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News from the USCCA and the church in China

Introducing Interior Taiji (Tai Chi)

Introducing Interior Taiji

by Simeiqi He, Ph.D

Immersed within the ancient tradition of Taiji (Tai Chi) (2), Interior Taiji has been

transforming contemporary China's personal and social lives for over a decade. It is a unitive praxis created by the Chinese Catholic Gong Yan with love and life as its central expression.

The praxis of Interior Taiji has two faces. It faces the Chinese Catholic Church as “unitive spirituality. It also faces the broader Chinese society as “unitive therapy.”

It was birthed from and first enacted in Gong’s life during a period when his experiences of tremendous suffering were profoundly transformed through a creative process of doing Taiji with God and with oneself.

The praxis of Interior Taiji has two faces. It faces the Chinese Catholic Church as “unitive spirituality.” It also faces the broader Chinese society as “unitive therapy.” Interior Taiji is well received in China, having been implemented into Catholic seminaries, retreats, faith formation, etc. Chinese psychotherapists have widely incorporated it into individual, family, and group counseling practices.

Central to Interior Taiji is the movement and transformation of affect concerning the human capacity and desire to love and be loved unconditionally.

For Gong, affect originates in God and exists essentially in every human being and God. Interior Taiji's goal is transforming the human effect through which one attains union with God (or unity between heaven and human beings as denoted by the Chinese concept Tianrenheyi), achieves integral health, and becomes an authentic self. While Gong considers the centrality of effect as unique to the Chinese cultural sentiment, his approach can find resonance in mystical theology, where the effect is fundamental to the soul’s divinizing transformation and union with God.

In the twelfth century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux used the term to refer to our active capacity to desire and love and our passive capacity to receive love. (3) Gong’s conception of affect as essential to human nature with the capacity to be transformed through divine union shares a deep affinity with St. Bernard.

Inherent to Interior Taiji is a comprehensive structure of professional supervision. He

emphasizes that Interior Taiji is an open learning process in the community and serving God and the world. Interior Taiji expresses a social vision of personal communion and is forming conscience not through external forces but by discerning the love of God in the community. Gong’s vision for therapists and spiritual directors is akin to Pope Francis’s notion of spiritual accompaniers, as those who

“do not do the work in the place of the person accompanied but walk alongside him or her or them, encouraging them to interpret what is stirring in their heart.” (4)

Further, Interior Taiji presents a promising development in the Chinese Catholic Church

and a contribution to the universal Church. It enacts the Catholic tradition of mystical theology while expanding its horizon to bear upon contemporary life. It demonstrates the contours of Chinese Catholic theology as an expression of the unbearable sorrows and the profound joys. Interior Taiji is a praxis of a new generation striving to heal both itself and the world.


  1. This essay is a summary of the May Forum article under the same name first published by the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church

  2. Taiji is the pinyin romanization of the Chinese term 太极. It is often called “Tai Chi” based on the Wade-Giles romanization system in the West. Given that Wade–Giles has been replaced mainly by pinyin in mainland China, Taiji is used in this article.

  3. Gordon Rudy, Mystical Language of Sensation in the Later Middle Ages (New York: Routledge, 2002), 59.

  4. Pope Francis, General Audience, 4 January 2023 ----------- About He Simeiqi, 何斯美琪 Simeiqi He is a theological ethicist and Catholic laywoman from mainland China. Her childhood love for science led her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in materials physics degree at Sichuan University. After a profound experience of love during their sophomore year in college, she professed her life-long commitment to the Christian faith. She was later baptized at Hope Foursquare Church in Snohomish, WA, in her junior year while studying at the University of Washington as part of an exchange program. Determined to grow deeper in her love of God and neighbor, she pursued theological education at Brite Divinity School, earning a Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry degree, while also obtaining a Master of Social Work degree and a graduate certificate in women and gender’s studies from Texas Christian University. As a part of her graduate study, He gained professional experiences through internship opportunities, serving as a student minister, a school social worker, and a psychotherapist. He continued her theological formation at Drew University, earning a Ph.D. in Christian ethics in 2023 with a dissertation on the Catholic moral theology of marriage. She was first introduced to the Roman Catholic tradition through the work of Thomas Merton and the Carmelite tradition. After intense discernment, Simeiqi He was fully communed with the Roman Catholic Church in 2019. Since then, she has been diving ever deeper into the life and wisdom of the Universal Church, its global intellectual tradition, and its creative manifestations through diverse encounters.


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