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A taijiquan spelling bee

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

Reader C.W. wrote with a good correction: it’s “taijiquan,” not “t’ai chi,” as I have often carelessly written on this website, despite practicing taijiquan for most of my life. This has been in my mental “need to get clear about that” file for the entire time. I’m a language enthusiast (as a writer should be), and I knew that I didn’t have this down, but just had never gotten around to looking it up. I’ve now fixed this in a few places on

For a gold star, always use either taiji or, even better, taijiquan — that’s the modern Pinyin transliteration. But the older Wade-Giles version, t’ai chi or t’ai chi ch’uan, is still common, and the simplified tai chi is acceptable and common. Just don’t mix up your chi with your ch’i. Ji and chi are not the same thing as ch’i and qi — almost everyone makes this mistake (including me, for many years). Ji/chi is a philosophical concept, a really deep thought, hard to define and translate, but “pole” or “ultimate” will do. Qi/ch’i refers to breath or life energy, like the western concept of vis vitalis (vital force) or the Greek pneuma (breath, spirit, soul). So t’ai chi really is not tai ch’i — moving the apostrophe changes the meaning.

This information added to the article T’ai Chi Helps Fibromyalgia, but It’s Not “Alternative” Medicine (and it’s no accident that title uses “tai chi” — for search engines, you’ve got to stick to the most popular spellings).

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