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Difference Between Qigong and Tai Chi

Mary Anthony Mar 13, 2020
Both are ancient Chinese techniques used to strengthen one's mind, body, and soul. These energy arts have been a boon to countless individuals in gaining healing, fitness, and as a form of self-defense. An interesting debate of Qigong verses Tai Chi is presented here.

Main Difference:

Tai Chi is an intense martial arts; while, Qigong is a gentle and rhythmic breathing technique.
The Universal Life Energy is a life energy that sustains life and regenerates the organs, cells, tissues, and blood. On a spiritual level, it is considered as the flow of life that connects us with the Creator. This energy is known as 'Chi' or 'Qi' in Chinese, 'Ki' in Japanese, 'Prana' in Hinduism, and 'Pneuma' in Greek. The ancient Chinese believed that proper flow of this energy in the human body will result in attaining prime health, a fit body, long life, and self defense.
The body absorbs all kinds of energies from the environment and stores it in energy centers also known as 'Chakras'. It is very important to cleanse the chakras from negative energies to restore health. It is believed an unbalanced 'Chi' leads to diseases that are harbingers of future ailments. Hence, the Chinese developed these energy arts as a remedy to restore the 'Chi'.

Let us take a look at these two techniques.

Historical Background

Tai Chi

Zhang Sanfeng, a legendary Chinese Taoist monk, is believed to have lived between 960 to 1460 CE in the Taoist monastery, on the Wudang Mountains.
He is said to be the founder of Tai Chi. Legend states that on one occasion, he saw a bird and snake fighting, and was greatly impressed by the defense techniques used by the snake. Inspired by those movements, he created a set of 72 taijiquan or tai chi movements.
Another legend states that once Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century CE, paid visit to a certain Shaolin monastery, and was agonized to see the condition of monks after days of extreme fasting. To improve their physical condition, he created a set of exercises that came to be known as the Eighteen Lohan Hands.


Qigong is said to have existed for more than 5000 years. It originated as a form of 'remedy dancing' for healing purposes. The concept of 'Chi' was popularized, and a number of breathing techniques were created to heal the 'Chi'.
The founder of Taoism Laozi, further, stated the importance of these techniques in his book, Tao Te Ching (Classic on the Virtue of the Tao). During the period of the Zhou dynasty, this energy art got a boost, and was used in Chinese medicines, concepts of yin and yang, and the five elements.
During the period of Liang dynasty (502 - 557 CE), Qigong was used to create various martial arts exercises. Historical texts mention that it is divided into five major traditions: Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, medical and martial arts with each tradition giving Qigong, its unique and special features.

Tai Chi

➺ Also known as T'ai chi ch'uan or tàijíquán, it is an intense and soft form of martial arts and said to aid in personal health and defense.
➺ The movements involve three basic components―deep breathing, meditation, and moving the body slowly to produce healthy 'Chi'.
➺ It also stands for 'internal martial arts', 'supreme ultimate boxing', and 'boundless fist'.
➺ Yin and Yang and their balance are its core concepts.
➺ It is said to improve strength, coordination, and flexibility of muscles and bones, ease pain and stiffness, especially, that which is caused by arthritis, improve sleep, and lower the risk of falls during old age by improving on the posture and balance of the body.


➺ Also known as Chi Kung (Chi Gong) and pronounced as chee kung, it basically means 'cultivation of energy'. Chi stands for vital-energy, and Gong stands for skillful practice.
➺ The movements involve three basic components―correct posture, breathing technique, and mental focus for the body to start the healing process.
➺ It also involves gentle and rhythmic movements, and helps one to connect with the inner being.
➺ It is said to improve mental health by reducing stress, hypertension, build stamina and vitality, improve the respiratory and cardiovascular system, blood circulation, and digestive functions.

Qigong Vs. Tai Chi

➺ Tai Chi movements have originated from observing animals, and translated into the self-defense techniques of martial arts, for e.g. choreographed movements like 'shadow-boxing'. Qigong movements are gentle, rhythmic and graceful.
➺ Tai Chi is related to a martial arts framework. Qigong is considered as a branch of Chinese medicine that deals with acupuncture, massage therapy, and medicinal herbs.
➺ Tai Chi has a series of movements, and to perfect one single movement, it may take months, hence the focus is on regular practice of these movements. Qigong has one single movement which is repeated a number of times; hence, it is easy to practice.
Tai Chi has gained quite a lot of fan following in the West; whereas, Qigong is part of the daily Chinese lifestyle. Both are challenging, energy-boosting techniques.
* Kindly note: It is advisable to consult your doctor before taking up these two energy arts if your pregnant, if you suffer from joint problems and severe osteoporosis. Never try it on an empty stomach or if extremely tired.