In General Choi’s first book on Taekwondo, Taekwon-Do The Art of Self-Defense (1965), he said that, in the Orient, the term chonji was interpreted as the creation of the world and the beginning of human history so it seemed appropriate for the name of the initial pattern taught to beginners. He said the first eight low block/punch movements represented “heaven” and the next eight inner forearm block/punch movements represented “earth.” This was all he said about the pattern. In Jhoon Rhee's first book on patterns, Chon-ji of Tae Kwon Do Hyung (1970), the entire book was devoted to the chonji pattern and yet Rhee said nothing more about the meaning of the pattern. If there was in fact a greater meaning of the pattern, one would think that Rhee would have mentioned it in the book.
Chonji (Tianchi in Chinese) is a crater lake atop the volcanic Baekdu Mountain on the border between China ad North Korea in the Baekdudaegan and Changbai Mountains. It is located between the Jilin Province of northeastern China and the Ryanggang Province of North Korea. It is the highest crater lake in China or Korea and is allegedly home to the Lake Tianchi Monster. The term chonji literally means “heavenly pond.” The Chinese cognate, Tianchi, is used quite commonly for various bodies of water in China. If you were an educated Korean, chonji would seem to be an appropriate name for the beginning pattern of a series of patterns.
Nowadays, martial art “experts” in their great wisdom have added all kinds of significance to the patterns, including chonji. Since each of the two sections have four block-punch combinations, some say these represent the four elements of the heaven and earth; fire, water, earth, and spirit. Some say the high front “walking” stance in the first section represents heaven, while the lower back “L” stance of the second section represents earth.
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