Chin And Li

By Stephen J. Goodson
September 18 2014

The character for Li is 力 and means strength.

The character for Chin is 勁 contains the characters:

一   one
川   stream
工   work, and
力   strength

"One-stream-(of)-work~Strength", chin, is different from normal "Strength", li, because it contains the idea of a stream—a continuous flow. Chin is often described as pliable with a springlike force; while, Li is often described as hard and stiff. As Professor Ching Man-ching wrote:

Chin comes from the ligaments and li comes from the bones. Therefore, chin is soft, lively, and flexible while li is hard, dead, and stiff. (13 Treatises, Lo/Inn, p91.4)

The difference between Chin and Li is qualitative. Chin is a continuous flowing of strength, whereas Li is hard and stiff. When doing Tai Chi partner work, pay attention to your partner's (and your own) expression of strength. If you are gently connected to your partner with the soft four-ounce touch, make sure that the quality of that touch is a continuous flow, never resisting and never letting go.