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CMC quote

PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 4:57 pm
by DavidJ
Greetings Louis,

I am told of a quote from Cheng Man-ching, "Moreover, a beginner cannot possibly avoid losing and defeat, so if you fear defeat you may as well not even begin. If you want to study, begin by investing in loss. An investment in loss eliminates any greed for superficial advantages....Concentrating your ch'i to become soft is the only proper method to invest in loss." translation by Mark Hennessy.

I was also told of a translation by Ben Lo. I don't know where the original Chinese quote may be found.

I think that "invest in loss" is lousy English, and my guess is that it would be lousy Chinese, too. You've spoken of the use of contrastive terms before, and they were all, to my eye, more elegant than this. Can "invest in loss" be translated in a better?

Thanks in advance,

David J

PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 8:19 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings David,

Like you, I long wondered what the original was for “invest in loss.” I finally learned that Zheng Manqing’s phrase in Chinese is “chi kui.” The translation of this phrase as “invest in loss” has become something of a pet peeve for me, not because it is poor English (it actually has a nice ironic ring to it), but because it misleads in its English entailments. The word “invest,” to my ear, already has overtones of greed for advantage. To paraphrase Martha Stewart, that’s not a good thing.

The most literal rendering of chi(1) kui(1) is “eat loss,” and that’s the rendering I prefer. The Chinese phrase is used figuratively in business, as in to “take a loss,” or “sustain a loss,” and interestingly we even find a similar expression in idiomatic English: “We’ll just have to eat the loss.”

The phrase is related to a much more common Chinese expression, “chi ku,” which means, “eat bitter,” or “eat bitterness.” In the taijiquan context, it’s common to encounter the phrase, “ku lian”: bitter practice. When students begin to get greedy, and show signs of impatience about getting results, teachers are likely to admonish them to “eat bitterness,” that is, to just concentrate on the discipline of their course of study—to do their “bitter practice.” In taijiquan, and especially in push hands training, this has crucial neurophysiological implications. In order to yield effectively, one has to completely let go of the impulse to resist against the other. This is the concept expressed in the taiji aphorism, “she ji cong ren”: “to give up oneself and follow the other,” or “yield to the initiative of the other.”

This is one of the most difficult things to master. It seems counterintuitive, perhaps even more so to Americans, who expect quick return on their dollar. This may in part explain why the expression as used by Zheng Manqing came to be rendered with the convention, “invest in loss.” Or maybe it’s because Professor Zheng taught in a city with a place called Wall Street. (Just joking!)

This actually brings to mind something I posted recently in the “double weighting” thread—the Zhuangzi story that’s also recounted in the Lushi Chuqiu:

“Play for tiles and you soar; play for belt-hooks and you become combative; play for gold and you are flustered. Although your luck is the same in each of the games, the reason you become flustered must be the value you place on external things. Valuing external things makes one become clumsy within.” (Knoblock & Riegel, trans., The Annals of Lu Buwei, p. 288)

Could this be the same concept?

Take care,

PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 9:34 pm
by DavidJ
Greetings Louis,

Brilliant response. Thank you.

To me "invest in loss" is lousy English *because* it misleads in its English entailments. I thought use of the technical term "lousy" would have made that clear. Image

You asked, > Could the Zhuangzi story be the same concept? <

What we think has a great deal to do with how we interact with the world. Sometimes the relative weight (meaning) that we grant to those things apart from us has more to do with us than with them.

And so, if we are fighting against things that we really don't have to resist, then it may well be the same concept.


David J

PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 10:14 pm
by JerryKarin
'Eat loss', while not exactly wrong, is excessively literal and doesn't express well the usual sense of the idiom, which means something like 'come to grief', or 'come a cropper'. I think what Zheng was saying was more like don't be afraid to fail and learn from failure.

By the way Jeff Riegel (whom I met in my time at Berkeley, respect and regard as an excellent translator) was paraphrasing the original in his rendering 'the value you place on external things'. The Chinese is a two syllable phrase which means something like being 'preoccupied' or having an idee fixe.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 10:23 pm
by JerryKarin
Likewise, chi1 ku3 is an idiom meaning something like 'pay your dues'. Rendering it as 'eat bitter' isn't exactly wrong but that way lies 'chinglish' or neologism. (For those of you who don't know, please don't imagine any conflict between Louis and me - we are buddies and are always arguing over... er, I mean discussing with spirit the best way to translate Chinese!)

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 08-22-2002).]

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 12:36 am
by tai1chi
Hi David J., Louis, Jerry,

it's interesting that you (Jerry) mention that people can argue about these terms and still remain friends. David J. and I have been hassling over this same phrase. Anyway, the resolution I've come to, fwiw, is that "both" Jerry and Louis's interpretations are correct. At least, the translations are not contradictory, though they are not the same. In any case, neither "eat loss" nor "pay your dues" are straightforward narrative without the need for interpretation, imo. Yet, I think both are appropriate interpretations. Although, one thing, when it is translated as Louis does, it is difficult to see how it is still a tcc principle (per se). The same is true of Jerry's translation, as well. This is not necessarily a fault, but I think there is definitely a "tcc" interpretation --that seems to lie beyond the words.

