Front Leg in Bow Stance

Postby JerryKarin » Fri Jan 02, 2004 4:11 am

Hi Audi. Well you were doing very well until you got to the following:

Jerry, you also stated the following: “As far as words like gao1 'tall', they function differently in Chinese when used in pairs of opposites like high and low, light and heavy, empty and full, so I'm afraid your analysis won't hold up.” Are not “xu” and “shi” used precisely as a pair of opposites “like high and low” etc.? In fact, now that I think of it, such pairs are also used as compounds to indicate gradations directly, such as “height” (“gaodi”), “heaviness” (“qingzhong”), etc. Why is it not possible to view “xu” and “shi” also as a compound indicating gradation (i.e., as “xushi” meaning “fullness”/”solidity”/”emptyiness”? My ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary has just such a listing. In other words, why can the meaning of this phrase not include the following sense: “Make distinctions as to solidity”? If I say: “Fen gao di,” can this mean only: “Separate high from low”?

and also

<B>Jerry, you also stated the following: “As far as words like gao1 'tall', they function differently in Chinese when used in pairs of opposites like high and low, light and heavy, empty and full, so I'm afraid your analysis won't hold up.” Are not “xu” and “shi” used precisely as a pair of opposites “like high and low” etc.? In fact, now that I think of it, such pairs are also used as compounds to indicate gradations directly, such as “height” (“gaodi”), “heaviness” (“qingzhong”), etc. Why is it not possible to view “xu” and “shi” also as a compound indicating gradation (i.e., as “xushi” meaning “fullness”/”solidity”/”emptyiness”? My ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary has just such a listing. In other words, why can the meaning of this phrase not include the following sense: “Make distinctions as to solidity”? If I say: “Fen gao di,” can this mean only: “Separate high from low”?
</B>

With this kind of thing you wind up back where you started, which is intimating that we can never quite determine the meaning (why couldn't it after all be...?). What I'm trying to say is: it can't. The meaning is crystal clear in the context to Chinese speakers. It's wrong to think it's ambiguous. There is a discrete answer to the question, what does this phrase in the ten essentials mean? (that does not mean the concepts involved couldn't be subject to differing interpretations, but the meaning of the sentence is not subject to debate). I don't mean to be heavy-handed here or pick on you, but I hope you understand my frustration here. Imagine if a Chinese who did not know English well asked you about the sentence: 'Gather round guys and lets discuss taiji'. You explained what gather round means but he keeps asking, couldn't it be an instruction to gather up round things? Couldn't it mean find fat and round guys? No, it just can't. Image I am working on a translation of Shen Jiazhen's essay on this subject which I will publish in a few days and hopefully it may clear away some of the confusion.


[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 01-01-2004).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Jan 02, 2004 2:01 pm

Audi wrote:

<B>The Taijitu emphasizes that black and white are not enough to understand the relationship of Yin and Yang, but shows them as intertwined and exhibiting various proportions of prominence. The theories in the Yi Jing talk about strong and weak Yin and Yang, implying that both binary and graded relationships are important. Is it not reasonable to see Xu and Shi in this same way, where it is important to distinguish between being “more strongly Xu” and “less strongly Xu”? If I must act on such distinctions, why can “fen” include no element of “apportionment” or “distribution”?
</B>

Imagine you are given a printed page and instructed to fold on the dotted lines and cut on the solid lines. Suppose someone replies 'under a microscope these so-called solid lines are actually a bunch of dots with white space in between'. Your answer would be yes that is right, but on the level of analysis we are talking about, we can distinguish that some are solid and some are dotted. Likewise, on the level of analysis of the phrase 'fen xu shi' we are referring to the distinction, not the gradation.
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Postby Audi » Fri Jan 02, 2004 5:46 pm

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for the comments and interest. I am sorry if I am being a pest, but certain things come naturally to me, especially if someone is discussing two favorite topics of mine, Taijiquan and language.

For the moment, I will defer to your knowledge of Chinese, but let me make clear how I understand what you are asserting. Imagine the following scene. A bunch of kids have randomly lined up to get on a bus. I am the driver, and I turn to their teacher and say: “ba3 gao1di1 fen1 qing1chu.” From what you have said, I would expect either that this sentence is malformed or that the teacher would assume I ultimately want the kids divided into a random group of tall ones and a random group of short ones. Apparently, my intention could not be that I want some other pattern where height is important, such as having them lined up in one group from shortest to tallest.

