About the Notebook

I’ve been studying Tai Chi for twelve years. For most of that time I have maintained an online Tai Chi Notebook, not because I am any kind of authority–I’m not!–but because it helps me. I’m a writer–I learn best by writing. Also, it helps to have video links and lists of names within easy reach.

I am currently studying, at a distance, with Master Jesse Tsao, with whom I have traveled to China twice. I have also studied with Grandmaster Aiping Cheng, who moved to Austin a couple of years ago, much to my delight, and with a wonderful Taiwanese master named Frank Lee.

I first learned Tai Chi at Master Gohring’s Tai Chi and Kung Fu in Austin, but I have also practiced for some years with a woman named Long Feng, who studied with a master in her native Sichuan Province, and with other Chinese friends in my neighborhood. Among them in particular, Hu Pei Yi, a national-level instructor and coach from Jiangying, has been extremely generous with her excellent teaching. Most of what I know about sword I have learned from her.


I am in black, with a gold fan, and that’s Hu Pei Yi in white next to me, with a blue fan. Long Feng is on my other side, with a gold fan like mine. Lily, with the red fan and blue shirt, is the subject of one of my books, Red Sky in the Morning.

My Chinese friends mostly don’t speak English. Most are about my age, with grown children who have moved to this country. I’ve picked up a little conversational Chinese, but I’ve learned a fair amount of what I call Taijiese–Chinese names and directions for Tai Chi movements and forms. A number of pages in this notebook are devoted to the study of these terms.


This is me, doing blissful early morning Yang in the Wudang mountains.

My practice encompasses both traditional and modern Tai Chi. I have studied both Yang and Chen styles, and I have worked through the Wu-style long form (but I won’t say I know it very well). For the past year I have been learning Sun-style, both the traditional long form and the competition form.

I’m not an instructor. The material in this notebook is not reviewed or approved by anyone. These are my personal notes, which anyone is welcome to use, but which exist mainly for my own convenience. I am happy to hear about any mistakes or need for corrections!

Like I said–I’m a writer. I’ve published three murder mysteries and one short non-fiction.


In Lay Death at her Door, an old murder comes unsolved when the man convicted of it is exonerated. That book got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly:

The bill for lies told decades earlier comes due for Kate Cranbrook, the complex narrator of Buhmann’s superior debut. In 1986, while Kate was a college student at Sweet Briar in western Virginia, she was raped and witnessed a murder. Kate’s eyewitness testimony convicts a man who’s released more than 20 years later based on DNA evidence. The development isn’t a complete surprise to Kate, who has lived with the knowledge that she perjured herself. Her life since the trial has been a disappointment, and her social life is limited by her possessive and creepy father, Pop, who keeps her on a tight leash. That constraint becomes even more difficult to bear when Kate, who works as a landscaper, falls for a gardener, Tony, and hopes she has found the love of her life. Things don’t go smoothly, and more blood is shed along the way to a jaw-dropping, but logical, climax that will make veteran mystery readers eager for more of Buhmann’s work. (starred review, Publisher’s weekly)

BLUE LAKE: Richmond, Virginia, 1968. Regina Hannon’s family was destroyed by the loss of a sister she can barely remember. When she learns that the death was once investigated as murder, Regina sets out to find the truth about tragedy reaching back to the early years of the century. Stirring up old heartache and fury, she is blindsided by unexpected danger.

“Just finished Blue Lake and absolutely loved it. Could not put it down and did not see the end coming. Beautifully written!”

ACCIDENTS OF LIFE: Ex-homicide detective Gil Tillier is called to a bloody crime scene. Local cops are off like hounds on a trail of forensic evidence, but Tillier’s instinct tells him that a strange, frightened teenage girl on the sidelines knows something that would break the case wide open. If he could only win her trust.

In Red Sky in the Morning, I tell the story of my friend Lily’s journey from war-torn Saigon, across the South China Sea, and ultimately to America. That book was illustrated by a well-known watercolorist, JU Salvant.

5 thoughts on “About the Notebook

  1. Dear Elizabeth, your blog / notebook is very interesting and well done. I too am a Tai Chi enthusiast. I plan to write a book about what I have learnt. I was just taught the fan form. However, it is the 30 move set, not the 42 move set you describe. It is by the same creator. A video of the form (quite old now) shows the names of the moves in Chinese characters. I’ve reconciled all but 7 of the names (that is, 23 moves are in common). I was wondering if you could help fill in the blanks. Also, I have many more questions I could ask of you if you are open to discussion. All the best in life. -Simon

    • Hello, Simon. The 42-step fan form is the mid-level Huawu form. I have never seen video or names for the first level, but I bet that’s what you’ve found. If you want to send me a link, I’ll be glad to see if I can figure out the missing characters. Thanks for your comment! Elizabeth

      • Hi Elizabeth, Here is the link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG7enkPER5Y.
        Also, I’d had a friend translate the missing names, see if you agree. Here is the list, in brackets are the moves in common with the 42 form.
        1. Commencement (1)
        2. Red phoenix greets the sun (3)
        3. White monkey offers fruit
        4. Three rams bring bliss
        5. Push the waves even higher (4)
        6. Wild goose swoops down (5)
        7. Turnaround and hit the tiger (6)
        8. Bend to pluck the lotus root (7)
        9. The bird returns to the forest
        10. Divine dragon looks back
        11. Goose lands in the desert
        12. Giant roc flies obliquely
        13. Lion holds the pearl (34)
        14. Swallow skims the water (14)
        15. Golden rooster stands on one leg (15)
        16. Cloud-swallow returns to the nest
        17. Peacock spreads its tail (8)
        18. Push boat with current (17)
        19. White crane spreads wings (18)
        20. Feathered fan paddles the river (19)
        21. Flower opens to the moon (21)
        22. White snake sticks out its tongue (22)
        23. Fair lady works the shuttles (23)
        24. Drunken beauty (29)
        25. Great grandfather goes fishing (37)
        26. Face the wind and brush away dust (24)
        27. Eagle spreads its wings (38)
        28. Golden phoenix turns its head (39)
        29. Spirit woman shows the way (41)
        30. Conclusion (42)
        One possibly idiomatic name is move 16, “cloud-swallow” is a poetic name for wonton dumplings, which when cooked in broth float like small clouds. This still does not make much sense! What’s the nest for a wonton?

  2. I stumbled on your notebook and I’m enjoying it immensely. Thank you for your sincere effort to collect and share your experiences.

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