Best Tai Chi Books – By Style and Area of Focus

Finding the best tai chi books is a voyage unto itself.  The best tai chi books can shoot you ahead in your development and introduce you to insightful material.  Other tai chi books may not apply to your area of study or may not pertain to your level of development or interest. 

The best tai chi books focus on the style a person is studying, match their level of development (beginner, intermediate, advanced), or provide information on the area of tai chi they need to develop most such as stance, breathing, or form. Finding reviews from practitioners is the best way to go.

Below we have done our best to provide a mixture of old and new, and books that address the different styles.  We are thankful to community members who have shared favorite titles. If you purchase a book listed here we appreciate you clicking through these links so that we can continue to give the authors accolades and let them know to keep up the good work. Let’s start with a few reasons why great resources are difficult to find out about and then we will list some books that have helped us along.


Tai Chi Books for Beginners – Why Are They Hard to Find?

Time

tai chi book scrolls

Books on tai chi and qigong have recently become more accessible.  The changes in China since the 1980s have led to many more visits of Chinese teachers to the U.S. and to westerners traveling east to train. What this means for tai chi beginners looking for books is that we get a greater variety of people with hands-on experience rather than only publications from Grand Masters. We definitely want Grand-Master-level-authority in books we read but now we are more likely to find tai chi books in our native language.

Year of Publication

Typical searches for books give weight to more recent publications but the truth is that many earlier publications are great discoveries because someone wrote at the height of their practice and may have since passed on. While it feels like everything is available on the internet these days, some tai chi chuan books went out print before the internet took off so we need to do some digging.

Difficulty Researching Books

Despite its growing popularity, tai chi is still working to find its proper place in the medical and health community.  This is always apparent when I go through a public library and find the tai chi books nestled right between Witchcraft and Magic. A ton of medical research, especially around illness and injuries has been conducted on the benefits of tai chi, meditation, and qi gong. Little by little it is making its way into reader-friendly print.

Funding

Most tai chi books are products of passion and may never have made it to the big publishers (or a profit). Yes, tai chi is growing in popularity and thanks to YouTube and the internet resources are abounding.  Those that have been studying tai chi for a while know that just that fact that we can build the following list is exciting.

Despite all of these difficulties, there are some really great books to help you learn and lots of research showing that we can learn tai chi at home from a book or video. Here are our top picks:


Recommended Tai Chi Books By Style and Area of Focus

Best Tai Chi Books for Beginners

The best tai chi books for beginners are a good mixture of easy explanations, down-to-earth suggestions, and lots of images. You want books that slowly introduce the vocabulary of tai chi because there are a lot of new and foreign words that can be overwhelming. It is also better to have a book that is inclusive of all the styles and that what is being shared can be of use to any practitioner. Here are some great beginner tai chi books.

Tai Chi Chuan Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form Qigong by Yang Jwing-Ming
The Complete Book Of Tai Chi by Stewart McFarlane (Author), Tan Mew Hong (Contributor)
Simplified Tai Chi Chuan: 24 Postures with Applications & Standard 48 Postures by Shou-Yu Liang & Wen-Ching Wu

Best Tai Chi Books for Seniors

Tai chi books for seniors have to keep many specific considerations in mind. Suggested changes to the form are needed to reduce the amount of time standing, potentially reduce the length of the form, change the moves to account for differences in balance, and even modify tai chi forms for seniors that need to sit in a chair. On the other hand, seniors are doing tai chi to “maintain” their heath. They want to be challenged! They want to do more as they get in shape and their balance improves. They want to increase their strength.

