In master Zhang's time, tai chi was closely associated with Taoist internal alchemy, called Neidan in Chinese. The highest training objective of Neidan (to which tai chi formed an indispensable supporting role) is spiritual enlightenment. At one with Tao. A direct spiritual experience without a deity. Nowadays among Chinese communities in Greater China (mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong) partly due to the influence of martial artists, tai chi has become a de-facto system of body building, health and longevity. So much so many Chinese students will be skeptical towards their tai chi instructor if he preaches about Tao Te Ching or Neidan (most if not all the time he won't).
It is interesting to note that those who look upon tai chi as relating to spirituality are Christians and Muslims and New Ages spiritualists, most in the West. Without a strong traditional system in practical spirituality, some of these people learn and practise tai chi to supplement their spirituality. They treasure the spiritual possibility of tai chi more than an average Chinese.
The question remains: Why tai chi in particular? Why not some other systems?
The first major reason is that tai chi is easy to learn, interesting to learn, effective and without metaphysical pre-requisite. Besides, no mythical mantra is taught. An unbiased spiritual tool for all spirituality. The second major reason is that it is a safer practice, the possible negative side-effect of chi deviation (chi kung or kundalini syndromes) is most unlikely to affect tai chi practitioners. With these two good reasons, no wonder more and more spiritual seekers are learning tai chi.
|Tai chi and Sufi dance - Opening ceremony of 2013 Turkish Culture Year in China|