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114 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Sophia Delza. The T'ai-Chi Ch'uan Experience: Reflections and Perceptions on Body-Mind Harmony. Foreword by Robert C. Neville. Albany: State University ofNew York Press, 1996. xxiv, 330 pp. Hardcover, isbn 0-79142897 -4. Paperback, isbn 0-7914-2898-2. There are by now many books in English on taijiquan j^ML^ß, "Supreme Ultimate boxing," and countiess devout practitioners ofit in the Western world. Sophia Delza can take much of the credit for its early spread in the United States, through her teaching and through the various editions ofher earlier book, T'aiChi Ch'uan: Body and Mind in Harmony (1961; reprint, 1973; and greatly revised and expanded in a 1985 edition from the State University ofNew York Press). The present book, from the same press, is a collection ofmiscellaneous pieces by her, in verse as well as in prose. Many of these were published previously, in widely scattered sources, including her previous book; and they are here arranged informally under loose general headings. Admirers ofSophia Delza will be glad to have this new book, but in many ways it is a disappointment. It is unscholarly; it is carelessly edited and repetitive; and, being more focused on ideas than the earlier work (which was basically a manual ofpractice), it is open to philosophical and other objections. As a whole, it has a curiously old-fashioned air about it. Delza studied the Wu ^l style in Shanghai from 1948 to the latter 1950s (she is not very specific about dates), with the respected teacher Ma Yueliang HtSÍIc· Her knowledge ofother styles seems to be much less, though she makes a few comparisons with the related Yang IH style. She repeatedly characterizes taijiquan as an "exercise-art" (and its practitioners as "players") and insists that it should not be thought ofas "moving meditation" (p. 235). However, her concept of meditation seems unduly narrow: she says that "Meditation is no movement and no-mind, the suspension ofmind" (ibid.). But elsewhere she emphasizes the importance for taijiquan of "concentration" and "profound awareness," both of which qualities are common ingredients ofmeditation practice. The argument is therefore partly about words. In other chapters, while allowing that taijiquan may have self-defense applications , Delza quite sharply criticizes the characterization of taijiquan as a martial art. "The concept and use of the word 'martial' with T'ai-Chi Ch'uan is relatively recent. Especially emphasized in the West, 'martial' is added, indiscriminately, to any Eastern exercise activity which demands physical prowess. ... I know that the y mversity wor(j 'martial' (art) is in use in China at present, but I believe it is being done so in imitation ofthe American (and English) way, which lumps all Eastern exercise forms under the martial arts" (pp. 227-228). This is quite incorrect. Although taijiquan in its present form is indeed an "exercise-art" rather than a "martial art" ofHawai'i Press Reviews 115 (perhaps especially in the Wu school), and although the modern concept of wu shu H£M, "martial arts," is no doubt influenced by Western (and Japanese) notions , taijiquan either originated as an "art ofcombat" (this term is more precise than "martial art") or was directly inspired by one, while the term wu shu and the similar term wuyi ISM can both be traced back to at least the fifth century. In 1973, a chart showing a sequence ofcalisthenic exercises from the second century b.c. was found at Changsha (the Mawangdui ISzEiEi tomb no. 3). Delza does not mention this, but it is easy to imagine that it was preceded and followed historically by comparable sets of exercises (even ifone does not need to take literally the legend quoted by her concerning Emperor Yu H in the third millennium b.c.). Probably some ofthese exercises had the character ofmartial drills, even ifthey were not in themselves arts of combat, just as from quite early times there may well have been combat systems for which physical or spiritual benefits were claimed. Delza repeats (many times) the story that taijiquan was the creation ofone Zhang Sanfeng 5SHlI^, whom she generally (but not invariably) dates to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 114-116
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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