It is morning in Hong Kong. The beat of the city settles back to normal as the noise of traffic and the rush of daily office commutes begin.
But in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities lies an unexpectedly calm and healing garden, at least a little oasis where the pace is certainly relatively slow.
Hong Kong Park is a green space in the center of the city and is a garden dedicated to tai chi. It is designed to have a courtyard for practicing tai chi and is decorated with bonsai trees. There’s a kind of laid-back vibe here that’s a pleasant surprise in an area dominated by skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of city life.
The garden is used frequently, if not daily, as locals gather in similar parks across the city most mornings to practice the centuries-old martial art.
In one such morning light, a group of Tai Chi (a form of exercise or martial art) students is using the garden as their classroom under the leadership of their teacher, Master Chow. In tai chi there is a movement, style, or pattern called a ‘form’ or ‘form’ they are practicing, meaning they are practicing fluid flow.
To the onlookers, the exercise appears spontaneous and easy. Students flow seamlessly from one movement to the next, displaying a calmness far removed from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets. Passers by stop and look at them. They find comfort in movements that appear to be gentle but have the presence of power.
People think tai chi is just a gentle exercise, Chow says. But it has everything, it’s soft, explosive, subtle, calm, and full of wisdom.’
He said, ‘There are a thousand words to describe him, but none to truly describe him fully.’
Tai Chi is an Ancient Chinese Martial Art.
Believed to have originated over 400 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. Chen Wangting (1600-1680), a local military commander from Chenjiago Village in Henan Province, is said to have historically been the first to establish and practice Tai Chi.
After retiring from the army, Wangting developed Tai Chi as a martial art to protect his family from thieves and robbers. He combined the skills of various martial arts practitioners with elements of the ‘Taoist yin-yang’ philosophy as well as theories drawn from traditional Chinese medicine. Under this philosophy, the idea is expressed that everything consists of two opposing forces and they harmonize with each other to create a whole.
Today, Tai Chi is practiced at low to moderate intensity, consisting mainly of meditation, body awareness, visualization, and controlled breathing exercises. Its main purpose is to achieve longevity by conditioning the mind and body.
This ancient exercise practice is extremely popular throughout China, but it’s especially popular in Hong Kong for its ability to relieve stress and improve health. Hong Kong is famous for the fact that people usually only have small places to live there. A good way to exercise is to go outdoors, such as in city parks or tai chi gardens.
Hong Kong is also experiencing a rapidly aging population, and it is estimated that by 2038, one-third of its population will be aged 65 or over. The government, therefore, encourages the city’s elderly citizens to attend such classes in the morning, often followed by dim sum (something sweet) with tea, which they share with their teachers and students. We have fun with the class.
Tai Chi classes not only promote a healthy lifestyle but also help seniors overcome social isolation and loneliness.
Some Tai Chi experts point to the health benefits of tai chi. He believes that the increase in age in Hong Kong over the past 50 years is also behind this process.
Remember that Hong Kong has the highest life expectancy in the world. Women in the city live an average of 87.6 years, while men live an average of 81.9 years. The city has surpassed places like Japan and Italy which are known for their longevity.