Project Proposal: Perspectives of Tai Chi

Tai Chi in BeijingI am very excited to begin researching Tai Chi in China.  However, “Tai Chi” is a broad subject.  The martial art itself has multiple schools, multiple forms, and multiple legacies.  So then, what will I be researching?

I am not necessarily researching Tai Chi per say.  What I am researching is individuals’ perspectives of Tai Chi.  I want to know why people practice the marital art, and what they believe to be its virtues.

To do this, I plan on studying two groups; the “older” generation and the “younger” generation.  In the context of this project, “older” shall be considered around forty and over, while “younger” will be considered thirty-nine and under.  These ages were not chosen arbitrarily.  Those forty and older should have some recollection of the period under Mao Zedong.  In discussing China, many set the dividing line of the new generation and old to be those who lived during the government under Mao.  Now, these groups are not set in stone.  They are merely guidelines for me when conducting my research.

There are three main questions I plan to ask.  These include:

1)     When did you start practicing Tai Chi?

2)     Why do you continue to practice Taichi?

(In addition to why, I would also ask what their goals are by practicing Tai Chi)

3)     Do you find it enjoyable or necessary to practice Tai Chi?

Now, hopefully I will be able to ask more questions than just these, although these few are important.

While I have laid out two specific groups, there are other groups I may want to interview as well if I come across them.  These include professional Tai Chi practitioners and foreign students.

To conduct my research, I will be visiting a couple of locations.  The first location would be Tsinghua University, where I will be residing.  As they hold Tai Chi classes for students, it would be a great place to conduct interviews for the “younger” group I am interested in.  The other locations I plan to visit would be local parks.  According to my current research, many parks in Beijing often hold group Tai Chi classes that tend to be more popular with the “older” group.  I have found two nearby areas in particular I am interested in visiting for this part of the research.  These include the local Yuanmingyuan Park and well as Lvyuan Park, just outside Tsinghua.  From my understanding, there are numerous, smaller parks as well, so I may find an even better place to conduct my research, though I do plan to visit these two locations first.

Of course, I will also be researching the history of Tai Chi as to have background knowledge of the subject.  I primarily wish to focus on Tai Chi in the 20th and 21st century, but I will also be researching Tai Chi’s ancient history as well.