Audio · Poem · Poetry

In the Emperor’s Throne

I am a stranger

In a strange land

Bone to bone with natives

Capturing a sight once

Forbidden by the kingdom –

The Emperor’s throne.

It holds secrets revealed,

Legends, unfolding like silk

In stories bound in parchment

And sealed by scholars

Tested in cages;

Their triumphs, their duty.

The Emperor’s throne,

Guarded by Fu Lions and

Heated by cauldrons

Brewing the spoils of

Valiant conquests

Ending in tombs with mercury rivers.

The Emperor’s throne

Gave birth to the Dragon,

Stretching for eras

In wakeful slumber

Tended to by the masses

And nurtured into stone.

Up his steep spine,

I am pushed and pulled breathless,

Stepping on the shadows

Of ancient sentries guarding

The Emperor’s treasures of

Jade, silk, porcelain, and gold,

Gilded, woven, carved, and

Etched to perfection

In the likeness of antiquity.

At the peak, visible to all,

The Great Beast ends –

That way of stone –

To a train station in Shanghai,

Where a doll-eyed girl with long black braids

Greets me at the KFC.

To a city park in Nanjing, where

People walk their dogs,

Play Tai Chi, fly kites,

Dance to music from ‘Grease”,

And bring their caged birds

To greet the sunrise

In the shadow of the throne.

To a country road

Lined with carts of fruit and vegetables

And a farmer’s wife waving

As I snap pictures of her

Roosters, hens, and pigs

In the gaze of the Great Dragon.

To a landscape of people

In their daily toil –

Cooks in white linen,

Fishers sorting their catches,

Vendors lining the walkways

With silk slippers, gilded bags, and wooden combs.

To a city intersection with

Young girls on pink mopeds

Darting between students on bikes,

Families in cars, and workers on buses,

All frantically moving head on into

A silent agreement to part ways.


© 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard


The Throne in the Hall of Preserving Harmony

Public Domain











Audio · Poem · Poetry · Tai Chi

Fair Maiden

White leather sown with straps and beads,

Braids woven in feathers

Though fair skinned,

I am a Native maiden,

On my path winding inward.

The forest tangles

Yet opens its vines and limbs

As a cave mouth, 

Where I enter, greeted by a wolf and a hawk,

Guides to an overlook.

Wolf at my side, the expanse opens up.

I fly with Hawk, 

The wind drumming my face

To where the dance is, 

The drums, the rattles.

Wolf and I dance. 

As the Fire strokes my hair.

Drumming, chanting, whirling.

I whirl my arms skyward,

Embracing air. I am small,

For the twisting air makes night a shape,

Looming before me, it asks if

I am ready to die.

I stand bold, warding off Death. 

Fair Maiden to the North, 

South, East, and West, all directions.

Night Dragon breathes Fire, 

But I ward off Death in the fumes.

All around the drums beating

In my heart, steady beats, strong.

I stand like granite.

I am the chanting, the dance.

The songs open to me 

The words I need to know

As I emerge from the rage

Of Night, asking for my Soul, 

Of which I have many,

One for every element.

The elders sing my divination,

Their faces lit by fire and stars.

The Night Beast withdraws, 

Warded off by my Spirit,

There he rests, waiting

For another test of me, but

He’s really an Ally, 

Guarding a contract 

Written in parchment

By the Sea of Forgetting.

I am here to be reborn.

To awaken to Truth

And to lead others to their sacred gardens,

Where Fear makes their beasts

And where they greet Death

As a passage to their Spirit Name.

And emerge as warriors,

Gifted with arrows, feathers, and drums.


© 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: showing me at a martial arts competition







Audio · Poem · Poetry · Tai Chi

The Birth of Tai Ji


Wu Ji is Source.

Stillness, the Void,

No thing, Nothing.

The Essence

And Yuan Qi (Original Qi).

The Grand Ultimate.

The space void between Qian and Kun,

Pure Yang and Pure Yin.

The Essence

Tai Chi Chuan

Yang (Movement) and Yin (Stillness),

The Supreme Polarity.

The One plus The Two beget Life as

Source breathes the Ten Thousand Things and so

Tai Ji, The Grand Extreme, and so

Tai Ji begets Tai Ji Chuan.


Essence begets Qi,

Qi begets Spirit,

Spirit begets Void,

Void begets Essence.

Essence begets Qi,

Qi begets Spirit,

Spirit begets Void,

Void begets Essence.

This is the Great Mystery.


I am sorry about so many spelling differences in my poems about Tai Chi. Qi and Ji are Chi. I wrote this poem after reading Sun Lutang’s book on Taiji. His life story is fascinating. He was a scholar of the I-Ching and Doaism. Let me know if this poem needs details. I don’t feel this one is finished.

© 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard



Audio · Poem · Poetry · Tai Chi

Tao Play



When they come to you,

They are but seeds,

Seeking redemption

In Tao play.

Taking their positions,

Centering in Wu Chi,

Nurtured by white cranes’

Wings and sparrows tails

Of which they knew

Little before they found Chi,

Embraced in a ball,

Encompassed by Tao.

They take to quarrels

With monkeys and prevail,

Warding off their fears

And sending them flying.

Seeds take sprout unfolding

In the light of the horizon

Through the temple gates

Out of the shadows of their lives.

Listening, they see

They are vessels receiving

And giving sustenance

From the source of life.

They sprout new growth

In swords and fans

And are lifted out of

Their birth place to new ground.

They find the balance

In all Forms, which,

When done to perfection,

Will make them immortal.

This poem was written to commemorate Kenny Greene’s 60th birthday. He has taught Tai Chi Chuan here in Columbia, Missouri for years for free. Many of us, and the classes are growing, have learned a great deal from Kenny not just about Tai Chi Chuan but also about community. He has received several awards for his service to our community. If you try to discuss politics with hum, he says, Grow your garden. He’s growing his garden and not getting caught up in negativity. He leads by example. He is also forever giving and unselfish. Someone in class today felt so behind by missing two Chen Tai Chi Chuan classes taught by Arthur Du, and Kenny told him to come by his shop. He would catch him up.  We indeed owe a great deal to Kenny Greene! Here I am reading my poem at his party. Kenny is in the background.



© 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard