosophical ramblings are useless for a beginner that is why it is taught after the external/physical is completed> Dorshugla

Does one use the eight gates/five steps as a stepping stone for acheivement towards the improvement of ones physical form?

How far can one progress in the internal arts without consideration into these issues?

What separates the hard style from the soft?

I am not sure that one ever "completes" physical training in Taijiquan, it seems to me to be a lifelong endeavor, but this is only my opinion...I could be wrong, of course.

You said:
< Peng energy is useless with a gun> Dorshugla

I agree, no argument there... It is definitely more of a squeezing energy than a lifting one. Image

You said:
<My experience is that present Yang style is disconnected regarding expression of the movements you mentioned but I still enjoy it> Dorshugla

Well, I don't have much experience in Taijiquan, but the Yang style contributors to this discussion board, seem to me, to be 'connected' and familiar with theconcept of the 'Eight gates and Five steps'.

I don't see any apparent disconnection with the thirteen postures to speak of....Maybe I'm wrong...I dunno.

Lastly, You said:
< In a free situation, as you have mentioned, all these concepts are thrown out the door, and it becomes pure grappling, hence qin'na shuai jiao> Dorshugla

Dorshugla, I have never mentioned grappling in a push hands situation. I have only Pushed hands a few times and every encounter was very pleasant, educational and completely free from agression or violence of any kind...all VERY civilized.

I have never 'grappled' or been 'grappled'.

You must have me confused with anothers' posting.


[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-15-2003).]
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Oct 14, 2003 4:16 pm

Greetings Wushuer,

Thanks for the support. I am eager to review the knowledge you have accumulated in your notes...but please take your time.

Best regards,
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Postby psalchemist » Wed Oct 15, 2003 1:11 am

Greeting all,

I realize that this is already perhaps slightly off-topic, but since creating that list of combinations stemming from the four corners I have become highly intrigued by an idea born of the matter...

As stated in my posting above, I arrived at the combination of 20 'energy' configurations by combining the original 4 fixed directions with the secondary 4 diagonal directions...(4) + (4) = 20 Image

If we factor in the 5 steps to these 20 combinations we, of course, arrive at 100.

So logically, that would be 100 different energy configurations produced from 4 original energies.

I am curious if this is general Taiji knowledge, or if it is completely defective logic in way of the thirteen postures.

Louis Swaim, and all,

I have heard repeatedly on this discussion board various versions of the similar Taijiquan phrase " 4 oz. lifting 100 Lbs. "

I am, in essence, seeking the original quotation of this gesture and it's source.

I am curious what the meaning of this phrase is for Taijiquan...

One reason I am especially curious about it is because the numbers are not based in the usual Taiji/Fuxi/Xiantian/I-Ching numerology: 1-2-4-8-16-32-64-128...

I note that the 20 and 100 are both non-existant. They don't really follow.

I also found a reference in the "Song of the thirteen postures" which reads <The mobilization of the chin is like refining steel a hundred times over>

Are there many references to the number 100 in Taijiquan, or is this simply a very common expression in the Chinese language?

Best regards,

P.S. The possibility that I have made a wrong deduction is definitely could simply be 4*4=16 ... but I wish to test out the idea before discounting and discarding it.

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-15-2003).]
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Postby Audi » Wed Oct 15, 2003 1:31 am

Greetings Psalchemist,

You ask great questions that are hard to answer simply. Rather than try to address them directly let me briefly try to explain how I approach these issues. Nothing that I say below is knowingly in contradiction with what I understand of the traditional Yang Style view, but I will try to avoid merely repeating what the classics say and so will be giving my personal interpretation. My views have, of course, no authority whatsoever.

First, I think that Yang Style has little to say directly about external matters that is not often better expressed in other martial arts. Traditional Yang Style (and similar styles of Taijiquan) is essentially concerned about energy and relationships, and not about physical postures. In my opinion, almost all the Yang Style principles really concern internal matters, or rather how internal matters affect external matters. These internal matters, however, never involve a complete separation of internal and external. The internal is expressed in what is external, but remains something different.

