The Best Time To Do Tai Chi Chuan

11/27/2008 (last updated: 08/24/2009 13:41)
Xianhao Cheng

yin yang clockIn the April 2005 issue of Tai Chi Magazine, there was an interesting article that explored how to select the most favorable time to practice Taiji (Tai Chi). In the article, the author used physical principles to deduce the best time for training. It is very important information to know in Taiji training. However, in ancient China, people had already studied these favorable times to practice Taiji (and qigong) based on the specific requirements of the practitioner. This may be the knowledge most Taiji and qigong lovers need to inherit.

In ancient China, the time periods were divided into twelve sections. According to Chinese Traditional Medical Qigong Theory (the "Zi Wu Liu" Theory), qi and blood flow are the strongest within certain meridians in specific time periods. The time periods and related meridians are described in the following table. Based on the table, qi and blood circulate following certain time zone, with no start and no end.

Period Time of Day Meridian Symptoms / Problems to be healed
Zi 11 p.m. - 1 a.m. "Foot Shaoyang" (gall bladder) Gall bladder; liver; eyes and ears; head and sense organs; apoplexy, digestion and respirations systems.
Chou 1 a.m. - 3 a.m. "Foot Jueyin" (liver) Liver, gall bladder, stomach, throat, nose and eyes; digestion, reproduction, urinary system, mental system.
Yin 3 a.m. - 5 a.m. "Hand Taiyin" (lung) Lung, large intestine, and throat; respiratory disorder, disorders along the meridian; pain in chest, neck, and back.
Mao 5 a.m. - 7 a.m. "Hand Yangming" (large intestine) Larger intestines, lung and lower gums, disorders of the facial and sense organs; disorders of the digestive system; disorders along the meridian; neck, shoulder, elbow and hand problems; common cold, fever, cough, and skin disease.
Chen 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. "Foot Yangming" (stomach) Stomach, spleen and throat; chest pain; disorders of the facial and sense organs; chest and lower limb pain; problems along the meridian.
Ji 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. "Foot Taiyin" (spleen) Spleen, stomach, heart, throat and tongue; disorder of the reproductive and urinary systems; disorders along the meridian and lower limbs.
Wu 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. "Hand Shaoyin" (heart) Heart, small intestine, lung, throat and eyes; chest; disorder of the cardiovascular system; mental problems; pains in the chest elbow and arm.
Wei 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. "Hand Taiyang" (small intestine) Small intestines, heart, throat, eyes and ears; disorder of the head, face and sense organs; pain of the neck, shoulder, back and arms; mental disorders and malaria.
Shen 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. "Foot Taiyin" (urinary bladder) Urinary, kidney and brain; head ache; eyes, nasal, back and lower limb pain.
You 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. "Foot Shaoyin" (kidney) Kidney, urinary, liver, heart, lung, vertebral column problems; pain in throat and tongue.
Xu 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. "Hand Jueyin" (pericardium) Pericardium and triple warmer meridian blockage; disorders of the cardiovascular system; mental and neural problems.
Hai 9 p.m. - 11 p.m. "Hand Shaoyin" (heart) Triple warmer meridian blockage, pericardium, ears, and eye; disorders of the head, face, and five sense organs; pain in neck, shoulders and arms.

Because different people have different practice goals, the most favorable time for Taiji practice varies from person to person. For instance, people who suffer from lung and large intestine problems can choose 3 to 7 a.m. for practice, since the lung and large intestine meridians are connected and the meridian qi is also directly channeled. The person who has symptoms like coughing, asthma, cold, feeling blockage in chest, sore throat, feeling cold in shoulder, abdomen ache, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and so on, can select Yin and Mao time periods for practice since these symptoms are related to problems of the hand taiyin and hand yangming meridians. Within the time section of Chen (7-9 a.m.), qi and blood flood is strongest in the stomach meridian. Since the stomach and spleen meridians are connected, people who suffer from intestines being full, abdominal sounding, swollen stomach pain, vomiting, thirst, jaundice, and other such symptoms related with the stomach and spleen meridians, can select 7-11 a.m. for Taiji practice.

Unless we intend to resolve a specific health problem, we traditionally select the time periods of Zi, Mao, Wu and You for practice because human qi and blood circulation is strongest during these times. Zi and Wu are the time that Yin and Yang changes, and the earth has strongest energy field during that time. However, Mao is the time that most martial artists chose to practice. Since the Mao time period is the time that the sun rises and is conducive to production of yang qi, the Mao time period is often chosen for martial arts practice and power development. You is the time period in which the practitioner will have high energy and is therefore also a good time for martial arts practice. The traditional time periods listed on the table enable the practitioner to collect natural essence to help the energy production, and stimulate the growth of genuine qi.

A complete explanation of the theory for matching time periods with meridians is quite complicated, and it is unnecessary for normal Taiji lovers to know the details. For convenience, the table has generalized the time periods of meridian qi flow with the health problems that can potentially be healed by Taiji practice. However, it can only be used as a reference not a replacement of medical treatment.

As a whole, we need to know that unlike the physical sports developed in the West, Taiji is based on qigong/meridian theory. It considers that the human body has certain major meridians that control and adjust the balance of the qi flow, which maintains the normal functions of the body. In Chinese traditional medical theory it says that “if the qi does not flow fluidly, one will feel pain”. That means in case of blockage or imbalance of qi, we will feel pain or experience sickness. By practicing Taiji, we can clear up the possible blockage and then balance the qi flow to restore health. As a consequence, the optimal time listed for your specific needs may benefit the efficiency of your practice.

It also must be pointed out that traditionally we do not practice Taiji under the following circumstances: 1. we are too tired, 2. too full, and 3. too hungry.

In conclusion, we cite a sentence in classical Taiji: "Wish all the heroes in the world to have a longevity life."


Original article by Drs. Xianhao Cheng, Ph.D. and Wheeler Yin, M.D. printed in Tai Chi magazine, June 2005.

Updated and reprinted on with the permission and help of Dr. Xianhao Cheng.


Xianhao Cheng, Ph.D. began training martial arts in 1975 in Hangzhou, China. He has studied on several Taiji masters in Hangzhou, and most notably studied under fifth generation Yang Taijiquan master Zhu Liang Fang. Dr. Cheng's teachings take a practical approach to Taiji and blends knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine and Taoism with the martial arts practice.