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The books selected for this martial arts reading list are intended to provide a broad-based resource for those interested in pursuing further studies. This list is in no way exhaustive nor is it intended as an authoritative collection. It is simply a summary of readings that may foster some deeper understanding of the internal school (taijiquan, baguazhang, xingyiquan) and its foundations.

I originally started this list for my taiji students in 1993. The last time I updated it was December 6, 1996. As I could find them, I have listed books from this list in our Bookstore. Others may have gone out of print. If you find copies for sale, please let us know. — Terri

Blofeld, John. Taoism: The Road to Immortality. Boston: Shambhala, 1985.
An excellent presentation of a very difficult subject – five thousand years of traditional taoist beliefs and the metaphors which describe them. The author explains the fundamental concepts of Taoism, tells stories of ancient masters, and relates his own experiences in China.
Chan, Wing-Tsit, ed. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.
Contains selections from the classics of Chinese philosophy with scholarly annotations and references. As with any of the classics, the reading is not easy. These are the source documents from which much of Chinese history and culture takes its roots.
Chang, Po Tuan with commentary by Liu I Ming. The Inner Teachings of Taoism.Cleary, Thomas, trans. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1986.
Written in the eleventh century c.e. with commentary added during the early 1800’s c.e., this book contains one of the classic texts on the teachings of Taoism. The modern translation is excellent. The translator’s introduction provides essential foundation and historical information.
Chen, Wei-Ming. T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen: Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan. Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Robert W. Smith, trans. Berkely, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1985.
Original copyright by the author in 1929. The book is a collection of the questions Chen asked of his teacher, and the answers given by the famous Yang Cheng fu. Very insightful although techincal material.
Chia, Mantak. Awaken Healing Energy through the Tao. New York, NY: Aurora Press. 1983.
Modern introduction to internal energies, chi kung (breathing) exercises and healing philosophy.
Deng, Ming-Dao. Scholar-Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1990.
Overall introduction the martial, healing, and philosophical taoist arts. Nicely written and presented, the book is both comprehensive and concise.
Gray, Henry, F.R.S. Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical. T. Pickering Pick, F.R.C.S, ed. New York, NY: Bounty Books. 1977.
Called “the masterpiece of anatomical science,” this classic 19th century work is the basis for much of modern medical anatomical and surgical science. The explanations are lengthy and technical, but provide exact referents for muscular and skeletal placements and functions. The drawings are some of the clearest (albeit in black and white) representations of muscular layers to be found.
James, Andy. The Conscious I: Clarity and Direction through Meditation. Toronto: Sommerville House Publishing. 1992.
The author provides a personal narrative to describe his introduction to meditation and the process of change. The psychological and philosophical discussions are well documented. This book provides a basis for fundamental evaluation of the way we view ourselves and the ways in which we approach change.
Jou, Tsung Hwa. The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan: Way to Rejuvenation. Shoshana Shapiro, Ph.D., ed. Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle, Co. 1980.
A comprehensive book on all styles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan. It includes history, drawings, and translations, and commentaries from the classics for all the main T’ai Chi branches. The genealogical tables are excellent as are the complete, step by step drawings/pictures of the three main forms (Yang, Chen, Wu). The discussions are complex and introduce the classical philosophical concepts. Definitely for the advanced student.
Kaptchuk, Ted, O.M.D. The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Chicago, IL: Congdon and Weed, 1983.
Bridging the cultural concepts between Chinese and western medicine is the author’s purpose. As a western trained physician, he brings a clear perspective to the task. He presents Chinese medicine from the western point of view, providing both insight and connectivity.
Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching (The Way of Life). Blakney, R.B., trans. New York, NY: New American Library. 1955.
A sensitive and critical translation of the classic poetical and philosophical work of Lao Tzu (300-500 BC), one of the most famous philosophers in Chinese history. It includes a discussion of key concepts, giving the Chinese characters along with a translation and explanation for each.
Lau, D.C. trans. Mencius. London: Penguin Books, 1970.
Introduction and annotated translation of the works of Mencius (c. 400 BCE). The works of Mencius are considered, like those of Confucious, among the four great books of Chinese thought.
Lee, Ying Arng. Lee’s Modified Tai Chi for Health. Honolulu, HA: McLisa Enterprises. 1950.
This work provides both the beginner and the advanced student with essential background material. It includes an excellent genealogical table as well as excerpts from recognized classics. Quotes and sayings are often given in both English and Chinese characters.
Liang, T. T. T’ai Chi Ch’uan for Health and Self Defense (Philosophy and Practice). Paul B. Gallagher, ed. New York, NY: Vintage Books. 1977.
An excellent beginner level discussion of philosophy and practice of T’ai Chi. It includes sections on the Classic Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan and self defense principles.
