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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2002 4:38 am
by tai1chi
Hi Audi,

here's a link to a site with a story you'll find interesting

Doing a search using "Yueh" instead of Yu or Yue may yield more results. Anyway, I share your intuition that the story of the Yueh Maiden and the "Fair Lady" may be related, if only as a cultural metaphor for "feminine precision." I don't think it's related to the saber, in general, but Yang saber might be a special case. Anyway, it's an interesting story. I think it was brought up earlier on this board, actually.

Steve James

PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2002 9:47 pm
by Louis Swaim

Regarding the dating of the Wu Yue Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn Annals of the States of Wu and Yue), Enymion Wilkinson's _Chinese History: A Manual_ (1st ed., 1998, Harvard Univ. Press, p. 463) states that it was "compiled in later Han by various hands." Ralph Sawyer, in his massive and scholarly _The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China_ (Westview, 1993, p. 424), remarks in a footnote to a passage from the Wu Yue Chunqiu about Sunzi, that “Insofar as the Wu Yueh ch’un-ch’iu is attributed to the first century A.D., nearly two centuries after the Shih chi [Records of History], it is not considered reliable evidence for Sun-tzu’s activities.” Thus, there would seem to be some scholarly agreement on the dating of the work, making it at least over 1,900 years old. I’ll also note that D.C. Lau wrote a concordance to the Wu Yue Chunqiu, published in 1995 by Commercial Press. So, less problematic than the dating of the work itself is its distance in time from the period that it purports to chronicle.

Whether the figure Yue Nu was a genuine historical figure is probably not that relevant. Myth is often grounded in something, and is transmitted as myth for identifiable reasons. The principles of stillness and motion enunciated in the Yue Nu story are grounded in other Warring States traditions including Sunzi’s Art of Warfare. So, while I understand Jerry’s caution regarding the provenance of the story, I also agree with Audi’s observations that the imagery associated with Taiji’s saber and other forms is both deep and wide.

Take care,

P.S., The story that Steve linked is of course a fictionalized short story by famous author Jin Yong, based on the Wu Yue Chunqiu figure.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 7:06 am
by JerryKarin
I finally got out my Sibu Congkan edition of Wuyue chunqiu and located the passage (in chapter 9). Having looked at it a bit I have revised my earlier opinion of it: this could be as early as later Han. Having said that, it is rather thin stuff. A great deal has been elaborated over these very thin bones.

These will take a minute or two to download.

First part:

Second part:

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 7:14 am
by JerryKarin
The phrases that Audi mentioned are included, and those in fact are pretty much all of the passage. I don't have the book Audi mentioned so I can't check, but it seems like the translation was only partial. The 'fair maiden' phrase was hao3 fu4, which is possibly a dialect word; I don't recall ever seeing this but I haven't looked it up. Anyway not the same as yu4 nu3 of the shuttles.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 8:04 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Jerry,

Excellent! Thank you for your work in locating and posting your scan of the Wu Yue Chunqiu passage. You are absolutely right that what Zhang Yun rendered “fair lady” is not the jade maiden (yu nu) we associate with taiji, but hao fu. The Hanyu Da Cidian glosses this simply as “meimao de funu”—a beautiful woman. The James Liu exerpt cited by Barbara Davis renders this as “fine lady” (Liu, The Chinese Knight Errant, pp. 85-86, quoted in Davis, Taiji Sword, p. xi). Wile renders it as “modest woman.” Here’s Wile’s translation of part of the passage scanned:

“The art of swordsmanship is extremely subtle and elusive; its principles are most secret and profound. The tao has its gate and door, its yin and yang. Open the gate and close the door; yin declines and yang rises. When practicing the art of hand-to-hand combat, concentrate your spirit internally and give the impression of relaxation externally. You should look like a modest woman and strike like a ferocious tiger. As you assume various postures, regulate your ch’i, moving always with the spirit. Your skill should be as obvious as the sun and as startling as a bolting hare. Your opponent endeavors to pursue your form and chase your shadow, yet your image hovers between existence and non-existence. The breath moves in and out and should never be held. Whether you close with the opponent vertically or horizontally, with or against the flow, never attack frontally. Mastery of this art allows one to match a hundred, and a hundred to match a thousand. If your Highness would like to test it, I can demonstrate for your edification.” (Douglas Wile, T’ai Chi’s Ancestors: The Making of an Internal Martial Art, pp. 3-4)

I don’t quite share your estimation of the passage as “rather thin stuff.” In fact, it is often cited by Chinese martial arts historians. It is not cited, however, as some sort of locus classicus of martial theory, for in fact the theory can be found rather widely distributed among various bingfa (military strategy) manuals and philosophical texts. What is unique in this brief passage is that it enunciates the theory usually applied to collective groupings of soldiers in terms specific to individual skill in sword or hand arts. We find distilled in this little story a number of elements that figure into the later theory of taijiquan and other martial arts: the attention to free breathing (huxi), the notions of yin and yang, qi and jingshen. The imagery of the opening and closing of doors is intriguing, as are the contrastive terms “shun” (with the flow), and “ni” (against the flow) which are important terms at least in Chen style taiji theory, and the ever important notion of avoiding direct frontal attack (although that particular rendering may be debatable here).

