The Nine Holed Pearl

I was reading the Xiang Kairen “Push Hands” article again, when I was struck by another one of those insights. “Fair Lady Weaves Shuttles”.. “Taijiquan is like threading a nine holed pearl.”.. “The body is like a wheel.. The waist is like the axle.” Something clicked with a feeling I had about my form.

Simple metaphors are sometimes lost on us. Perhaps our modern mind misses the hands on knowledge of a simpler time. What is the movement principle? When one part moves, all parts move. On the other hand, it can be described as not moving, and this is also correct. Our first understanding comes by looking at the metaphors which talk about the movement principle.

Consider a wheel resting on the ground. Where can there be two heavy places? If there are two, then it cannot move, Therefore the Taijiquan Treatise says, “Do not allow any breaks or deficiencies; do not allow hollows or projections.” The reason is that if there are breaks or deficiencies, hollows or projections, then you cannot be circular. And if you are not circular, then you will be double weighted.. -Xiang Kairen, from

Breaks, hollows, and flat surfaces are created by two pebbles thrown, not one. Do the hands move? Perhaps this is an incorrect question. Often it is said the hands may lead the body, or the body may lead the hands, but I am not sure this is really the main point. In the process of learning, if our goal is song (relax), or central equilibrium, then to practice of qi gong we must first understand the movement principle on in theory, or it is not qi gong at all. How can you practice qi gong if you don’t know what you’re doing?

Therefore, Zhan Zhuang is our first qigong. You might go so far as to say it’s our kakari. The single person equivalent of “invest in loss“. So all things considered, following this movement principle turns out to be simply an expression of humility.

Again, from the Xiang Kairen article:

We should understand that single weighted or double-weighted is not a matter of outer appearance but of the inside. Taijiquan is only the exercise of a central pivot. When you have found where this pivot is located, then your feeling will become spherical and every place will be single weighted, If you do not find the center of gravity, then your feeling will become stagnant and every place will be double-weighted. And it is not only the feet and hands–even one finger will be double weighted.

Personally? My body cannot yet express dantien rotation. I only understand the principle and training methods. This would be called the xin ming stage. One of my own goals is to rediscover the center point, because that is the part that does not move. From there, nothing moves, yet it can have the outward appearance of moving. “A wheel is useful because of the center-point”. The center point is created by your mind, and then expressed physically. It it is then discovered physically and expressed by your mind. If in the form you cannot “move in two directions” then your center point is not really a center point, in that case it is the same to say that you are double weighted – or perhaps more appropriately – double centered.

“Taijiquan is like a Nine Holed Pearl”.

How do you thread a pearl with nine joints in the hole? You cannot use strength, you must use technique. This is like the saying “lian li bu lian li“, train technique and not physical strength. You twist the thread (the technique) and this allows it to pass the joints inside. You cannot simply push the thread through with muscle, because the string does not have any strength or stiffness whatsoever. So having strength or not, this is not even the fundamental question, but rather an assumption and not the main point. How strong is the incoming force? Doesn’t this just make it easier to detect and avoid? If jing is is stiff and straight then what’s the effective difference between jing and li?

Once the desire to stuff the pearl has been removed, we can try to twist the string through the bends inside. It is difficult enough to thread the pearl by twisting one end, but if force was applied in an external manner, from or to the middle or front of the string only, then it breaks the twisting and threading the pearl would be impossible.

“The body is like a wheel. The waist is like the axle.”

The waist is the axle, means that the body surrounds the center point, which is in the waist. This gives us the general location of the dantian, and thinking further about the analogy we arrive at the image of the Dai Mai meridian (here is a chart, and here is more information).

Anyone can recognize these metaphors when they are explained but it requires a hard practice to understand them on a physical level where they can be employed. They are not secrets. In fact they are the opposite. They tell you what you must look for; they tell you how to practice. If you understand them and put them into practice then your Taijiquan will surely improve.

In the end you must do your own research – the true requirement for taijiquan is a search for truth, a thirst that might never be quenched but for understanding taijiquan. Only then will you accquire the method. After all, what I’ve said here is only a stepping stone, just a small flashlight that you might find useful. Then again, maybe it’s nothing, just a beginner’s mistake. In the end I think that everything I have said here can be reduced to “keeping the yuan qi smooth” as explained in the classics

I will post on this again when I have more experience trying to apply these theories. Good luck and keep practicing!


One Response

  1. Threading a 9-holed pearl:

    Intricately carved ivory puzzle ball at the Chen Family Temple -- Could you carve this?

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