Bodily Sense and Spiritually Sensibility: the practices of Tai Chi Quan in the UK

This research takes one of the primary contemporary icons of Chinese tradition – the popular practice of Tai Chi – and subjects its career in both China and the West, to a series of critical interrogations focusing on three main moments; the invention and (re)imagination of tradition, the practice’s migration from China to the West, and its translation by its English practitioners. Based on ethnography in the United Kingdom it explores the contending understandings of Tai Chi among its British practitioners, both teachers and students. It explores the ways in which British practitioners’ invention and translation of bodily sense such as rou (softness), xu (emptiness) and how these bodily senses shape the practitioners’ understanding tai chi quan as a spiritual discipline rather than martial arts.

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