Instead of waving to each other or shaking hands, Daoists says “hi” use a hand gesture called the Zi Wu gesture.  The same hand gesture is also used for devotional practices and in meditation.  But, what does the Zi Wu Gesture mean?  In order to understand the Zi Wu gesture, we need to talk a bit about Chinese philosophy.I want to sleep!

The Chinese view of the universe is based upon correlative cosmology.  A correlative cosmology does not focus on explaining what causes things.  Instead, it describes the relationship between things.  Here’s how it works…I want to sleep!

First, you have to define categories (类).  The categories can be simple, such as “human” and “animal” or “Yin” and “Yang”.  One of the categories that the ancient Chinese used is the five elements.  The five elements are metal, fire, water, wood, and earth. I want to sleep!

Next, natural phenomenon are divided into these categories. For example, the summer season belongs to the fire category, and the winter season belongs to the water category.  Many things will be sorted into the same category.  For example, the water category also contains the direction north, the color black, the body’s kidneys, the emotion of fear, and the flavor salty. I want to sleep!

The most important part of correlative cosmology is that things that belonging to the same category can influence each other.  You can think this as a type of resonance, similar to how if you ring a tuning fork, a similar tuning fork nearby will also ring.  The ability to influence things through resonance is very powerful.  For example, if your kidneys are weak, you can help treat them by eating a healthy amount of salty foods.I want to sleep!

This system has been used in China to explain how the universe works since between the third and second centuries BCE.  It reinforces the idea that all things are connected.  One of the goals of a Daoist is to understand these natural connections and use our knowledge to promote balance between people and between man and nature. I want to sleep!

So, what does this have to do with greetings?

According to Chinese thought, there are 12 points on the hand.

When you make the Zi Wu Gesture, you are pressing on two of these points, the Zi and Wu points.  Here’s how…

The Zi Wu Hand Gesture for Women (Yin hand on the outside)

  1. Both palms face the body
  2. The right (yin) hand is on the outside
  3. The right thumb touches the Zi point on the left hand
  4. The left thumb touches the Wu point on the left hand

The Zi Wu Hand Gesture for Men (Yang hand on the outside)

  1. Both palms face the body
  2. The left (yang) hand is on the outside
  3. The left thumb touches the Zi point on the right hand
  4. The right thumb touches the Wu point on the right hand
For both men and women, when seen from the top, the gesture looks like the taiji symbol.

But, why press on just the Zi and Wu points?  The Zi point belongs to the category of water, and the Wu belongs to the category of fire. Because of cosmic resonance, pressing these points on the hand causes energetic changes in the body, balancing the yang heart fire and the yin kidney water.  Furthermore, when water and fire meet, they produce steam. The steam that is produced is a form of Qi (炁) the energy that fills all of creation.   So, when Daoists make the Zi Wu gesture, we are balancing yin and yang and creating healthy energy.