A Can of Pepsi

by Todd Elihu on 2012/12/02

One afternoon during our full time Taijiquan studies, in the Hunyuantaiji Academy studio in Edmonton, Master Chen Zhonghua spoke of the mysterious, spiritual borderlands between yin and yang called ling. 

This gray area created by the overlap of the two extremes is exemplified within the art of a true Master. The Master is not stronger, faster, younger, lower, etc., but at the same time he or she is all of these and something else. The pursuit of Taijiquan, is nothing less than the pursuit of ling, he declared.

A few days later, as I was conversing with Master Chen, I casually glanced at the ubiquitous Pepsi can that accompanied him throughout much of the day. He would sometimes do the form or push hands with us holding a can and make it all look so easy. He kept a case of it in his office. As I paid attention to this matter, I realized that he was almost never seen around the studio without one!

Suddenly, I made the connection: The white S-shaped band between the red and blue hemispheres of the Pepsi logo was the symbolization of ling! I asked him if Pepsi was the secret alchemical ingredient that contributed to his skill and power. He laughed heartily and facetiously affirmed that I had solved the mystery.

A few days after my epiphany, while he was making certificates to be awarded to the participants of the 2003 Hunyuan World Seminars, he said that he would make me a certificate giving me the title of “small god of the third universe.” As of yet, I have not formally been honored with this credential. However, I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn from and push hands with one who sometimes inhabits the enigmatic realm of ling.

Note: As it turned out, most of the time he was drinking water from a Pepsi can. As he put it, the can could hold water much better than a cup or glass. It did not spill and it was just the right size for his small hand to hold. It helped him keep balance when pushing hands with large students.


Originally published Nov 2007

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelvin Ho December 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm

What is ling in Chinese?


Chen Zhonghua December 4, 2012 at 1:35 am


Calvin Chow December 4, 2012 at 12:00 am

I think “Ling” in Chinese is (嶺/岭), means mountain range. Yin and Yang forces from both sides move towards each other and form a range of mountain peaks at the S line.


pingwei December 4, 2012 at 7:29 am

My understanding: Yin and Yang represents material world. They can be measured, such as rich and poor, strong and weak. “Ling” is out of the material world, not yin, not yang, not rich, not poor, not strong, not weak. It is spiritual.


Calvin Chow December 4, 2012 at 8:43 am

灵 is a switch to reverse Yin and Yang so as an empty space?


cshum00 December 4, 2012 at 9:08 am

I think that the opposite of “empty space” would be “occupied space” or mass.


Calvin Chow December 4, 2012 at 11:28 am

I mean a “not Yin not Yang” space(空隙) that you can flip around so that you can “Zhuan Guan”/turn joint in Yilu for push hands. That little space is to allow redirection of incoming force or your own force to another direction, if not, Yin and Yang can only stay in equilibrium, shun and ni cannot interchange. 灵 gets to be independent of Yin and Yang.


cshum00 December 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Sorry, i didn’t put much notice into your key words “switch to reverse”. I focused too much on your words of “empty space”.

I would agree with your key words. Ying and Yang itself does nothing. You need a presence to move Ying Yang around and that would be Ling (灵). The medium in which the presence moves Ying Yang around would be Yi (意).


Calvin Chow December 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Fully agree. To build up this Yi into spine (not brain) is Kung Fu. Kung Fu is time.


cshum00 December 4, 2012 at 9:35 am

This is some very philosophical discussion and interpretations can vary a lot.

It is important to note that Taiji is not YingYang. Taiji philosophy is derived from YingYang philosophy but it is not YingYang itself. It is like how a son is born from his father but the son and the father are two separate entities.

What YingYang describes are two things with opposite values and extremes. Whether it is: positive or negative, hard or soft, empty or occupied. And if there are two extremes, then there is also another value which is in neither extreme. It can be sometimes in the middle of two extreme values or nowhere at all. That third option, would be WuJi. For example, between positive and negative could be neutral; between hard and soft could be elastic; or nonexistence between empty and occupied.

Taiji philosophy starts by saying that we must first understand YingYang. One must be able to tell apart one from another. Although they are part of the same entity, what makes separable into two categories is their opposite qualities. And sometimes to be able to tell them apart, one must also understand what is between YingYand or a different entity itself like WuJi. These concepts are philosophical attempts to describe the material world.

But Taiji philosophy also attempts to describe the immaterial world. Like life, consciousnesses, awareness, ideas, moral, etc. And this is where mind and spiritual concepts like Ling, Sheng, Yi and others come to play.


Allan Haddad December 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm

As a kid I always wondered why the pepsi logo was a ‘colourful’ yin-yang symbol.
Maybe that’s why they are drinking boiled pepsi on wudang mountain..


wilkin December 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Here is translation of 灵活 http://www.nciku.com/search/all/linghuo My thought is that it is the ability to turn yin into yang, and vice versa, just like the taiji symbol there is a dot in the center of the circle. Master Chen often mention that the yinyang symbol is actually a depiction of two sphere, which correspond to the two grinding gear in the movement. So ‘agility’ is the skill to choose which of the gear is the power gear depending on situation.