The Shi San Shi are not really “postures,” but different ways of configuring the energy shared between the practitioner and the opponent. The Eight Gates are the primary energy techniques of the upper body for doing this. Four of them are primary or “cardinal” techniques. (“Zheng” can mean “regular,” “square,” or “straight,” but is not really as specific a term as any of these English words suggest. The “right” of “right triangle,” “right on time,” “right to the point,” and “right thinking” give a flavor for how “zheng” is used.) Four of the Eight Gates (Si Yu, or “four “corners”/”diagonals?”) are supplementary techniques that theoretically are not necessary, but which in practice “round” out the primary four techniques.

Using the Si Zheng involves a certain risk to your stability that is not encountered with the Si Yu. On the other hand, the Si Yu are generally less subtle and cruder in nature.

There are many ways to interpret what differences the terms “zheng” and “Yu” are intended to reflect. One way is that the Si Zheng are first taught in exercises where the practitioners walk back and forth in “straight” lines, whereas the “Si Yu” are first taught in exercises that involve stepping toward successive corners (i.e., in the Da Lü). Another way is that the Si Zheng are associated with characteristic directions (upward, sideward, forward, and downward), whereas the Si Yu do not have inherent directions, as far as I know, and can be seen as simply filling in the “nooks” left by the Si Zheng.

These eight techniques are found everywhere in the form and in fact just about never appear by themselves. They are always mixed in with other techniques in a way that makes it hard to separate exactly what is what. For instance, the Push Posture arguably can manifest aspects of Ward Off, Rollback, Press, Elbow, Shoulder Stroke, Split (Lie), and, of course, Push (An) (and probably others as well) with only slight variations in emphasis (e.g., speed, pressure, angle, etc.) from the way it is performed in the form. The combinations are endless and not determined a priori. In actual practice of the form, I would argue that certain combinations are expressed more clearly than others, but the others are always latent.

There are also other “energy techniques” beside these eight that are also important to Taijiquan and cannot readily be separated from them in actual practice. For instance Ting (Listening), Dong (Understanding), Hua (Dissolving/Transforming/Neutralizing), Na (Controling), Fa (Emitting), Zhan (Adhering), Nian (Sticking), Lian (Linking), Sui (Following), Jie (Borrowing), Jie (Intercepting), Yin (Enticing) are all pretty basic techniques that are used in conjunction with the Eight Gates.

The Eight Gates correspond to the Eight Diagrams (Ba Gua), and the Five Steps correspond to the Five “Elements” (Wu Xing). These are both terms from Chinese Philosophy that are extremely involved and which make little sense if viewed literally. Basically, traditional Chinese philosophy (including “scientific,” “magical,” and “religious” views) did not see reality so much in terms of sequential cause and effect as in terms of resonant relationships. In other words, things are not so because something sequentially causes them to be so, but because they have a certain natural relationship to everything else. If they did not have this relationship, they would not be so.

Given this philosophical view, it was very important in traditional China to classify various phenomena to understand their relational qualities and thereby to predict their behaviors. In this way, the compass points, the basic Taiji energies, and myriad other phenomena were seen to share certain characteristics. In my opinion, what the Yangs teach is rooted in these philosophies, but is not dependent on their “scientific” validity as taken from a modern viewpoint.

Whether one takes a traditional or a modern view, these philosophical principles are not meant to be understood in simple literal terms. For instance, fire and water play roles in both the Ba Gua and in the Wu Xing, but the roles are different. In neither system are they really comparable to any of the four elements discussed by followers of Aristotle’s philosophy. Compass directions are also classified in both systems, but again, they are done so differently.

Although the principles of Yin and Yang, Taiji, Ba Gua, and Wu Xing all became components of traditional Chinese orthodoxy, these systems had somewhat different origins. Some of these theories were even severely criticized by certain schools of thought. I personally find them helpful up to a certain point, but pay little or no attention to the details of the Ba Gua or Wu Xing in my personal practice and do not see such details as integral parts of how traditional Yang Style is now practiced, any more than the myriad schools of Qi Gong are.