By the way, I support your analysis of “gather round guys.” “Circular guys” is certainly a precluded interpretation. I cannot help pointing out, however, that there are still many uncertainties about even this statement.

“Gather round” could mean: “gather around me,” “gather around the object of our discussion,” and perhaps even “gather in a clump in front of me.” The word “guys” in the statement might mean that the speaker is addressing only the males present, all males and females present, or even a group of women who are singled out for attention by prior understanding from some larger group present. Despite all these theoretical “ambiguities,” I would say that any native speaker of English hearing this command will know how to act, based on hand gestures, eye movements, tone of voice, or even the absence of these. Basically, we all know how to huddle together to hear someone speak and what configuration is expected in the context.

“Gather round guys” generally communicates primarily that the speaker wants a group of people to move into a position that will make talking and hearing easier. English speakers intuitively know that “gather round” and “guys” both lend themselves easily to “loose reference.” They know that any speaker is under the communicative obligation to add precision if a precise result is desired beyond simply easing communication among those present. How do I translate all these possibility into Chinese?

As for what you say about dotted and straight lines, I certainly can accept this possibility and look forward to seeing your efforts on Shen Jiazhen's essay. In terms of the Taijitu, I would explain it by saying that in some cases what is important is not the location of a dot in the diagram, but its color.

I have tried to make a similar point in connection with talking about “fangsong.” In my previous practice, the importance of “relaxation” was that it was a state of infinite gradations. The more I practiced, the more intensely I could learn to relax. With years of practice, I could learn to “relax completely” and reach Tai Chi nirvana. As I practice the Yangs’ form, I find this sort of thinking to be less productive. “Intensity” of “fangsong” in a particular limb is not nearly so important to me as consistency. I now find the main problem to be in identifying the myriad places in the form where I do not do it at all, rather than in intensifying particular cases in which I am already doing it.

There is a limited overlap of feeling between the two methods, but by and large I find them to be profoundly different. There is also an overlap in terminology, where people can use words like “relaxation” or even “depth of relaxation” to mean different things. I have great difficulty communicating with individuals who have only been exposed to the former type of instruction, since almost any phrase I can use can be interpreted as a statement of internal intensity, rather than as a statement of an on-off condition that can be externally judged to a certain extent and that even a beginner can be expected competently to demonstrate on demand in a limited location and for a limited time.

I will be quite intrigued to hear if Shen Jiazhen's explanation takes a similar approach to empty and full and how he elaborates on why it is “enough” to know whether something is empty or full. As I stated before, this has not entirely been my experience so far. By the way, who is Shen Jiazhen?; or rather, on what basis should someone see him as an authority on Taijiquan or Yang Style, in particular?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Jan 02, 2004 8:16 pm

Hi Audi. Yes your example works though it doesn't make much sense for a bus driver to say this. Suppose we were dividing a group into two parts in order to have the short ones stand in front and the tall ones stand in back to pose for a photograph. Someone divided the kids into two groups but they were not grouped very well (some shorties mixed in with the taller kids). The photograher might well shout out to the teacher: ba gao ai fen qingchu! (for height of people, you use ai3, not di1). 'Separate them into tall and short!' If you wanted to arrange them in height order you would not use this expression.

Shen Jiazhen studied many years with both Yang Chengfu and Chen Fake. He wrote the first several chapters of the seminal 1963 work "Chen shi taijiquan", which also had contributions by Gu Liuxin. Shen's theoretical chapters in this book comprise far and away the best modern treatise on taijiquan theory, even today, and I think it's fair to say that virtually all books on the subject which followed this one (in all styles) cribbed to some extent from it. I published a translation of one chapter of it in the third rep column dealing with silk reeling. By the way I have noted your lukewarm response to this essay in the past, perhaps deriving from prior learning experiences with people who indiscriminately mixed up different styles of taiji. I would urge you to revisit that essay as there is no doubt that what he says there applies to Yang Style as well as Chen.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 01-02-2004).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jan 03, 2004 12:41 am