Thanks again for sharing the original, Jerry.

Take care,

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 8:23 pm
by JerryKarin
Here's my quick and dirty translation of the run up to the most technical part:

....In this instance I have heard that in Yue there is a maiden who came from South Woods. People praise her excellence. Would that the king would invite her to a personal interview. So the king of Yue sent a messenger to look for her that he might question her about the art of sword and spear. The girl was going to meet the king. Along the way she met an old man who called himself 'Lord Yuan (ape)' He asked the maiden, 'I've heard you are good at swordplay. May I see this?' The girl answered, 'I wouldn't dare to hide anything, let the lord only try me'. Thereupon Lord Yuan (got? and) was leaning on a stick of linyu bamboo, on a branch of which was a wisp trailing down to the ground. The girl sliced the tip off of it. Lord Yuan flew up into a tree and became a white ape. So then she parted from him and went to see the king of Yue.

The king said, 'well, tell us about your way of the sword'. The girl said, I was born deep in the forest and grew up in an uninhabited area. All sorts of treachery flourish there and the feudal lords are not accessible. I became fond of fighting and studied incessantly. This is not something I learned from others, but rather suddenly came upon myself.' The king said, 'what of your way then?' The girl said, 'this way is exceedingly suble yet easy. The meaning is obscure yet deep. The way has gates and doors as well as Yin and Yang. Open gate and close door! Yin wanes and Yang waxes.

As to the way of hand combat, internally solidify the essential spirit, externally display calm and dignity. When they see you it is like lusting after a mate, when you battle them, as though they fear a tiger. Spreading your form and employing chi go together with the spirit.

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 8:39 pm
by JerryKarin
Louis wrote:

"I don’t quite share your estimation of the passage as “rather thin stuff.” In fact, it is often cited by Chinese martial arts historians."

This is exactly my point. One author translates it or cites it, then fifty follow. But what of it? I am intrigued by your idea of similar tactics on an individual and platoon or regiment level, but it's not all that clear in the text, is it?

PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2002 11:20 pm
by Louis Swaim
Greetings Jerry,

“Quick and Dirty?” I’d say that was swift and clean. Bucuo!

As for the significance of the passage, I think one has to go beyond the story and understand some of the context of the Warring States period. One has to ask why there is such a text as the Wu Yue Chunqiu. Early warfare up through the Western Zhou and Spring and Autumn period had been largely an affair of aristocrats on chariots, with infantry playing a subsidiary role. In the states of Wu and Yue, however, chariots were impracticable. According to Ralph Sawyer, in _The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China_, p. 365,

“both states were mountainous regions crisscrossed by rivers and streams and marked by lakes, ponds, and marshes. In response to these insurmountable constraints, Wu and Yueh stressed infantry and naval forces and developed weapons for close combat—such as the sword—to such a high degree that they were famous throughout the realms; when unearthed today, they still retain their surface and edge qualities.”

Hsu Cho-yun, in _Ancient China in Transition_, states similarly, “Toward the end of the Ch’un Ch’iu period, the role of infantry gradually became more significant. Wu and Yueh, the two giant states of the south, favored the use of foot soldiers, since the many lakes, rivers, and swamps of their territory limited the use of chariots.” (p. 69)

So on one level, we can see that the states of Wu and Yue were important as a sort of crucible of the sword and probably of refinements in individual fighting techniques. On another level, subsequent sword traditions must have felt an emotional connection to the story because it neatly captured these developments. So, as I stated before, myth is usually grounded in something, and has a rationale that sustains it.

Take care,

PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2002 8:38 am
by JerryKarin
Wiles translation of the last few sentences is highly fanciful, don't you think? I think he is somewhat off base, particularly on the 'never attack frontally'. Also 'your image hovers between existence and non-existence' for guang ruo fang fu! I think he has parsed the last two sentences incorrectly. Probably more like 'as to inhalation and exhalation, coming and going, they cannot get to a way to restrict your moving along one axis or another, your opposing and going along, your going straight or returning'.


"Your skill should be as obvious as the sun and as startling as a bolting hare. Your opponent endeavors to pursue your form and chase your shadow, yet your image hovers between existence and non-existence. The breath moves in and out and should never be held. Whether you close with the opponent vertically or horizontally, with or against the flow, never attack frontally"

PostPosted: Fri Mar 21, 2003 3:56 pm
by larsbo_c
Please be aware that the sabel form names mentioned below is entirely Knud's own invention.
[QUOTE]Originally posted by DavidJ:
[B]Hi Greg, Audi, Louis,

Though I cannot attest to the accuracy of the names, you may find the list(s) here interesting.

This site is from one of Tung Kai Ying's students who teaches in Denmark:

PostPosted: Mon Apr 10, 2006 4:23 pm
by Bob Ashmore
Audi, Louis, Jerry,
Just wanted you guys to know that this thread was very helpful to me while taking a saber form class this past weekend.
Thanks for taking the time to translate and explain this poem for those of us with no skill along those lines.