The name of our school is also an allusion to the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove. This group of 3rd-Century Daoist poets, musicians and philosophers retired to the country estate of one of their number in protest at the corruption and hypocrisy of the imperial court. There they would sit in a grove of bamboo, contemplating the simplicity of a rustic life, composing, writing and getting drunk. Icons of personal freedom, nonconformity and an appreciation of nature, they are frequently depicted in Chinese art.
The three key philosophies in Chinese culture are Confucianism, which emphasises the importance of social obligations and fitting into an established hierarchy; Buddhism, which seeks to liberate the individual from the suffering of existence; and Daoism, which concerns itself with adapting to the way of nature both physically and spiritually. The Chinese people, tending to be pragmatic on the whole, generally draw from all three traditions according to the circumstances, and indeed some Chinese temples actually incorporate all three.
While Tai Chi is not wholly Daoist in its origins, it draws upon some general aspects of Daoist philosophy, and the idea of taking some "time out" to work naturally with the body is fundamentally in the spirit of the ancient sages. For our students, whether or not to indulge in inebriated poetical composition, however, is strictly optional.
Andrew Howard is a Chen-style Tai Chi Instructor teaching in West Dorset, UK.