Taijiese is what I call my lexicon for Tai Chi. It encompasses many Chinese terms of art and words and phrases used during instruction, as well as the names of the forms and movements of Tai Chi. It is Chinese for the Western student of Tai Chi.
Anyone in America who is fortunate enough to study Tai Chi with a Chinese master is likely to pick up at least a smattering of Chinese. Students are also likely to learn names, most often English names, for the movements of the various forms they study. Less often do they systematically set out to learn all the names of all the movements in Chinese. But I have done this, and I’ve found it to be easier than I expected and more valuable than I imagined, as a supplement to classes, lessons, and practice.
Taijiese is a very specialized vocabulary, one not covered in most tutorials and programs for learning conversational Chinese. Even dictionaries and phrase-books are of limited use, omitting words and phrases unlikely to occur in everyday situations. And when you do find the words and phrases used in Tai Chi, the meanings given in the dictionary usually have little relevance to the practice of Tai Chi.
Chinese is a difficult language for a Western speaker of English to learn, but learning Taijiese is actually quite doable. For one thing, the vocabulary is relatively small. For everyday conversation in most languages, you need a vocabulary of about a thousand words. A vocabulary of fifty words is a very good start in Taijiese. Learn one hundred words and you will be fairly fluent. And because Taijiese is used in such a specific context, it’s easier to understand and make yourself understood, as compared to everyday conversation, which can range over many possible topics. Pronunciation and regional accents are less of an issue, too, for the same reason.
I’ve added a new section to this notebook, Taijiese in the main menu, where I’ll be collecting all my various lists of useful words and phrases. If a reference like the one I have been building for the last few years exists, I am not aware of it. I haven’t got everything uploaded yet; I’ll be adding more links soon.