The "Taijiquan Treatise" is thought to be one of the most important writings in all of taijiquan. It is the second of the seminal Taijiquan Classics. The hand written text was said to have been found stored in the back room of a Wuyang salt shop in the 1850s. (see google.books) The following entry and its annotations have been taken from some of the best translations and commentaries made on the original texts. These sources are sited in the footnotes and in the list of Sources directly below.
1. Taiji is born from Wuji. It is the mother of Yin and Yang.
In movement Taiji separates; in stillness Yin and Yang reunite and return to Wuji.
The Chinese term Wuji 無極 "limitless; infinite" is a compound of wu 無 "without; no; not have; there is not; nothing, nothingness" and ji 極 "ridgepole; roof ridge; highest/utmost point; extreme; earth's pole; reach the end; attain; exhaust".
The Taijitu shoo 太極圖說 "Explanation of the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate", written by Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073 CE), was the cornerstone of Neo-Confucianist cosmology. His brief text synthesized Confucianist metaphysics of the Yijing with aspects of Daoism and Chinese Buddhism. In the Taijitu diagram, wuji is represented as a blank circle and taiji as a circle with a center point (world embryo) or with broken and unbroken lines (yin and yang).
Yin yang symbol with wuji at its center. Lái Zhīdé (來知德 / 来知德; 1525–1604) introduced into Chinese philosophy the well-known "Yin and Yang symbol", the taijitu (a "diagram of the great ultimate").
The classic Daoist Taijitu with its "fish-like" shape. The white representing Yang and black representing Yin. The symbol is a visual depiction of the intertwined duality of all things in nature.
According to traditional Chinese thought, in the beginning was an empty but infinitely potential nothingness called wuji ("no boundaries"). From that came taiji (tai chi) the "supreme ultimate." Yin is negative passive energy; yang is positive active energy. Their continuous and changing interactions produce the basic actualizations of all existence. These concepts also give the name, and form the basis of the martial art called taijiquan (t'ai chi ch'uan or tai chi),
2. No excess, or inadequacies [In the postures and movements of taijiquan].
If your opponent extends out, then yield (withdraw). Adhere to his every movement.
3. When an opponent uses hard force, softly yield to it.
4. If he backs up in a retreat, follow closely.
… as if being stuck on him. You are like his shadow: you cannot be separated; you cannot be pushed away. Consider that Taijiquan is also called "Shadow Boxing." [Da Liu 103].
5. If the opponent's movement is fast, react quickly.
If his movement is slow, then follow him slowly.
Although there are endless possible variations, there is only this one principle.
The overriding principle in tai chi is to use contrary motions against your opponent to gain control and victory. Throughout this entry this principle will be called "Reactive-Adherence."
6. Through experiencing the sensations of martial arts movements done correctly, one gradually comprehends "internal strength" (Jin).
Internal Strength ("Jin" – sometimes written "jing") is a combination of muscular strength ("Li") with Qi ("inner energy") to create physical power and force. [editor's note]
7. From the comprehension of "internal strength" one can reach spiritual enlightenment.
"The implications have to do with either reaching an extraordinary or even esoteric level of development or … since [enlightenment is] … thought to be spiritually 'channeled'—the idea of mediating subtle energies." [Sam Masich, Taijiquan Treatise].
8. Without constant diligent practice there can be no sudden understanding.
An understanding analogous to a Zen-like instant realization.
9. Without effort internal strength [jin] rises to the top of the head. Vital life energy [qi] sinks to the lower abdomen (dantian).
Fully in the moment, and with a straight back and a raised head, energetic strength [jin] rises to the crown of the head, as qi is stored for use in the dantian.
10. Do not incline or lean.
Keep your posture straight. Leaning will cause blockages in the flow of qi. [Liao 102].
11. Conceal suddenly. Reveal suddenly.
Emptiness, invisibility, height and depth are what the opponent confronts as [he is] drawn in and his energy lands on nothing. [Wile 44].
12. If left is heavy, then become empty. If right is heavy, then vanish.
If attacked on your left, then withdraw as you turn to the left. Do the same for the right. In this way the attacking force does not connect to you, its target. [Liang 37]. Again "Reactive-Adherence."
13. If the opponent pushes upward against you, then become taller. If he pushes downward, then become lower.
When pushed forward and upward you withdraw backward and upward. If pressed down you throw yourself so low the opponent looses his balance. These concepts may be used offensively: when you push upward he feels he is going to be thrown high into the sky. When you lower and push down he feels he is being crushed into the earth. [Liang 37].
14. If he advances, you seem further away. If he retreats, you seem even closer.
By answering his advance by withdrawing, you induce him to come forward. Before his energy can reach your body, you "Roll Back" and his energy goes off to the side and he is only striking at air. [Liang 38-9].
15. A feather cannot be placed. A fly cannot alight.
The entire body is so light that if a feather touches it anywhere it will be felt. The body is so flexible that a fly cannot alight on it without setting it in motion. [Cheng Man Ching].
16. My opponent cannot detect my moves, but I can anticipate his. [Cheng Man Ching].
To know the other person – by such things as having an intuitive sensing of their energy (qi) – enables you able to respond to their positions and movements before they make them. [editor's notes].