I think I once quoted a phrase from Zhang Yun, which I have always found intriguing. The phrase goes something like: “Keep the Taiji in you head, the Ba Gua in your hands and arms, and the Wu Xing in your feet.” My interpretation of this is as follows. The Taiji stands for the importance of understanding “relativity” and “situational appropriateness.” This concept is supreme for Taijiquan and overlays ever aspect of the theory. The Ba Gua stand for the importance of understanding change and adaptability. This is best expressed in the ever-changing hand and arm techniques. The Wu Xing stand for understanding the importance of cycles, phases, and interdependence. This is best expressed by the variation in the steps in response to the opponent.

I hope all this helps.

Take care,
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Oct 15, 2003 5:02 pm

Greetings Audi,

That was a nice, thoughtful post!

Louis Swaim
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Postby dorshugla » Wed Oct 15, 2003 7:36 pm


Audi's comments are excellent though we do physiclal posture, it is more on an "energetic" (energy") level. The language is not a 1-1 correspondence where the word in mandarin means one word in english. There are variations in usage depending on speaker's experience, better yet exposure.

I am deficient in the philosophical concepts as Audi. My teacher once expressed some concepts by showing where I did Yang style form, and when completed left hands at dantian for 20 minutes. He then told me to "sesnse" the 8 directions and put it in writing. He then idscussed it but being a dunce I became aware of how each direction had a different "energetic pattern, feel, heat, cold, etc independent of wind.

MIne was a short lesson as this is the way I learn by doing.

By external, I mean the learning of the posture orientation and its uses. If you learn them well enbough, they become your nature, hence internal. If you are struggling and have to think about hand/foot placement, etc, then the level is still external. Even Shaolin may be thought to be external and easily learned,but the higher level practitioners do utilize internal processess where muscular synapses, internal coordination, etc operate efficiently and it may seem effortless.

Push hands is not martial regimen. It is mainly a "training sensitivity tool".

It is easy to talk about the 8 gates and 5 steps but I have rarely seen application of this. Many can parrot the info. but they do not seem able to process and apply. Even myself, I never learned that in a formal training environment. If you have someone to do both, you are tryly blessed so take advantage of it.

You seem to be well read. Take a look at the martial artists prior to the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911/12?). Very few equalled Sun Lutang regarding literacy and skill-many were unable to even write or read.

i use grapple to illustrate that is what people do when they are not respectful. They grasp and project onto the other so regardless of their skill, they show their true colors.

Skill or lack therof: People lash out when you jsut disagree with their position. THIS IS A "SECRET" technique where no use of hands are required. Just watch. It is beyond martial technique.

My only point is that it is better to learn the actual application(s). Philosophy is for tea rooms! and that is also a good venue for who like it.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Oct 15, 2003 8:18 pm

Greetings Psalchemist,

You wrote: ‘I have heard repeatedly on this discussion board various versions of the similar Taijiquan phrase " 4 oz. lifting 100 Lbs.". . .I am, in essence, seeking the original quotation of this gesture and it's source. . . I am curious what the meaning of this phrase is for Taijiquan...’

The original phrase is “si liang bo qian jin.” You may want to check out an earlier discussion we had on this board at:

We also had an interesting discussion touching on the eight gates & shisan shi at:

As for your questions about numerology, my opinion is that while numerological meanderings have been a perennial pursuit in traditional Chinese culture, I doubt it plays a significant role in taijiquan. Some more skeptical Qing dynasty Neo-Confucians such as Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692) pretty much held numerology in contempt.

Take care,
“Tea House Man” Louis
Louis Swaim
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 16, 2003 2:37 pm

Greetings Audi,

Thanks for the excellent reply and the favorable comment.

I will study your presentation in more detail...

I did, upon initial inspections, however, find the reference to various other aspects of "energy techniques" to be a great supplement to the existing ones I am aware of.

These are techniques which needs must be practiced beyond the form, in a real interaction scenario, ie) Pushing hands. Do you consider these to be more advanced techniques? What level of student would enter into such training?

