Taoism and Circle Walking

Tung Hai-Chuan (1813-1882) became a member of the Chuan Chen (Complete Truth) sect of Taoism. This sect was part of the Lung Men (Dragon Gate) school of Taoism which was originated by Chou Chang-Ch’uan. Interestingly enough, Chou also invented a method of meditation whereby the practitioner would walk in a circle and, wouldn’t you know, this method was practiced by the Chuan Chen sect. Delving further into this Taoist connection, Professor K’ang Kuo Wu was able to find a section in the Taoist Canon which reads:‘A person’s heart and mind are in chaos. Concentration on one thing makes the mind pure. 

If one aspires to reach the Tao, one should practice walking in a circle.‘This bit of evidence inspired Professor K’ang Kuo Wu of Beijing to try and find out more about the circle walk meditation method practiced by the Chuan Chen Taoists. What he discovered was that this practice, which the Taoists called Chuan T’ien Tsun (Rotating in Worship of Heaven) is very similar in principle to the circle walk practice of Pa Kua Chang. Researching Wang Chun-Pao’s book, ‘Taoist Method of Walking the Circle,’ Professor K’ang found that while walking, the Taoists repeated one of two mantras.

The first of these mantras was used in the morning practice and translates to mean ‘When Rotating in Worship of Heaven, the sound of thunder is everywhere and transforms everything.’ The second mantra was used in the evening practice and translates to mean ‘When Rotating in Worship of Heaven, the great void saves us from the hardship of existence.’ It was said that the practitioner should repeat the mantra with each movement in the circle walk practice so that ‘one replaces one’s myriad thoughts with a single thought in order to calm and ease one’s mind.’ The Taoists said that in walking the circle the body’s movements should be unified and the practitioner strives for stillness in motion. This practice was described as a method of training the body while harnessing the spirit.“ ~Jiang Hao-Quan Chinese Martial Arts Institute

“The solo aspect of its circular solo practice is beautiful, yet exotic, full of graceful twisting movement, sudden stops and changes of direction, swooping and lifting actions as well as explosive hand movements. The functional aspect is harshly effective, without sporting elements as its martial effectiveness was refined by the many practitioners at the turn of the century who earned their living as personal bodyguards and merchant convoy escorts.  Like the other internal arts, pa-kua emphasizes balance, natural breathing and relaxation, stability of stance, the development of twisting strength and internal power both for healing and martial purposes as well as the use of the mind to create intent and lead chi flow.  Most defensive and offensive movements are done with the open hand; the horizontal energy of the twisting torso is emphasized; the weight of the body stays on the back foot when walking in a circle (though not necessarily when doing postures within each “change”; the steps are rather tight, the knees staying in close proximity one-to-the-other; and, kicks are normally aimed low, to the ankles, shins and knees.  The essence of the art is learning to be upright, stable and comfortable in your posture and body mechanics while cultivating the ability to change quickly to deal with the tactics of an opponent. The smaller student learns to evade strikes while counter-attacking and the larger learns to batter his/her way through the attacker’s arms as a prelude to counter-attacking.” ~Michael Babin, Studying Pa Kua Chang Walking Meditation Ways of Walking