T’ai Chi for Seniors: How to Gain Flexibility, Strength, and Inner Peace by Philip Bonifonte
Tai Chi for Seniors Step by Step by Dejun Xue
Tai Chi for Older Adults by Paul Lam – (this is a video)

Best Tai Chi Books in General

essence of tai chi book

There are a handful of tai chi books that are classics. They speak about tai chi from an angle where the information applies to practitioners of any style. These are some of the best books about tai chi and are very important because they showcase the similarities between all the styles rather than many of the conversations they days which focus on the differences between the styles. Being that the subjects are not style specific, they are also full of foundational concepts that practitioners at any level benefit from understanding.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Ta Wen: Questions and Answers on T’ai Chi Ch’uan by Chen Wei-Ming, Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Robert W. Smith(Jan 26, 1993)
Nei Jia Quan: Internal Martial Arts Teachers of Tai Ji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, and Ba Gua Zhang by Jess O’Brien (Oct 26, 2004)
The Essence of T’ai Chi by Waysun Liao
The Making of a Butterfly: Traditional Chinese Martial Arts As Taught by Master W. C. Chen by Phillip Starr (Apr 7, 2006)
Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power by Yang Yang, Feng Zhiqiang and Robert Schlagal (2008)
Tai Chi Connections: Advancing Your Tai Chi Experience by John Loupos (Mar 24, 2005)

Best Yang Style Tai Chi Books

Yang Tai Chi is by far the most practiced tai chi style and definitely the most popular in the west. That’s lucky for the Yang practitioners out there because that also means that you have access to the most tai chi chuan books! Resources on Yang Tai Chi also have a good mixture of very old classics and new texts.

Tai Chi Chuan Classical Yang Style: The Complete Form Qigong by Yang Jwing-Ming
Chinese Swordsmanship: The Yang Family Taiji Jian Tradition by Scott M. Rodell (Sep 10, 2003)
Tai Chi Chuan: 24 & 48 Postures with Martial Applications by Liang Shou-Yu and Wu Wen-Ching
Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions by Douglas Wile (Mar 1, 2010)

Best Chen Style Tai Chi Books

chen tai chi book

Chen Style is the originating style of tai chi. I find that the books related to Chen are often be in-depth conversations about the the fundamentals of tai chi. They also dive deeper in to the explosive force and martial aspects of tai chi. Practitioners of Chen Style are as interested in the martial development as they are in the health development typically so we when our Chen tai chi books to have a mixture of both. Here are four that you often see or hear being talked about when Chen masters come to town for workshops.

The Five Levels of Taijiquan by Chen Xiaowang, Commentary by Master Jan Silberstorff and Translated by Christina Schulz (Mar 15, 2012)
Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan by Mark Chen and Kenneth Chung (Apr 6, 2004)
Tai Chi Fa Jin: Advanced Techniques for Discharging Chi Energy by Mantak Chia and Andrew Jan (Mar 14, 2012)
The Chen-style Taijiquan for Life Enhancement by Chen Zheng Lei and Xu Hailiang (Sep 1, 2002)

Best Wu Style Tai chi Books

Wu and Wu Hao Styles are very advanced but also less common. So when a Wu practitioner finds a Wu-specific book they are usually very happy and thankful. These books showcase the rich history of Wu and celebrate the development of an art that takes a look at tai chi from a unique angle.

Classical Northern Wu Style Tai Ji Quan: The Fighting Art of the Manchurian Palace Guard by Tina Chunna Zhang and Frank Allen(Aug 18, 2006)
Wu Style Taijiquan by Peisheng Wang and Zeng Weiqi (Nov 1983)
Tai Chi Secrets of the Wu Style: Chinese Classics, Translations, Commentary by Yang Jwing-Ming (Mar 13, 2002)

Best Cheng Man Ching Style Tai Chi Books

There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man Ch'ing book

Anyone familiar with Cheng Man Ching’s story knows that he was a fascinating and very accomplished practitioner of many medical, martial, and at forms. The knowledge he brought to the art of tai chi lead to the publication of several books starting in the 1950s. His move to Taiwan and then on to the United States meant that his writings and expertise were shared more widely than probably any master of his time. His high level of knowledge of so many disciplines and understanding of the western reader is evident in his writing.