my .02,
Steve James

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 2:47 am
by JerryKarin
'Pay your dues' was an idiomatic rendering of a different phrase, which is sometimes rendered 'eat bitter'. Louis and I are in full agreement on the meaning of chi1 kui1, the difficulty is just how to render it in English. It means to suffer a loss or fail in some way. I think the problem I have with 'eating a loss' is that it has other connotations for us, like absorbing or writing off a business loss.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 3:06 am
by JerryKarin
Actually I think there is no mystery at all about what Zheng was saying. Don't worry about winning or losing and in fact accept loss. What is more important at this stage of training is to follow, stick, don't resist forcefully, don't let go, use the principles such as the 10 essentials, etc.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 3:14 am
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Jerry and all,

Yes, friendly debate on translation issues is not only fun, but I learn a lot in the process. It’s rare for people to be in total agreement about such details, and Chinese (especially classical Chinese) can be particularly challenging because of an inherent productive polysemy that’s quite comfortable in the source language, but that resists pat renderings into European languages.

Jeffrey Riegel was one of my first professors in classical Chinese. His collaborative translation of the Lushi Chunqiu with the late John Knoblock is a major contribution.

Jerry, don't ‘preoccupation’ and ‘placing too much attention on something’ amount to the same thing? What is the two syllable phrase you have in mind? The Lushi Chunqiu passage presents the archery story as a quote from Zhuangzi (“Zhuangzi yue. . .”), but the wording is not exactly verbatim as it appears in the Zhuangzi text. The Lushi Chunqiu phrase Riegel rendered “the value you place on external things,” is “wai you suo zhong zhe.” In the Zhuangzi text (Chapter 19), it’s simply, “zhong wai.”

Watson renders this, “you let outside considerations weigh on your mind.” (Watson, p. 201)

Victor Mair has “there is something that distracts him and causes him to focus on externals.” (Mair, p. 177)

Angus Graham has, “but if you are attaching importance to something you are giving weight to what is outside you. . . .” (Graham, p. 137)

Ah, the polysemy!

As for neologisms, I don't think we should fear or scorn them. English has always welcomed them. How else would ‘preoccupied’ or ‘idée fixe’ ever have become part of the English lexicon? In like manner, how else would the scientific term for ‘center of mass’ have become a part of Chinese lexicon as ‘zhong(4) xin(1)?’

I like the visceral quality of "eat loss." Can't you just see John Wayne or Clint Eastwood saying "Eat loss, pilgrim!" Well, maybe not. . . . In any case, the reason I champion the rendering, “eat loss,” is to reveal the bone of the original, and because of the shortcomings of “invest in loss,” which I’ve explained. I don’t understand how that one came to be or took hold as it has in all of the received Zheng Manqing translations.

Also, if I'm not mistaken, the expression "eat bitterness" has actually gained a foothold in American speech. If you do a google search on the phrase, for example, you can find references to its use in book titles, poems, as well as anecdotes about its use among athletes. For athletes it contrasts nicely with the established idiom, "the sweet taste of victory," or "the sweet smell of success." I think “eat bitterness” and “eat loss” are both good candidates for good old American speech. But then I’ve been eating bitterness for a long time now.

Take care my friend,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 08-23-2002).]

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 4:59 am
by JerryKarin
Oops! I think I may have mixed up the passage from Lu Shi Chunqiu with another that talks about you3 (think it's 3rd tone) which is this global fixation or distraction. Will have to look it up (hey it's only been a couple decades since I last looked at it). More about that and 'center of gravity' - which has been a more of an issue lately - soon.

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 5:04 am
by JerryKarin
I think that 'undergo hard training' and sometimes even 'pay your dues' are still better for chi1 ku3 than 'eat bitter'. Why invent a borrowing from Chinese when we have perfectly good phrases for this in English? It's all a matter of taste, of course, and I am certainly not saying it's wrong. Translation is an art allowing for considerable differences in philosophy and approach. Onlookers can see that Louis tends to stick very closely to the literal Chinese and I tend to take greater liberties in an attempt to get at the spirit. It's all a balancing act, like taiji.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 08-23-2002).]

PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 6:26 am
by Louis Swaim
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by JerryKarin:
Oops! I think I may have mixed up the passage from Lu Shi Chunqiu with another that talks about you3 (think it's 3rd tone) which is this global fixation or distraction. Will have to look it up (hey it's only been a couple decades since I last looked at it). More about that and 'center of gravity' - which has been a more of an issue lately - soon. </font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hi Jerry,

You've actually got the right passage in mind, I'm pretty sure. Book 13/Section 3 is titled, "Qu4 You2," which Riegel/Knoblock render as "Getting Rid of Prejudice." The Zhuangzi story appears toward the end of that section, which is fairly short, but full of great down-to-earth wisdom.

I look forward to more spirited discussion! I've been gathering up some findings on 'center of gravity.'

Take care,

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 08-23-2002).]

PostPosted: Mon Oct 14, 2002 7:55 am
by glittalogik
I honestly don't see what the problem with 'invest in loss' is. Regardless of accuracy in the translation, it conveys the concept very well. includes the definition, "To spend or devote for future advantage or benefit." I think this fits perfectly, investing time and humility in sparring when you know you'll lose, with the benefit of greater learning and skill further down the track.

Seems fitting to me...