Greetings Jerry,

Great discussion! I completely concur with the choice of the word “distinguish” to translate “fen” in the taiji phrases, “fen xu shi,” and “xu shi yi fen qingqu.” Distinguish in fact is the word I use to translate it, and I can’t think of a better one. What I was reacting to in your posts was the explanatory spin you were putting on the word, and your use of language such as “separate,” “discrete, mutually exclusive categories,” and the notion that distinguishing necessarily implies “two opposites” that must be distinguished. One can distinguish opposites to be sure, but one can also distinguish things that are not exactly opposite, and perhaps similar, such as the taste of a pear from the taste of an apple. Indeed, as you yourself point out, the word “distinguish” is itself inherently ambiguous. In reading though the entries for “distinguish” (nine long ones) in my Oxford English Dictionary, I see that the word shares certain semantic features with the Chinese “fen”: those of dividing into parts, into categories, species and classes; and those that might be called cognitive meanings (you called it “essentially a mental activity”) implying recognition of, or perception of differences between or among things or categories. Perhaps the OED definition I prefer would be: “To perceive distinctly or clearly (by sight, hearing, or other bodily sense); to ‘make out’ by looking, listening, etc.; to recognize.”

I already reposted my translation above of the little passage in the taijiquan terms dictionary that cautions against interpreting the concept of distinguishing empty and full in terms of a cut and dried separation. Here’s another entry from the same source:

~~~
Fen Xu Shi:

A practice essential in taijiquan. In the “Taijiquan Lun,” it says, “Each point has its point of empty/full. Everywhere there is always this one empty/full.” Taijiquan movement, therefore, is a limitless transformation—an alternation and mutual production of empty and full. Each form, be it an ending posure or the dynamic state (of transition), has both empty and full. So there is both “differentiation of empty and full” (xu shi fenming) and “mutual affinity of empty and full” (xu shi xiang he—xiang he: coordinated or united one with the other, conjoined).
—Jingxuan Taijiquan Cidian, p. 53
~~~

If, when we distinguish empty and full, the matter we are distinguishing cannot be conceived of as mutually exclusive and separate categories, and if they are rather “conjoined” than “opposed,” then the act of making this distinction may not best be characterized as an act of separation of opposing forces.

Also, while I concur with the translation “distinguish,” I felt compelled to challenge the logic used in your defense of the term as you defined and explained it. You seemed to assert that the meaning would have to be “distinguish” because of the alleged use of the term “fenqing,” in taiji documents, which unambiguously means “to distinguish.” I am still not convinced that “fenqing” is not a fairly modern compound with unique connotations.

I see that Shen Jiazhen indeed uses the compound “fenqing” in the section of his book beginning under the heading “Xu Shi Bili” (the term bili itself implies ‘proportion, ratio and scale,’ does it not?). However, I think it’s important to note that Yang Chengfu’s wording in the Ten Essentials is simply “fen xushi,” and the wording in the Taijiquan Lun is “xu shi yi fen qingqu.” In neither case is the compound “fenqing” used, and I believe “qingqu” in the Lun is serving an adverbial role, rather than as part of a compound: “fenqingchu.” Your line of argument on this detail is what led me to my hypothesis about the Marxist Dialectics usage (the usage, if not the word itself) of the compound “fenqing.” I’m not trying to be flip or bizarre in this hypothesis, but merely trying to illustrate a “distinction.” Here are the usage examples for “fenqing” appearing in my mainland-based Han-Ying Cidian: “distinguish right and wrong on the question of line” (line: luxian, is a Chinese Marxist term indicating the political ideology one holds to); “draw a distinction between ourselves, our friends and the enemy” (unmistakable class struggle language); and “One cannot distinguish between genuine and sham Marxism without studying revolutionary theory.” These examples imply *demarcation* between mutually incompatible categories, but I would assert that making distinctions need not necessarily work this way, and may be off the mark of what is required in distinguishing the traditional notions of empty and full. Incidently, in his book, The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy, John DeFrancis writes at length about the degree to which modern mainland Mandarin was influenced by political language, and Maoist language in particular. No surprises there. It would of course take some detailed socio-historical linguistic analysis to prove or disprove my hypothesis, but the hypothesis having been made, I would say the burden lies in disproving it at this point.

Particularly telling, I think, was your statement, “If that sounds like marxist dialectics, so be it. Chinese thinking is rife with yin/yang type opppositions and they were there long before Marx.” This, I think, is a misunderstanding that is all too common—the notion that Chinese correlative thought was one of “oppositions.” I could quote a number of sources pointing out the qualitative distinction between what might be called the “dualism” of dialectical thinking and the “polarity” of traditional Chinese correlative thinking. They are really quite different. This is the point I was trying to touch upon in my mention of Mao’s famous “On Contradition” essay. He went to great lengths to appropriate native correlative language into the dialectical framework, and with great success. In so doing, he actually contributed to a change in the way that language came to be used. Dialectics requires what Mao called “antagonism” between opposing forces and factions. Social processes are explained in terms of the “struggle” of opposing classes and forces, and this struggle is viewed as an essential and necessary process of nature. Again, this is rather different than native yin/yang correlative thinking. I can’t think of a better illustration than Li Yiyu’s words, “within full there is empty”; “within empty there is full.”