Best regards,
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Postby psalchemist » Thu Oct 16, 2003 2:45 pm

Greetings Louis,

Thanks for providing those resources...I wa reading the thread on Metaphors you had established previously and found it very interesting indeed!
I like that sort of subject...I will probably revive that 'topic' board again, now that I know it exists.

Best regards,
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Postby dorshugla » Thu Oct 16, 2003 3:53 pm


Your links were insightful.
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Postby Wushuer » Thu Oct 16, 2003 10:16 pm

Audi pretty much said everything I was just going to post.
Very well written.
Other than leaving out the accupoints he covered this very well.
Since the accupoints are my weak spot, I was planning on deferring to anyone with greater knowledge.
I am waiting on some reference material, as I said in my last post, on accupoints and internal organs. When that comes in, hopefully I will have more to say.
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Postby psalchemist » Sat Oct 18, 2003 4:04 am

Greetings all,

I thought I would update the list of the 'SHI SAN SHI' qualities I have accumulated from the website Wushuer provided on the 'yi in taiji' thread, by Zhang Yun-13 postures, Audi's posting above and the original posting for this thread.







1)PENG-push forward and up.

2)LU-follow opponents force and movement
move him with a slight change of direction.

3)JI-charge straight forward.

4)AN-empty the chest and push diagonally downward.

5)CAI-control and drop some heavy object down.

6)LIE-split suddenly.

7)ZHOU-short strike within elbow reach (elbow circle skills) .

8)KAO- body strike within shoulder reach (shoulder circle skills) .

*In every BAFA(8 hand skills) use of these basic taiji skills should be applied...
3) and connect
4)SUI....follow and comply
5)TING...listen and feel
8)NA.....hold and control






1)JIN-step forward
2)TUI-step backward
3)GU-sideways step forward
4)PAN-sideways step backward
5)DING- central equilibrium

*These should also be applied in every BUFA application...
1)TENGNUO.....raise the chi,light in footwork
2)SHANZHAN....side to side dodging
4)SHOU........lock and control
5)QISHEN......close in toward
6)ZHUANHUAN...yin and yang exchanging
7)WEN.........stable, rooted
8)HUO.........lively, nimble



1)JIN.......HUIJIN PT.
2)TUI.......ZUQIAO PT.
3)GU........JIAJI PT.



"Understanding channels and acupoints is very important to the intermediate and advanced student...(after basic body movements have been learned)..."Zhng Yun

"For example the KEY ACUPOINT for PENG is the MINGMEN point and the KEY CHANNEL is SHENJIN(kidney chanenel)...By focusing the mind on the mingmen point, peng will be generated automatically." Zhang Yun


4 FIXED...these points never change:

1)ZHI...MINGMEN of lower back
2)WU....XUANGUAN PT...between eyebrows
3)MAO...JIAJI of back
4)YOU...TANZHONG of chest

4 CHANGING...these points change:


"These are located according to the side of the body that has the weight. When the weight is shifted these points are changed." Zhang Yun

For example character ZHI expresses the MINGMEN point.
CHOU expresses HIANTIAO point on the hip with which one holds the main part of the weight.
When these two points harmonize,
PENG will be generated automatically." Zhang Yun

"In this way, finally the (8 methods) just become applications of the mind. This is the meaning of 'use mind, do not use force'. " Zhang Yun


1)JIN-focusing yi...pushes body forward
2)TUI-focusing yi...pushes body backward
3)GU -focusing yi...urges body to rotate and advance forward
4)PAN-focusing yi...urges body to rotate and move backward
5)DING-focusing yi on DANTIAN, will adjust balance.

"The other 8 points are on the arms and legs" Zhang Yun

The FOOTWORK/WUBU/5 STEPS is the foundation for the 8 HAND SKILLS.

"The shi san shi" are not really 'postures' but different ways of configuring the enrgy between the practitioner and the opponent" Audi

"The 13 SHI SAN SHI are the basis of all Taijiquan skill. It is said all other skills come from different variations and combinations of these methods." Zhang Yun

"In Taijiquan we are learning the SKILLS BASED on THESE PRINCIPLES." Zhang Yun

Best regards,
Psalchemist. Image

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-18-2003).]

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 10-22-2003).]
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