Liao, Waysun. T’ai Chi Classics. Boston: Shambhala, 1990.
General explanation of chi and jing accompanies selections from Chang San-feng (Zhang Sanfeng), Wong Chung-yua (Wang Zongyue) and Wu Yu-hsiang (Wu Yuxiang). The form explanation is based on Cheng Manching’s variation.
Liu, Da. T’ai Chi Ch’uan and I Ching: A Choreography of Body and Mind. New York, NY: Harper & Row. 1972.
Detailed practice techniques drawing correlations between the movements of the T’ai Chi form and the representation of direction and elements by the trigrams of the I Ching.
Lo, Benjamin Pan Jeng, et al, eds. The Essence of T’ai Chi Ch’uan: The Literary Tradition. Richmond, CA: North Atlantic Books. 1979.
A collection of the classic songs and commentaries on T’ai Chi presented in a simple and imaginative form. This book captures much of the poetry inherent in the T’ai Chi movements.
Musashi, Miyamoto. The Book of Five Rings. trans. Nihon Services Corp. New York, NY: Bantam Books. 1982.
Originally written in the early 1600’s, this is the written philosophy (Heiho) of Musashi – a samurai. It has been considered by some to be the “Japanese Guide to Management.” It is one of the classic books on timing, strategy, and skill.
Smith, Fritz Frederick, M.D. Inner Bridges: A Guide to Energy Movement and Body Structure. Atlanta, GA: Humanics New Age, 1986.
Contains a reasoned approach to bridging the conceptual gaps between western and eastern science. Demonstrates some of the energy concepts put forth by the east in terms of modern western experiments.
Smullyan, Raymond M. The Tao is Silent. New York, NY: Harper & Row. 1977.
A philosophical work, this book is directed towards creating an understanding the Tao and the natural principles it follows for the western mind. Much of the philosophy of Tao is reflected in the principles of T’ai Chi (i.e. the balance of Yin and Yang).
Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Thomas Cleary, trans. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1988.
Contains an excellent introduction to this classic of battle strategy. The work is organized by topic and each point is accompanied by traditional commentaries. Explanation and introduction of the commentators is given.
Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Samuel B. Griffith, trans. London: Oxford University Press, 1963.
Provides an historical context and perspective on the work of Sun Tzu. Various attendant sections provide essential definitions and background information.
Todd, Mabel E. The Thinking Body. Brooklyn, NY: Dance Horizons, Inc. 1937.
Discussion and explanation of body mechanics and kinesiology for the movement artist. Physical forces and dynamics are discussed in terms of the physiological and structural components. Explanations are given using conceptual references and formal anatomical terminology.
Wile, Douglas, trans. T’ai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions.Brooklyn, NY: Sweet Chi Press. 1983.
This collection of manuscripts contains the basic principles of the T’ai Chi form handed down by the Yang family. Colorful and highly readable, it provides an advanced level of understanding in philosophy and technique for the T’ai Chi student.
Wilhelm, Richard, trans. The I Ching or Book of Changes. Cary F. Baynes (English) trans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 1950.
A scholarly work devoted to providing faithful translations (Chinese to German – Wilhelm; German to English – Baynes) and explanation of this classic text on metaphysics and human behavior. Explanations of the tenants and philosophy of the Tao are illustrated by the situations and directions associated with each of the 64 hexagrams. Charts and attributes for the trigrams and hexagrams are given along with instructions for use of the oracle.
Wong, Eva, trans. Cultivating Stillness: A Taoist Manual for Transforming Body and Mind. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1992.
This work from the Taoist canon is one of the most instructive and intuitive books on taoist meditation and self cultivation available; a fortunate exception to the many Chinese classics which are only available in their original language.
Wong, Eva, trans. Seven Taoist Masters: A Folk Novel of China. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1990.
A delightful collection of folkstories about the paths taken by seven different people in their aspirations to become immortal taoist masters. An excellent source of both philosophy and role models.
Yang, Jwing Ming, Ph.D. Advanced Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan, volume 1: Tai Chi Theory and Tai Chi Jing. Jamaica Plain, MA: Yang’s Martial Arts Association. 1987.
An authoritative and scholarly work devoted to the applications of the taiji form. In addition to the clear photographs, there are extensive explanations of taiji theory. Chinese characters for many of the taiji terms are given in an appendix, making this book a valuable reference.
Yang, Zhenduo. Yang Style Taijiquan. Beijing, PRC: Morning Glory Press. 1988.
A detailed explanation of the Yang style, its postures, theory, and applications with extensive, explicit photographs of Yang Zhen Duo himself performing the postures. This book also includes some rare, old Photos of Yang Zhen Duo’s father, Yang Cheng Fu, the founder of Yang style.
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