My thoughts on all of this are purely for the enjoyment of pondering and discussing these ideas, and I hasten to add that much of what you’ve said makes a great deal of sense to me.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jan 03, 2004 2:32 am

Well I have got about half of Shen Jiazhen's essay translated:

http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/rep/mainpage.htm
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jan 03, 2004 2:52 am

Louis, well I may have used some extravagant language to try to emphasize the idea that fen xu shi is not about distribution but rather about division and separation, distinguishing. As you know, I have spent most of my time on pre-communist lit and lived in Taiwan, married a Taiwese, and so on so I doubt if my take is much influenced by marxist or maoist rhetoric or philosophy, though of course I read some of Mao's writings in college, such as 'On Contradiction'. I think conversely you need to be careful about superimposing philosophical notions related to yin-yang and so on onto the xu shi question, or at least on the injunction xu shi yi fen qingchu. Because the whole point of the 4th essential is to draw our attention to the polarity. The details of how the polarity is implemented are a different issue which runs at a lower level. This is much like the relationship of phonemic distinctions vs phonetic distinctions. In Shen's essay he mentions something to the effect that the distinction is primarily internal, mental, rather than physical. The physical is of course there but at a lower level.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jan 03, 2004 4:47 am

Hi Jerry,

You wrote, “so I doubt if my take is much influenced by marxist or maoist rhetoric or philosophy, . .”

No, I wouldn’t think so either. I’m just saying that that’s what it sounded like.

I'm checking out the Shen Jiazhen translation, and I'll let you know what I think.

Thanks,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jan 03, 2004 5:11 am

It's somewhat rough, having been thrown together yesterday and today. There are a lot of technical terms in there, and I suspect one or two misprints, too. Overall, though I think I have caught the main idea. The book is particularly impressive because it completely leaves behind the traditional format and reads like a modern analysis; he really takes a stand and gives his own explanation in colloquial mandarin rather than the traditional repetition and stringing together of 'classical' formulae...
A lot of books in English are people cribbing from someone else who cribbed from Shen!

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 01-02-2004).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jan 03, 2004 6:31 pm

Greetings Jerry,

Re: “I think conversely you need to be careful about superimposing philosophical notions related to yin-yang and so on onto the xu shi question, or at least on the injunction xu shi yi fen qingchu. Because the whole point of the 4th essential is to draw our attention to the polarity.”

I can’t really take credit for that. I think traditional taijiquan theorists such as Wang Zongyue, Wu Yuxiang, Li Yiyu, and the authors of the Yang Forty have done a good job elucidating the art via yin-yang correlative ideas. Yang Chengfu called upon these ideas too. How can the polarity we are paying attention to in the xu/shi distinction not have to do with correlative theory. Am I missing something?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jan 03, 2004 7:54 pm

Let me clarify. I think we have to be careful about taking our philosophical opinions, like yin gradually turns into yang, right and wrong aren't really that clear, etc and letting them confuse our understanding of a statement like xu shi yi fen qingchu (fen xu shi, xu shi fen qing are merely transforms of the same underlying sentence). So when we are told to 'differentiate' empty and full, it's really just confusing the issue to go on about sliding scales and distribution. Yes of course there could be relatively more fullness or emptiness, but that's not the issue here. The issue is: what did it say? What does it mean to say 'differentiate full and empty'? Unless we truly separate the translation of the phrase from a discussion of various aspects attendant upon 'full' and 'empty' we just confuse ourselves. What I am trying to say is that in this injunction, xu and shi are to be regarded as polar opposites, segments of a lever separated by the fulcrum. To view them in this context as a murky spectrum of gradations defeats the whole purpose and meaning of the essential, like saying 'how can I cut along the solid lines and fold along the dotted lines because under a magnifying glass the solid lines have gaps in them too?' Yes the two segments of the lever are part of the same pole, but what makes them interesting and what allows us to lift heavy weights is the division between them.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 01-03-2004).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jan 03, 2004 8:09 pm

Greetings Jerry,

I’m working my way through your Shen Jiazhen document, and here are a few preliminary comments. I think your translation is very good, and the content of this passage is very interesting. Many of the things Shen writes are things I’ve thought about a good deal myself regarding relative weighting (or what I like to call muscle loading profiles) and center of gravity shifts. When he begins to get more detailed in his breakdown into percentages in various limbs, etc., my interest flags a bit. I typically don’t find that sort of analysis useful in my practice, but that’s just me.

