One of the first things that is asked when starting the a lesson in Internal Martial Arts is to put the tip of the tongue at the roof of the mouth, touching the palate (舌抵上腭). This is a very specific instruction that can be found in many different instruction manuals, for example in the appendix of "Taiji Compiled: The Boxing, Saber, Sword, Pole, and Sparring" (太極拳刀劍桿散手合編) by Chén Yánlín (陳炎林), in translation by Brennan:

you should have your mouth closed and touch your tongue to the upper palate. Never grind your teeth or glare with your eyes.

Also in translation by Brennan, in the Authentic Explanations of Martial Arts Concepts (拳意述真), Sūn Lùtáng (孫祿堂) reports the words of Guō Yúnshēn (郭雲深) on how Touching the Palate with the Tip of the Tong becomes an innate habit, and the importance of its coordination with breathing:

When practicing, your mouth should seem open but not open, closed but not closed, as is natural. Your tongue touching the upper palate, breathing should be done through your nose. During ordinary time when you are not practicing, or once you have finished practicing, your mouth should be closed and must not be open, and you should constantly maintain nose-breathing. When talking, eating, or drinking, you can open your mouth, but beyond these, it always should be that your tongue touches the upper palate, your mouth is closed, and the breathing is being done through your nose. If you are conscientious about this, then it will still be so even when sleeping.

Through my practice, I heard different explanations for doing it:
  • Contributing to create the central, upright pivot (中樞), as mentioned in the paragraph above by Chén Yánlín (陳炎林),
  • From a Martial Arts point of view, creating this habit, one avoids the risk os biting one's own tongue,
  • From an energy point of view, this ensures the connection between the Governing Vessel (督脈) and the Conception Vessel (任脈) closing an energy circuit,
  • The last explanation is that it ensures that the students don't have the opportunity for chatting and therefore have to concentrate on the lesson.

The Mythic Image: 搭鵲橋

Master Jou Tsung Hwa (周宗樺) in the Tao of Meditation, has a slightly more imaged version, he calls it Tǎqiáo (塔橋), or literally the tower (塔) bridge (橋). Yet another name for the same position can be found in the book "Special Taoist Taiji Stick and Ruler Qigong" (道家太極棒尺氣功) by Wáng Fèngmíng (王鳳鳴), based on Féng Zhìqiáng (馮志強) teachings. The position is called there "Building the Magpie Bridge" (搭鵲橋), a reference to the Weaver Girl - Zhinü (織女) - and the Cowherd (牛郎) legend. In that legend the Magpie Bridge (鵲橋) is built on the Night of Seven of the Seventh Month or the Qīxī Festival (七夕节) to allow the two lovers - the divine maiden weaver and a the human cowherd - turned Star Gods to meet across the Milky Way.

Naming this positioning of the tongue in this way has clearly a more esoteric conotation - a conotation that talks about bridging Earth and Heaven and refers us to sexual alchemy.

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