17. If you master these techniques, you will become an invincible hero.
18. There are many other styles of martial arts. Most believe the strong will defeat the weak, or the fast will defeat the slow.
This as the result of external physical abilities, and not, like taijiquan, as an achievement of well-trained internal techniques.
19. From the words "four ounces of force deflects a thousand pounds" we understand victory does not come from superior strength alone.
The key word here is "deflect" as in using a small amount of force through leveraging, balancing and counterbalancing to control and conquer a greater force.
20. Observe an old person defeating a group of youthful attackers. How can that be due to swiftness?
21. Stand like a balanced scale and move like a turning wheel.
"Scale" could be understood as being like a carpenter's level which enables the detection of any change of balance in your postures or movements when interacting with the opponent. "Like a turning wheel" suggests your movements revolve effortlessly and without interruptions around your central axis. Both this balancing and turning allow for the correction of any imbalances in your inner power and energy.
22. Sinking weight to one side allows movement to flow.
Double weighting (shuangzhong) [i.e., weight spread equally onto both feet] leads to stagnation.
Keep your weight sunk on one side. If it is spread on two feet you will be pushed over easily. [Cheng Man Ching].
Double weighting [creates] mutual resistance between you and your opponent. This happens when an opponent places "weight" (i.e., pressure or force) on you and you react by exerting pressure or force back at him. You loose the ability to execute your skills of speed, and your techniques become stagnant. [Dr. Yang. Tai Chi Secrets, p.30].
Another way to understand this is to consider two bulls locking horns and attempting to fight. This is an example of double weighting. Now picture a bull charging at a bullfighter. The bullfighter in the taijiquan fashion of yielding and turning, gains the opportunities to wound and kill the bull with his sword. [from Fred Hao]
23. After years of practice if someone is unable to neutralize an opponent, or is controlled by the opponent, the fault is caused by not having fully understood the concept of double weighting.
Double weighting creates a situation of your loosing your mobility. Rather than being one with him, you and he become as two (i.e., "double"), which is counter to the teachings of taijiquan. However the key to the principle of double weighting is not simply "never have your weight evenly distributed between both feet," for often that may be proper — but rather never loose your focus and potential for instantaneous adhesive reactions to your opponent. [Editor's note: This is explained by Chen Xiao Wang on the video "Doubleweighted."]
24. To avoid this fault [of being double weighted and/or being disconnected to your opponent as in being "double" with him] you must understand the dynamic interactions of yin and yang.
As an example, if attacked on the left side, withdraw your body and shift your weight to the rear foot, now further neutralize the attack by turning to the left. The left is now insubstantial [Yin]; you counterattack with your right hand which becomes substantial [Yang]. [Liang 43]
Here yin also implies "hidden" or "latent"; yang also implies "expansion." So we have "Latent Expansion" as in the state of being ready to project physical energy. [Wu Yuxiang].
25. To adhere [sticking to] is to yield [move away]. To yield is to adhere.
Sticking to and moving away are not contrary independent principles, but in taijiquan should be used together.
26. Yin is not separate from Yang; Yang is not separate from Yin.
Yin and Yang complete each other.
Yin and yang are the integral parts of both taiji (i.e., the "supreme ultimate" as expressed in the taiji diagram.
You can't have one without the other.
27. Understanding this, you will understand Internal Strength ("Jin" - muscular strength and inner qi). Then with practice comes more skill.
28. With silent contemplation one can reach the stage where one's actions absolutely follow the mind. [Da Liu 107].
All movements will be generated from mental intention alone. Gradually whatsoever desired
will be accomplished or obtained.
29. The foundation [of taijiquan] is giving up yourself, in order to follow the other person.
Again "Reactive-Adherence"— Here as do not initiate movements but rather respond to those of your opponent. This ability is especially gained in the practice of two person routines such as Pushing [or Push] Hands where you are constantly reacting physically to the other's movements.
30. Many mistakenly give up the near to seek the far.
Taijiquan Treatise – Taijiquan Lun – T'ai Chi Lun
T'ai Chi Ch'uan Lun
Wang Zongyue – Wang Tsung-yueh
Chinese Script for Key Terms
What is near is your opponent; what is far away are your many premature ideas. To think about your stockpile of preconceived movements, rather than reacting instantaneously to your opponent, is to set yourself up for defeat. In other words, stay in the moment.
31. A discrepancy by just the measurement of a hair-breadth, and the opportunity is lost by a thousand miles.
This refers to not reacting at the proper time, or not being "stuck" at the right place (or places), on the opponent. (A Chinese "mile" is called "Li" and is about a third of a American mile.)
32. All these things are to study and know if you wish to be successful with your practice. Hence this Treatise (was written).
^ Title also appears as Treatise of T'ai-chi Ch'üan. Lun means "treatise" - "theory" – "discussion" – "thesis." The original date of publication and the author are unclear. Copies began appearing in the mid-nineteenth century and it quickly gained the status of a taijiquan "scripture." Wile, p. 47.
^ Besides Wang Zongyue, also suggested as authors are Zhang Sanfeng, Chen Wangting, or Yang Luchan. Davis p. 120. However exact authorship still remains historically ambiguous.