My yellow belt grading is coming up and out of interest I am trying to find out more about the patter Chon Ji. I am aware it represents, creation/heaven and earth. However which part exactly represents Heaven and which the Earth - and why?
The pattern chonji represents heaven and earth. Why? Because the person who named it said it did. This seems to be rather straightforward but many times things that persist for many years take on unintended meanings.
I was once a design student at NC State University and had to listen to “experts” interpret the works of artists. When asked about his work, one artist said that he experimented with different arrangements and these colors and shapes seemed to work well together. However, the “experts” said the artist did not recognize his greatness; that the colors and shapes represented the endless struggle of humankind in a world of turmoil. The art “experts” justified their existence by saying their wisdom superseded even that the creator of the artwork.
Much is same in the martial arts. Over the years, martial art “experts” have applied all types of interpretations to things that the originators never intended. Over the years, even the originators start to attribute things to their works that they did not even consider at the time of origination.
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.