Cheng Tzu’s Thirteen Treatises on T’ai Chi Ch’uan by Cheng Man Ch’Ing, Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo and Martin Inn (Jan 21, 1993)
There Are No Secrets: Professor Cheng Man Ch’ing and His T’ai Chi Chuan by Wolfe Lowenthal (Jan 27, 1993)
Master Cheng’s New Method of Taichi Ch’uan Self-Cultivation by Cheng Man-ch’ing   and Mark Hennessy (Jun 1, 1999)

Best Sun Style Tai Chi Book

Lesser known than the other styles, Sun Style definitely has their following. Sun practitioners can benefit from the reading of many of the books on this page because of the influence that the earlier styles had on this art. There are really good books that relate to Sun style specifically too.

LSC Traditional Sun Style Taijiquan (Saddleback College-CPS7) by Tim Cartmell and Troyce Thome (Sep 24, 2010)

Best Martial Applications Books

Zen Body-Being: An Enlightened Approach

The use of tai chi as a martial art had long been kept behind closed doors or was restricted from sharing. Not so since the 1990s where concrete focuses on different martial aspects of tai chi can now be learned. A handful of books related specific moves to specific fighting applications. They also go the other route and share how internal development improves your fighting skills but also how you respond to a fight and how your body recovers from being in a fight.

Analysis of Shaolin Chin Na: Instructors Manual for All Martial Styles by Yang Jwing-Ming (Jun 8, 2004)
Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence by Rory Miller (Jun 6, 2008)
Taiji Chin Na: The Seizing Art of Taijiquan (Chinese Internal Martial Arts) by Yang Jwing-Ming (Feb 7, 1996)
Zen Body-Being: An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace, and Power by Peter Ralston and Laura Ralston (Jul 27, 2006)

Best Books on Qi Gong

Qigong is often a lonely pursuit. Having written guidance and even just hearing from someone who is on the same path as you is eye-opening. Here are some of the best qigong books that are at the top of our list.

The Way of Energy: Mastering the Chinese Art of Internal Strength with Chi Kung Exercise (A Gaia Original) by Kam Chuen Lam(Nov 15, 1991)
Chi Gung: Chinese Healing, Energy and Natural Magick by L. V. Carnie (Sep 8, 2002)
The Inner Structure of Tai Chi: Mastering the Classic Forms of Tai Chi Chi Kung by Mantak Chia and Juan Li (Dec 15, 2005)
Chinese Fitness: A Mind/Body Approach-Qigong for Healthy and Joyful Living (Qigong – Health & Healing) by Ching-shan Liu (May 20, 1997)
Tai Chi Ball Qigong: For Health and Martial Arts by Yang Jwing-Ming and David Grantham (Dec 16, 2010)

Best Books on Tai Chi for Health

The Power of Soul: The Way to Heal, Rejuvenate book

When your motivation for practicing tai chi is to improve your health, knowing how tai chi can benefit you is critical because it can change the focus of your practice. These books also present meditation in the context of “active” meditation where you are purposefully building up energy to heal or move with. Sometimes this is accomplished outside of the tai chi form so you get the hang of it and know what to concentrate on when you are practicing again.

The Power of Soul: The Way to Heal, Rejuvenate, Transform, and Enlighten All Life (Soul Power Series) by Zhi Gang Sha (Jan 6, 2009)
Awaken Healing Energy Through The Tao: The Taoist Secret of Circulating Internal Power by Mantak Chia, Lawrence Young, Michael Winn and Gunther Weil (Jun 1, 1983)

Best Books on Tai Chi for Specific Concerns

Here are a few of the best book to learn tai chi that are specific to arthritis and tai chi as well as how to still do tai chi even if you have limitations to your mobility, balance, or energy.

Tai Chi for Arthritis Handbook (Tai Chi for Arthritis) by Dr. Paul Lam (2002)
Overcoming Arthritis: How to Relieve Pain and Restore Mobility Through a Unique Tai Chi Program by Paul Lam and Judith Horstman (May 1, 2002)
Tai Chi in a Chair by Cynthia Quarta (May 19, 2011)