‘Over the years I have often been asked to make recommendations as to good books on Tai Chi. My response has usually been the same: read around the subject; look at the culture and traditions from which it emerges. For beginners, in particular, it is hard to gain much from books that attempt to illustrate Form or make over-complicated analyses.

The list set out here is purely a subjective (and incomplete) one, detailing texts and authors that I have collected and that make up a part of my small library.’



  • Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu – trans Gia Fu Feng & Jane English

My first introduction to Taoism and though
I have read many, many other versions since
it is still my favourite. Some editions of this imprint contain
a fine accompanying essay by Jacob Needleman.

  • Basic Writings of Chuang  Tzu – trans Burton Watson

The indispensable pair to Lao Tzu, above.

  • Taoism: The Road To Immortality – John Blofeld
  • Tao: The Watercourse Way – Alan Watts
  • Taoism and Creativity – Chang Chung-yuan
  • The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic – Stuart Alve Olsen

Excellent, but probably for those with some
years of  experience.

  • The Mountain Poems of Hsieh Ling-yun – trans David Hinton




  • Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods – Robert W. Smith
  • Hsing –I: Chinese Mind-Body Boxing – Robert W. Smith
  • Pa-Kua: Chinese Boxing for Fitness & Self-Defence – Robert W. Smith

These three volumes are testament to
a lifetimes’ perceptive investigation into the
practice and history of these Arts.

  •  Tai Chi Chuan for Health and Self-Defense – Master T.T. Liang

Master Liang was for many years
teacher to Stuart Olsen,
an author/practitioner listed here.

  • The Essence of Tai Chi Chuan: The literary Tradition – Lo/Inn/Amacker/Foe
  • Bagua (Pa Kua) Linked Palms of Wang Shujin – trans Kent Howard and Chen Hsiao-Yen

Listed chiefly for the stills photography
of this memorable Master: a personal favourite.

  • The Tao of Tai Chi Chuan – Jou, Tsung-Hwa
  • The Art of Peace – Morihei Ueshiba (Japan) trans John Stevens

This revelatory text from the founder
of Akido is brilliantly brought
to life by this exceptional translation.

  • A Book of Five Rings – Miyamoto Musashi (Japan)

Again, multiple versions are available. Mine, translated
by Victor Harris, contains the beautiful calligraphy and
ink paintings of Musashi himself. The C16th text
repays patient penetration.

  • Tai Chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions – Douglas Wile
  • Qigong (Chi Kung) Teachings of  a Taoist Immortal – Stuart Alve Olsen

Seated postures: well-presented and with
excellent background material.




‘You may wonder why texts suggested here, on a site mainly concerned with the traditionally Chinese, so often include the word ZEN in the title? I think this is largely because Western publishers feel it will appeal to their readers, for whom the word has come to hold a mystique or power.

It should be noted that Zen (the Japanese word) derives from Ch’an (Chinese), itself deriving from Dhyana (Sanskrit). Ch’an/Zen are largely interchangeable in my selection, therefore; both are flavoured, influenced and underpinned by Tao and the overriding principle that the Way is the practice.

Books by Watts, Blofeld, and Govinda are listed here several times. In truth I could include all their work as their importance in my practice and teaching has been profound; I consider them masters. Interestingly, these journeyers in Eastern thought of the mid C20th, met and knew each other, though I do not think all three were ever together at the same time. What I admire so much in their writing – apart from the scholarship, and the fact that they lived the life – is the absolute clarity of mind, in example and explication. This is as a result of regular meditation, without doubt, and surely also the outcome of an education in the European Classics, of studying Greek and Latin as schoolboys, as they would have done.’


  • The I Ching, or Book of Changes – trans Richard Wilhelm/Cary Baynes
  • The I Ching: Points of Balance and Cycles of Change – Peggy Jones

Wilhelm’s translation is simply
irreplaceable, influencing all who followed.
To balance his with a more modern version,
I find the Jones appealing and accurate of sense.

  • The Way of Zen – Alan Watts
  • The Tao of Meditation – Jou, Tsung-Hwa
  • The Zen Teaching of Huang Po – trans John Blofeld
  • The Zen Teaching of Hui Hai – trans John Blofeld
  • Still the Mind – Alan Watts
  • Buddhist Refelections – Anagarika Govinda
  • The Way of the White Clouds – Anagarika Govinda
  • Cultivating Stillness – trans Eva Wong
  • Secrets of Chinese Meditation – Lu K’uan  Yu

This material is dense. History,
scholarship, and wisdom:
redoubtably translated.

  • Zen and the Ways – Trevor Leggett
  • The Tiger’s Cave – Trevor Leggett

Leggett achieves rare clarity
in these texts, reflecting his own
long practice and discipline.



  • Science and Civilization in China (vol II) – Joseph Needham
  • City of Lingering Splendour – John Blofeld
  • The Wheel of Life – John Blofeld

These two volumes of Blofeld describe
his life and travels in China during the 1930s,
giving a last whiff of the old ways before the
communist era.


  • The Chinese Art of Tea – John Blofeld
  • The Book of Tea – Okakura Kakuzo
  • Easy Leaf Tea – Timothy d’Offay