My taijiquan teacher, David Wong, recently explained to me that every movement in taijiquan is like a Chinese character. By this, he seemed to be explaining quite a few things. First, that there are definite vertical and horizontal dimensions in a facing plane for each movement (what is termed the coronal plane in medicine), such that you can see the movement as a two-dimensional form from the perspective of the target (like a photo). At the same time, as in Chinese calligraphy, the form is not in reality two-dimensional. Each movement is actually three-dimensional and dynamic, just like good Chinese calligraphy appears “alive” on the page. On my own, I also started thinking about how the opening movement resembles the Chinese character for tian, which originally alluded to the cosmos and its source, expressed anthropomorphically in the form of a human being. Here is the character for tian in the Seal Script of the Zhou dynasty, Qin dynasty and into the Han dynasty:
This example is from the more ancient Bronze Script which was used from the Shang Dynasty to the Zhou Dynasty:
I am not going to argue that Chang San-feng designed taijiquan to be an enacted series of Chinese characters, but the similarity between the opening movement in Yang and some other styles of taijiquan, and the character for tian, makes the movement deeper and more meaningful for me personally.