August 9, 2008

Olympic Pageantry Features 2,008 T'ai Chi Performers 太極拳在中國奧林匹克

The story of the 2008 Beijing Olympics is being told from many viewpoints: the athlete (as one would expect); the political and economical significance of China's rise (certainly not the first time in its long history); and the cultural—witness the opening ceremonies filled with symbolism, history and pride; not to mention the local, everyday scenes. T'ai chi is being featured both in the ceremonies and the neighborhoods as exercise, embodiment of culture, and as martial art.
The China Daily (中國日报) gives a wonderfully detailed description of the whole Opening Ceremony program. Here's the excerpt about the art of t'ai chi:

"Nature: You can interpret this number as a call for biological protection, but that would be reading too much pragmatism into it. It is about man's relations with nature, embodied in the movements of tai chi. It expounds on the philosophies from The Book of Changes, which contains an ancient system of cosmology intrinsic to Chinese cultural beliefs. The cosmology centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites.

“The 2,008 performers doing tai chi in a circle that surrounds a rectangle is an epitome of the notion of "heaven is round and earth is square". And the boxing itself perfectly illustrates Lao Tzu's teaching -- 'The soft and the pliable will defeat the hard and strong.'" China Daily

Here are other observations by reporters on the scene:

"Clearly the organizers of the opening ceremonies in Beijing spared no expense in putting this spectacle together. The Tai Chi sequence alone was a marvel of synchronization, athleticism and grace." said the Edmonton Sun.

"Amid forests of sheer fabric on which shifting images of water and light skittered, Tai-chi dancers offered a glimpse of a peculiarly Chinese environmentalism – the unity of mankind and nature." Wall Street Journal

"China hails the Beijing Olympics as the fulfillment of its "100-year dream", a slogan that harks back to a time when China was "the sick man of Asia" and looked to sport to help it return to its former status." Reuters

"You never have to travel a million miles to get cool martial arts in China - kung fu was a major feature, despite China's failure to have it installed as an Olympic sport. The sight of thousands of white-gowned tai-chi experts going through their paces was impressive." Variety

For those inspired by the Beijing Olympics to take up t'ai chi, use the links to the right to find t'ai chi groups near you.

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