You wrote: “The book is particularly impressive because it completely leaves behind the traditional format and reads like a modern analysis; he really takes a stand and gives his own explanation in colloquial mandarin rather than the traditional repetition and stringing together of 'classical' formulae...”

I agree to an extent, except in those cases where Shen blends traditional formulae or paraphases of same into his narrative, unattributed. Gu Liuxin did the same thing in his writings all the time, and it really makes you work to see when he’s quoting and when he’s not!

Here are a few line item queries that occur to me so far:

In the quote of the Taijiquan Lun beginning the text, Shen has either worked from a version I’m not familiar with, or he emended it by adding an extra “yi” in the final phrase—“yi xu [yi] shi.” I wonder if this slightly changes the meaning, or merely amplifies it? To me, xu shi as a compound is evocative.

Midway through the first paragraph, in the sentence beginning, “In addition,” I’m wondering about the wording you’ve rendered, “starting point” (luodian). This, I think, is a term for “placement, or placement accuracy,” as in placement of a tennis ball. I think “xingcheng luodian” is the actual subject of the sentence, which “enables internal energy to . . .” Could it refer to the enhancement of placement accuracy in one’s form fostered by the understanding of full/empty dynamics?

In the first paragraph of the section titled “The relative proportions of full and empty,” there is one of those embedded Li Yiyu quotes I alluded to above, regarding the meaning of empty and full. Yang Chengfu also incorporated this wording into Ten Essentials. In the next to the last sentence, you translate “zhi zhong” as “stagnant doubling.” I think you probably meant, “stagnant weight?”

In section two, the first paragraph, the “half-light half-heavy,” “excessively light and excessively heavy” wording, and the general thrust of the discussion, seems to come directly from Yang Forty document #22 (cf. Wile, Lost, pp. 76-77; 143-44, and Yang Zhenduo’s Yang Shi Taiji, pp. 10-11). The “double sinking” and “leaping empty” (teng xu) in footnote #3 appear in the same document. By the way, I really like your rendering “distinction of base and point” for the “zhu tu” term in that note. That would have stumped me! How did you arrive at that? Very nice.

In the next paragraph regarding moving and emitting energy, you have chosen not to include the “within the curve” in the taiji term “qu xu,” rendering it as “retain some slight reserve.” Maybe this was intentional in the interest of smoothness, but to me the whole paragraph has to do with this curve-straight dynamic, so I think it belongs there. What do you think?

That’s it for now. Hope these comments are useful or interesting.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-06-2004).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Jan 03, 2004 8:47 pm

Good points, Louis. Thanks. Still rough and there were a couple of spots where I took and educated guess Image . I will try to clear all that up as I finish the chapter.
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Postby HengYu » Mon Jan 05, 2004 12:02 pm

Very interesting discussion. I know nothing about the translations mentioned above. With regards footing, many say that the feet should become as sensitive to the ground, as the hands are to the opponent in pushing hands, or the mind is/becomes to the environment. When the weight drops, qi rises, it is a two-way phenomenon, happening all at once, all the time. The sliding scale of weight distribution, although technically correct and useful, is one dimensional and does not convey the true and constant balance/adjustment of balance that occurs between the dropped bodyweight (entering the ground via an aligned skeleton), and the resultant rising force. No matter where the weight is, there will be a resultant rising force that travels the entire body and needs, through correct movement, posture and breath, to be distributed correctly. This requires 'rooting' and 'emmission'. The rising force drops back down, as bodyweight and a circuit is established and enhanced. One becomes difficult to move by an outside force, but one equally experiences an enhanced feeling of free movement and is able to move anywhere, with ease. Qi emmission is huge and can be used anywhere. But the mind is the highest arena for all this to take place. Thanks.
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Postby DavidJ » Tue Jan 06, 2004 9:19 pm

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for this: http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/rep/mainpage.htm
Very nice.

Maybe, just maybe, you guys will now understand what I posted on 02-27-2001
http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/Forum7/HTML/000002-2.html

and later, regarding this subject.

Regards,

David J
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