Taiji Chih or Ruler (no relationship with Taijiquan) is a sacred and secret qigong first made public in 1954 by Master Zhao Zhong-dao. It is called the Ruler (Chi, sometimes spelled Chih) because during the basic exercise the hands are held about a foot apart. You may practice this qigong while holding a foot-long “Ruler” between the palms. The Ruler is made of a light porous wood such as willow and rounded at both ends so it fits comfortably in the hands. The physical ruler encourages the flow of ch’i. The Taiji Chih system consists of gentle rocking and swaying movements that build ch’i in the feet, the dantian, and the hands. It can be used for self-healing or as a preparation for any form of massage therapy or therapeutic touch. Your hands will feel warm, vibrating, full of healing power after a few minutes’ practice. In the United States, several bizarre variations to the Ruler have become popular, many with little relationship to Zhao’s original techniques. The method we present here at Dao-yin Taiji Study Group has been handed down from direct students of Zhao, several second- or third generation students, and then corroborated by comparison with Zhao’s original Chinese text.
The Ruler has a fascinating and venerable history. The Taiji Chih is one of the several forms of qigong attributed to the tenth-century Daoist recluse Chen Xi-yi. Chen lived on Mount Hua, the Daoist sacred mountian in Shenxi Province. The Jade Spring Temple at the foot of the mountain was designed by Chen and contains a statue of him. The monks still recount a legend that after Chen died, his bones glowed with red light. A visitor once stole a shinbone. This so infuriated the monks that they moved his remains to a secret location, never again revealed.
For many years Chen was friends with a young visitor name Zhao Kuang-yin. Zhao loved the beauty of the mountains and frequently journeyed to Mount Hua to join Chen in two of his favorite pastimes: playing Chinese chess and practicing qigong. Years later, when Zhao rose to power as the first emperor of the Song Dynasty, he taught Master Chen’s qigong methods to his children. Chen’s T’ai-Chi Chih method was maintained within the imperial family, passed down from generation to generation as a precious heirloom and secret to good health. Toward the middle of the nineteenth century, the art was transmitted to a direct descendant, Zhao Zhong-dao (1844-1962). Just before Zhao’s grandmother died at age 108, she told her twenty-two year old grandson, “Although the Taiji Chih cannot make you an immortal, it can certainly rid you of disease and increase your life span. Do not overlook it.”
Zhao kept up the family practice, and in 1954 he founded in Beijing “The Gentle Art of Taiji Health Society,” the first school to publicly teach the Taiji Chih. The Society was like a university teaching hospital. Scientists and qigong practitioners from all over China came to learn the art. Patients with debilitating and chronic diseases arrived for treatment. The Society was very successful treating digestive and nervous system disorders, insomnia, high blood pressure, and numerous other problems that had failed to respond to medical treatment.
According to Master Zhao’s biography, when Zhao passed on at age 118, “He did not have the appearance of a flickering lamp. On the contrary, he had a child’s complexion and silvery hair. His face exuded a health reddish glow and he could chat for hours. One glance and you knew this was an exceptional human being. . . . His hearing and vision were sharp. He had strong teeth, unwrinkled skin, and he slept and ate like a young man.”
The Taiji Chih is a complex and complete system of ch’i development that includes numerous solo exercises, exercises with training equipment, and two-person routines. Almost all teachers of the Ruler begin with the same foundation exercises.