The visual language of Tai Chi


How do the images of Tai Chi we are presented with colour our thinking about it?

My previous post about Stoicism started a few things turning over in my brain about the ‘visual language’ of subjects and how that can influences our thoughts about them. For example, the visual language of Stoicism is really populated with old paintings and ancient stone statues of dead old men. It all feels very cold, remote and ‘serious’. When, in fact, the day to day reality of being a member of the Stoic school of philosophy could have been very different. Had we the ability to travel back in time to the original Stoa in Athens circa 3rd century BC, we may have found that the Stoics were lively, warm friendly debaters. Or maybe they weren’t? But either way their daily reality would have been made up of different visual images then the statues of old men we are left with today.


Zeno of Citium, founder of Stoicism

It also made me wonder about the visual language of Tai Chi, and how that influences the way we think about it. A good way to see what the ‘visual language’ of a subject is, is to put its name into Google and do an image search.

If we put “Tai Chi” into Google Images we get a proliferation of black silhouettes of people doing Tai Chi postures in front of dramatic sunsets. It all looks very new agey and spiritual. To me this suggests the world sees Tai Chi as some sort of mental/spiritual wellbeing system, a bit like Yoga.

And well, maybe it is. But it’s also a lot of other things too.

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