The earth above the lake:
The image of APPROACH.
Thus the superior man is inexhaustible
In his will to teach,
And without limits
In his tolerance and protection of the people.

The earth borders upon the lake from above. This symbolizes the approach and condescension of the man of higher position to those beneath him. The two parts of the image indicate what his attitude toward these people will be. Just as the lake is inexhaustible in depth, so the sage is inexhaustible in his readiness to teach mankind, and just as the earth is boundlessly wide, sustaining and caring for all creatures on it, so the sage sustains and cares for all people and excludes no part of humanity.

I Ching - 19. Approach

Included on this page

What Does Lineage Mean and Why is it Important
Historical Lineage
Legendary lineage
How Can You be Part of Lineage

    Our Tai Chi Lineage

    It is a wonderful gift to know where you come from and to understand the challenges your predecessors faced and overcame. This is just as true in our personal lives as it is in our working lives.

    I believe that if you don't have a sense of where you come from it may be difficult for you to feel a meaningful sense of direction in your life. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it," the saying goes. Investigation into your roots may wind up showing you that your foremothers and forefathers have already grappled with the problems you're facing, and may have solutions to offer you, if you know how to listen.

    A simple example: knowing your family has a history of heart disease can mean that adopting a better diet and practicing Tai Chi may be all you need to live a longer, healthier life.

    Getting to know the strengths, weaknesses, failures and accomplishments of those who came before is time well spent.

    Lineage East and West

    The Western tradition puts particular emphasis on the power of written texts to pass on knowledge on their own, without human interpretation. The model of Science is the great example by which Western education is organized: experiments are performed, the results are carefully documented in writing, shared with the community, and added to the body of knowledge. Our communal knowing of the world is thought to increase as books are added to the great libraries of scholarship. The quality of the student, roughly speaking, is equivalent to the number of approved books she has read.

    Tai Chi and Taoism are a part of a very different tradition. The Taoist tradition is also quite literate, with the Taoist canon of writings comprising thousands of volumes collected over the centuries. However, an enormous importance is placed on receiving direct instruction from a teacher who embodies knowledge that is gained from direct personal experience and transmitted orally. In this tradition, the quality of the student, again roughly speaking, is equivalent to the quality of his teacher and the quality of the time they spend together.

    Therefore, great care is attached to knowing and preserving the actual list of names of teachers, and knowing who your teacher's teacher was, and your teacher's teacher's teacher, and so on. This is the narrow definition of "lineage" in Tai Chi circles.

    The Lessons of My Lineage

    When I look at the list of names in my Tai Chi lineage (see below) I get a feeling of tremendous respect for the Art of Tai Chi. So many teachers, so much thought and care! Each of the people in this great chain did many things with this knowledge. They passed along key elements, just as they had learned them. They added new elements they discovered themselves through trial-and-error life experience. They edited out things they thought had become irrelevant to the current time and their current situation.

    One of the benefits of a "teacher to teacher" system is this ability to change with the times and adapt great core truths to changing contemporary events. Tradition and adaptation go hand in hand. The sun comes up every morning, yet no two sunrises are the same.

    I have thought a great deal about how I fit in to my Tai Chi lineage. Clearly, I am different from all those who have gone before me in that I am a woman. Not only that, I am a not Chinese; I am an American of Northern European descent. In contrast to the generations of my teacher and my teacher's teacher, I have lived most of my life with no threat of war, no disasters, no loss of freedom. Many generations of the Tai Chi lineage lived under the pressures of being in a "family within a family" --- the Tai Chi family and their biological family. The pressures and duties of these family structures were enormous --- a day without practice could mean being locked in the shed with no dinner.

    At the same time I feel a real kinship with my predecessors since, as Taoist wisdom teaches us, the specifics of life are always changing, but the fundamental forces we perceive --- the stresses, the pressures, the good times and bad times --- are constant throughout the ages.

    And what have we all had in common? What great tool have we all had to use to confront these stresses? This marvelous human body and human mind, supported with the same bones, moved by the same muscles, informed by the same nerves, washed by the same emotions, driven by the same desires --- capable of cringing and cramping in fear, and capable (with training) of relaxing, expanding, and protecting itself with calm and confidence.

    As an American woman dedicated to the life practice of learning Tai Chi, I see my lineage as a foundation of truths that have already been collected and generously shared. All I need to do is constantly strive to realize them for myself and then take my realization and pass it along, as clearly and authentically as I can, to whomever is willing to receive it.

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    Historical Lineage

    Chen Chang Hsin Yang Lu-Shan Yang Chien-Hou Yang Chen-Fu Chen Man-Ching Hsu Fun-Yuen


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    Legendary Lineage

    Who is firmly established is not easily shaken.
    Who has a firm grasp does not easily let go.
    From generation to generation his ancestral sacrifices
    Shall be continued without fail.

    Cultivated in the individual, character will become genuine;
    Cultivated in the family, character will become abundant;
    Cultivated in the village, character will multiply;
    Cultivated in the state, character will prosper;
    Cultivated in the world, character will become universal.

    Lao Tzu 54.

    TUNG HUA DI CHUN - - - - - - - LU TZU - - KUAN CHUN HSI - - - - - - - LI CHUAN
    / \

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    How Can You Be a Part of Lineage

    You are automatically a part of a lineage when you complete learning the Tai Chi form. It's like being born of a mother and father --- you are automatically their child even if you never see them again after birth.

    I feel grateful, however, that my teacher formally initiated me into his Tai Chi lineage by ceremonially adopting me and giving me his family name. This official step occurred after I had passed certain tests and met certain criteria. To begin with, I needed to show tremendous respect for the art. That was easy enough. Then I needed to demonstrate a high level of competence in all aspects of what are called the Three Treasures of Learning.

    The Three Treasures of Learning

    I needed, first of all, to be a good student and follow the role of a student under a single teacher in the company of other students, Tai Chi brothers and sisters. The sibling/student aspect is very important. Practices such as Tai Chi need support, something that is often forgotten in our lonely culture.

    Next, I needed to show that I was capable of self study, that I could practice on my own and explore what I'd been taught. The idea is that, even if I were alone on a desert island, I could continue the art, for the seeds of the development already rest within me.

    Last, I needed to prove I had the skills necessary to make a good teacher. Lineage is good, but its real value rests in the ability to place the great discoveries in the hands of the next generation.

    It was only after I had demonstrated proficiency in all these areas that my teacher honored me by placing me in his own, and the Tai Chi, family tree. I was adopted after a period of study of 10 years, however there is no traditional time frame for this. In fact, in the past, teachers didn't always recognize their students by formal adoption. Instead, the world would give them their recognition, and their accomplishments would reflect back on their line of teachers. This, after all, is the simplest and most authentic recognition.

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