Louis Swaim wrote:More on Wu Yuxiang's 太極拳解. As you suggest, there is a lot to chew on in that text. I can't recall having seen it rendered into English, so we'll just have to work on that, I think. It's just packed with quotes from other more familiar taiji classics, but also with allusions to the broader classical canon.
I would like to continue more systematically here, with the "chewing" begun on this thread. I am interested in the leaves and individual trees in this forest, but also in how the various groves relate to each other and how the whole forest looks. Sometimes the full meaning of a text becomes apparent only when the relationship of its parts are examined.
Here is the full text Louis quoted (with corrected text per Louis's later post today):
If we begin with the first two sentences, we have:
So all can play, even without knowledge of Chinese, I will attempt an inexpert translation:
Although the body moves, the mind values stillness; the Qi must be collected, and the spirit should open up.
The mind acts as a senior officer, and the Qi acts as a banner; the spirit is what serves as commander-in-chief, and the the body is what is ordered about.
Those not fluent Chinese can also "copy" individual characters (or occasionally pairs of characters), and "paste" them here or here or here to get various types of information about their possible meanings. Those with some fluency Chinese are invited to comment directly on the inadequacies or appropriateness of my translation. You can also get some insight, or have some linguistic fun, by examining the etymology of individual characters here, where the "picture" behind the character is often explained.
To translate or interpret this type of material well, you really need to learn the vocabulary and grammar of classical Chinese and read a lot of ancient books that are extensively used as references. However, to contribute to an informal discussion on a website such as this, all can play and are welcome. I am certainly no scholar of classical Chinese, even if I have studied more than most Tai Chi players.
The excerpted text about seems to state a complete proposition contained of two thoughts. Each thought has four parts contrasting four things in four states according to one order and to four roles in another order.
The four things are: body, mind, Qi, and spirit. These are repeated in both thoughts.
The four states are: moving, being still, being collected, opening up; and the four roles are: giving orders, acting as a banner (a visible expression of the orders and a vehicle for them), being supreme commander, and being ordered about.
The surface proposition seems to be: if the four things are in their proper states, they will collaborate in the proper hierarchy to wield the power of the army that you, yourself, represent.
Said in another way, I might express the proposition as:
Your body benefits from movement, but your thoughts from stillness. Your energy is most useful once it is collected and concentrated, but your spirit is most useful if at ease and open to all possibilities. In this way, you can make the proper decisions, and your energy can transmit those decisions to promote action. With the right decision and action, your spirit will preside over all with the right attitude and tone, leading your body to react appropriately.
Any thoughts or comments?