Calvin Chow December 5, 2012 at 8:44 pm

This is a clear explanation for me to physically apply it on my Taiji practice. Thanks Wilkin.


bruce.schaub December 5, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I get the feeling “ling”, in a spiritual context of martial art, likely has to do with trying to achieve what Master Chen calls ” the One “. It seems to me we learn how to gradually understand the trinity of yin, yang and wuji, as a method to get to, and deeply, physically understand the center. But this can’t happen without the mind, being that the mind and body are inextricably related. So as Meng Xinbin says in one of his interviews available on this site….. “the real training is for the mind”.

Master Chen teaches us that Taiji is fundamentally about separation of yin and yang, and we can’t truly separate yin and yang without a wuji (a neutral center). What that center is, whether it’s our kua or knee or dantien may change, but the fact that we must have one does not. Yin and yang fluctuate and are combined in varying degrees creating differentials, but the one constant is the neutral center and it’s quality doesn’t change.

Master Chen also teaches us that taiji is about reversal of yin and yang. Reversing our fundamental human relationship with ourselves (water above, fire below)….. away from our normal conditioning to return to a state that is actually very simple and pure, but we have to work very hard to break through the many layers of conditioning that we’ve built up over years of being “normal” humans.

Taoists say the Great Tao gives birth to emptiness, emptiness gives birth to the one true chi, the one separates into yin and yang, and yin and yang create the 10,000 manifestations. Taoists have long used the method of reversal to return to oneness, oneness to return to openness, and abiding in emptiness to return to the Tao.

So….. as we learn about and practice with this trinity of forces, and practice reversal or reversion towards a more fundamental state, we approach ” the one ” . I think ” the one ” lives on that line between yin and yang and at a certain level (a very high level) Taiji becomes more about refining the line than Yin and Yang. (which I believe requires that we actually live our lives on that line at all times) Like trying to walk through life on a razors edge, this would require extreme precision, subtlety, and agility.


Kelvin Ho December 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm

As I understand, wuji is nothing, it is a state before taiji. It is not part of the 3 in taiji.


bruce.schaub December 6, 2012 at 6:37 am

I’m still very new to practical method so I am still learning the way PM defines things. I think you are correct in saying Wuji is nothing. It’s my understanding that originally wuji meant emptiness, and in more modern terminology ( Song dynasty on…) it was defined as the primordial universe. In my mind these to things are literally worlds apart. True emptiness does not exist in the manifest world yet it gives birth to the ” One ” pure yang…primordial universe. So true wuji is true emptiness (in non existence) and wuji (in the manifest world) is undifferentiated oneness, but is actually something, like a singularity.

But people now use wuji to mean neutral or center as well, and that’s how I was referring to it in regards to a part of the Three. What do you call the third component if not wuji? Yin, Yang and ?

I find Wuji as “center” the most useful, because what meaning you attribute to is deals directly with how far you’ve gone into your center. At first, the center must be very physically understood, which leads to the possiblilty of a truly unified center, knowledge of the unified center, can give way to true emptiness….theoretically anyway, I am not claiming to have had this experience.

The point I was trying to make is much more usefully explained by Master Chen, as related to what we are trying to accomplish, so I will quote him directly….

“The true meaning of Taiji is when you can rotate. When you can truly rotate, you become Wuji. When you become Wuji, you become One with the universe….. and that is perfection”— ” it is also very important to understand that this is not possible….”


bruce.schaub December 6, 2012 at 6:51 am

The meaning I derived from the original post was that, although we can never actually achieve this perfection, the closer we move towards it, the more miraculous things are possible. The real magic, is in the middle, “the spiritual borderlands between yin and yang called ling….”


James Chan December 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Just a random binary thought. If there is yin, yang, not yin not yang, is there a yes yin yes yang state?


Kelvin Ho December 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I don’t think so unless one uses “yes yin yes yang” to mean all three entities (yin, yang, and not yin not yang) together.


Calvin Chow December 5, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Wuji is that yes Yin yes Yang state. It is neutral so every part can be Yin or Yang. When it polarizes, Yin Yang starts to form and move but have not yet separated, it is Taiji state. When Yin and Yang separate, Yin Yang become Two Forms(兩儀).


gigi December 6, 2012 at 7:55 am

I think ling is related whith some potential to create Taiji
from some forms (yin-yang). It has to do with putting the will in action and
reverse the nature of things.
In one of his videos Master Chen said that the stretch is supplied by
activating some muscles at a high level.
Using imagination we can say that at the level “sui xin suo yu” you only need your will
to reject the attack.The form (body structure) is irrelevant.
In his book Master Hong said that level “sui xin suo yu”is not imposibile to achieve.
They are some key words related and coming from Master Chen: “can you do what you say?”,
“is this useful?” or “do you have a method?” .
In this line you need a method(in this case a martial method) to learn to reverse yin and yang at your will to create something useful: Taiji.
“The method is precise” and the teachers are real ones.
In western society we know few things about how Chinese culture interprets the world.
The way I see it, it is a practical view with details and logical explanations.


Hugo Ramiro December 6, 2012 at 11:49 am

I’m feeling all inspired now. Thanks guys!


Hugo Ramiro December 6, 2012 at 11:52 am

By the way, this is a good example of the usage of ‘ling’:


Hugo Ramiro December 6, 2012 at 11:56 am

Oh, and just a little data point here, a very important book in Chinese Medicine is called the Ling Shu (灵枢) – the “Spiritual Pivot”.
A-ha! I got you all!


Leave a Comment
Leave a comment on the content only. For admin issues, please click the "contact" button on the top left.

Previous post:

Next post: