This page explains a bit more about some of the Chinese words we use on this website.

Chinese can be "Romanised" (written in the English alphabet) in several different ways. To add to the potential for confusion, there are also several different dialects in China, and many people don't follow standard Romanisations.

This means that you can see the same word or name written in many different ways. So here's a very quick guide to help you with some of the more common words relating to tai chi, as well as the names of Chinese people used on our website.

tai chi

Traditional Chinese 太極拳
Simplified Chinese (PRC Standard) 太极拳
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) tàijíquán
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) t'ai4 chi2 ch'üan2
English word & this website tai chi
Other versions taijiquan, tai chi chuan

Tai chi is English for 太極拳 (tàijíquán).

The first part, tàijí, is the ancient Chinese idea of harmonious opposites. Tàijí is often represented by the familiar symbol of yin and yang: tai chi symbol
Tàijí translates literally to "utmost extremes" (ie, yin and yang), but the more common English translation is "supreme ultimate" to convey that harmonious opposites were seen as the underlying principle of the universe, sort of like an ancient version of what modern science would call a "unified field theorem".

The second part, quán, means "fist", and is used in names of many Chinese martial arts.

There are different traditions of tai chi, each of which has unique features. And in the last few decades, many people have created versions of tai chi that are simplified to suit competition rules, or to make them easier to learn.

All of them use the name tai chi. That's why knowing the lineage of teachers of a school is important; it helps you figure out which variety of tai chi they do.

Names of teachers in our lineage

Chinese names are written with the surname first, followed by the given name. Usually (and for all the names below), the surname is one Chinese character and the given name is two Chinese characters. Given names are far more diverse than for English.

It is Chinese tradition to be respectful to one's teachers, because knowledge and wisdom are some of the most valuable things we can receive. So, you may see or hear these teachers referred to by titles such as "professor", "master" or 老師 (lǎoshī), which is Chinese for teacher. These informal titles reflect the students' wish to show respect.

Zheng Manqing

Traditional Chinese 鄭曼青
Simplified Chinese 郑曼青
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) Zhèng Mànqīng
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) Cheng4 Man4-ch'ing1
This website Zheng Manqing
Other versions Cheng Man Ching, CMC

Huang Xingxian

Traditional Chinese 黃性賢
Simplified Chinese 黄性贤
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) Huáng Xìngxián
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) Huang2 Hsing4-hsien2
This website Huang Xingxian
Other versions Huang Xiangxian, Huang Hsing Hsien, Huang Sheng Shyan, Huang Xiangxian, Huang Sheng Shuan, Hwang Shien Xian, Wong Seng Yen

Yek Sing Ong

Traditional Chinese 葉神恩
Simplified Chinese 叶神恩
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) Yè Shénēn
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) Yeh4 Shen2-en1
English name & this website Yek Sing Ong

Sing Ong Tai Chi

The name of our tai chi school is Sing Ong Tai Chi. This is our own Romanisation of the Chinese name, which has two characters which are the same as Professor Yek's given name, 神恩 (shénēn), and two characters from tai chi, 太極 (tàijí).
Traditional Chinese 神恩太極
Simplified Chinese 神恩太极
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) Shénēn Tàijí
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) Shen2-en1 T'ai4 Chi2
English name & this website Sing Ong Tai Chi


Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin)
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) ch'i4
This website qi
Other versions chi, ki (Romanisation from Japanese)

Qi has many meanings depending on the context. At its simplest, qi means air. So, qi can be the air that we breathe. In Chinese medicine, qi is an intangible energy that keeps us alive and healthy.

Many people want to know exactly what qi is, and whether qi is "real". If you are worried about this, simply treat qi as a useful tool for your training. You don't need to "believe" in it to do tai chi. With accurate, consciously controlled, relaxed movement, qi sensations will occur naturally.


Traditional Chinese 氣功
Simplified Chinese 气功
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) qìgōng
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) ch'i4 kung1
This website qigong
Other versions chi kung

Qigong is any exercise that improves your qi circulation. There are thousands of types of qigong. Some are designed for health (in Chinese medicine, good qi circulation is thought to be essential to good health), and some are designed for martial arts.

Tai chi improves your qi circulation, so it is a type of qigong. Conversely, there are many types of qigong that are not tai chi.

This is very easy to understand if you consider that tai chi is an aerobic exercise, but there are many types of aerobic exercise that are not tai chi.

kung fu

Traditional Chinese 功夫
Simplified Chinese 功夫
Pinyin Romanisation (Mandarin) gōngfu
Wade-Giles Romanisation (Mandarin) kung1 fu
English & this website kung fu
Other versions gongfu

Kung fu is a very high level of skill acquired through effort. It's possible to have kung fu in just about anything, including flower arranging, cooking food, martial arts, or (in one traditional story) cutting meat. In Chinese tradition, acquiring kung fu in any worthwhile discipline is greatly admired.

In both English and Chinese, kung fu is now common slang for Chinese martial arts.


Detail of a painting of Huang Xingxian by professor Yek

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