idea of "Nine Palaces" is both practical and esoteric. It derives from
ancient Taoist cosmology and dance. Originally, it signified nine
stations or portals that adepts would dance among, sealing off this
dimension from evil outside influences. Nine is an auspicious number to
Asians, and among the Cabalists is regarded as the number of powers
under God. In Chinese boxing, the number nine is used in the names of
boxing styles as diverse as Little Nine-Heaven Boxing (Hsiao Chiu T'ien
Ch'uan) and Cheng Man-ch'ing's version of Yang-style T'ai-chi, in which
emphasis is put on opening the nine joints or parts of the body (the
top of the head, the neck, the wrists, the elbows, the shoulders, the
hips, the sacrum, the knees, and the ankles), and in which the
development of one's skill passes through nine phases.
dance found its way into Bagua boxing as a practical means to develop
footwork fluency while extending the exercise from a single circle to a
figure-8 (Fig. 1) to a nine-station regimen (Fig. 2).
figure -8 (Fig.1)
nine palaces also portray
the 3x3 = 9 relativity of the body divided into three corresponding
sets of bases, centers, and tips:
1. The upper
body has the shoulders as the base, the elbows as the center, and the
hands as the tip.
2. The lower body has the hips as the
base, the knees as the center, and the feet as the tip.
The whole body has the tan-t'ien (seat of power) as the base, the heart
(seat of emotion) as the
center, and the
head (seat of intelligence) as the tip.
In Pa-kua, the sets are further tactically divided
into the high, middle, and low techniques. The head is the high or
"heavenly" tip penetrating the skies. The spirit rises and the essences
can combine harmoniously in one place. The torso is the middle set: if
it stays erect and does not lean, the nervous system can respond
quickly and the ch'i can flow easily. The feet are the low or "earthly"
base, so important for stability and agility. The student must
distinguish three sections: the head is the tip; the torso, the center;
and the feet, the base—the head must be sure; the body, well rooted;
and the feet, fluent. If any are awry, the mind (i) cannot function
properly. All is one. Pa-kua's power comes from all components of the
body coordinating with the mind and with the ch 'i. This coming
together is the meaning of the old phrase, "The Nine Palaces return to
Sun Lu-t'ang, in his Pa-kua ch'uan hsueh [A Study of
Pa-kua Boxing; Peking, 1916], touches on the esoteric aspect of the
Nine Palaces as follows (paraphrased):
The Nine Palaces are a
cosmological arrangement and are not uni¬que to Pa-kua boxing. They are
found in Chi Men Ch'uan (Mysterious Gate Boxing), which also has
movements around nine stations.... The Nine Palaces are the points of
integration whereby the prebirth (hsien-t Hen) and the postbirth (hou-t
'ien) energies [those you are born with and those you develop] unite.
The purpose of the Nine Palaces is to enable the student to obey the
divine will (i). When the Nine Palaces are integrated, you are ready
for the final stage, the "great awakening."
The Nine Palaces are
realized best when the upper/lower and in¬ner/outer aspects of a
student are harmonized. As the years pass, his whole being is reformed.
His sinews and membranes change con¬tinuously, coming under more direct
control of his brain. In turn, his brain then is controlled by his
spirit, and, ultimately, by the divine mind, or the tao.
process occurs, the student occasionally will glimpse his original or
divine face for a moment. This moment must recur many times for him to
be able to progress to the final phase, in which he can will the divine
face to reappear. Therefore, one who trains at Pa-kua diligently for a
considerable amount of time displays his nature at its best.
be concerned if the subject of what Sun spoke of seems too esoteric or
abstruse. It is not important that you understand every idea—especially
at the beginning. Merely do the practice as set forth in Part Two, and,
over time, your body will help your mind to come to an understanding.
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and fighting daoist exercises of Great Master Lu Zijian, 115 years old.