Empty and Full

Postby Audi » Sun Jul 13, 2003 11:58 pm

Hi all,

Wushuer, I think you are getting somewhere. As I have said before, I am a big fan of bow imagery in Taijiquan. I think it is fairly easy to understand Yin and Yang, mind and body linkage, storing and releasing, curves and straight lines, etc., when considering the action of a bow.

If you wish to put Wu Style and Yang Style in sharp contrast, one posture you may try comparing in the two forms is Play the Pipa/Guitar. If I recall correctly, both forms have this posture in roughly the same sequence of postures.

Look not only for the differences in weighting, but for the synchronization between the weight shifts and the applications. Compare also the possible differences in use of the waist and the hips and also the different objectives behind leaning with the torso.

By the way, in the way the Yangs do this posture, I believe there are three distinct shifts of weight, at least one waist rotation, one subtle change of hip orientation because of the change in the left foot placement, one change in stance length, two instances of 100/0 weight distribution, one instance of approximate 30/70 weight distribution, and two instances in which Jin in both legs is used to accomplish something.

At this point in our ongoing discussion, I think that Yang and Wu Styles have identical views of full and empty and of double weighting, but different views of what the natural end should be for sequences of applications. I think this may be another way of saying the same thing Michael was trying to get at.

I would be very surprised if you could not look at your Wu form and not find dozens of instances where techniques are initiated or concluded with weight in both legs as transitional parts of larger movements. For instance, during one weight shift in Cloud Hands, you may have a sequence of Peng (Ward Off), Lü (Roll Back), and Cai (Pluck/Pull Down) where the first two techniques are brought to completion while there is weight in both legs and where the last two are initiated with weight in both legs. If such weighting is permitted for “transitional” techniques, it would seem to me the scope of the principle must be quite limited.

If my analysis is correct, I think the Wu Style principle you have been stating amounts to either some sort of combat preference or else a training device. In either case, I do not believe its domain of application is the same as what we have been proposing for the concept of double weighting in Yang Style.

Psalchemist, if I can be nosey, can I ask if there is a particular teacher of national or international notoriety after whom you model your Taijiquan? In other words, can you tell me how your lineage of instruction intersects with the lineage of the Yangs?

I ask this because I have found in my experience that the instructions given by many teachers of Taijiquan are often not exactly compatible with each other. If I address your questions of terminology without understanding something about your practice background and aspirations, I fear that I may increase the possibility of confusion. I am wondering if I have in fact not already done so.

Depending on how you answer, I would answer differently or decline to answer questions about “cross substantiality,” Peng, “relaxation,” “threading,” “sinking,” and “silk reeling.” Some people whose opinion I value do not accept my distinctions. Others do. I raise this issue only because I consider it to have been critical to my progress, and I regret that no one told me about this possibility early in my study of Taijiquan.

Steve, I think I understand better what you have been asserting. Thanks for your efforts in explaining yourself. I still have difficulty linking this concept of “diagonal pairing” with the qualities I generally attribute to the concepts of “full” and “empty,” but I can imagine what could be said. For good or for ill, I do not consciously practice in this way. I think I also follow a different approach to several of the other concepts you have mentioned and so cannot say much in response.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Polaris » Mon Jul 14, 2003 5:36 pm

Audi,

In the contemporary Wu style 108 posture routine there are 6 instances of "Play Guitar." Form numbers 3, 10, 59, 61, 63 & 66. While most of them they end up in the same position, they all , except 61 & 63 which are identical, and 10 which has the end position near the beginning, start from completely different positions and have any number of different martial applications. You see even as relatively simple a posture as this is a very complicated issue, just within Wu style, add Yang style and it becomes even more complicated. They have some commonality, to be sure, but there are very great differences as well. Apples and oranges, and their comparison is likely to only be profitable for polite curiosity's sake.

You bring up a telling point, if I may paraphrase, that different schools will have different terms for the same principles or different definitions for the same terms. The names almost seem arbitrary at times. Adding to that the language difficulties of English/Mandarin/Cantonese translations as time goes on and this divergence will only grow. At least until someone is finished entirely learning one complete style (how likely is that?) I would advise them that if they want to learn Yang style, study Yang style, if they want to learn Wu, study Wu. They really shouldn't be mixed and matched. Unless you are a master already, the end result will very likely be a poor, confused product. So, I don't come here to teach my style, I come here to discuss historical, cultural and social factors which I may have in common with you guys. Technique can't be realistically described in two dimensions anyway! ;-)

As a matter for commonality, double/single weightedness, historically anyway, has been the same in all the T'ai Chi Ch'uan styles. The language of its description isn't the same in different modern schools, for many reasons. Not least of which being that it has been my experience that there are many, many schools out there that do not have a single member, teacher or student, who can demonstrate single weightedness even remotely. The weightedness issue in its original sense is a defining one for T'ai Chi Ch'uan, period. Without its apprehension by at least the teacher in charge, there can be no T'ai Chi Ch'uan happening at the school in question.

Regards,
P.

[This message has been edited by Polaris (edited 07-14-2003).]
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Jul 14, 2003 10:08 pm

Hi Polaris,

you wrote:

"You see even as relatively simple a posture as this is a very complicated issue, just within Wu style, add Yang style and it becomes even more complicated. They have some commonality, to be sure, but there are very great differences as well. Apples and oranges, and their comparison is likely to only be profitable for polite curiosity's sake."

About your Wu style "Play Guitar": When you do your form, do you imagine that your hands are in contact with an imaginary opponent? If so, where would your hands be on the opponent? Of course, there are a zillion variations, and so the hands might be anywhere; but, if you were to visualize an application (for the first instance, say) --or if you do-- what might it be like? I'm interested to know how you feel it might be so dissimilar to a Yang style application. I guess I don't believe that the two styles are apples and oranges --maybe different types of apples.

It does seem that there are consistencies between the styles: for example, it would be interesting and informative to konw how "Press" differs between the styles. I guess I'm also afraid that if we wait for any level of mastery to discuss these differences, they will never be discussed.

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Mon Jul 14, 2003 11:06 pm

Steve,

Cheers! For the 5 distinct forms of Play Guitar of the 6 in our form (counting the entire motion from the time the previous form is held to end and the next is held to begin) that I mentioned; there are different discrete applications for each, and then many, many different appications inside each as a stand alone. We aren't taught to imagine opponents during forms, but rather we take the forms and practice the individual applications with another person as an adjunct to pushing hands. They also pop out from time to time, spontaneously, in freestyle!

Play guitar is a general "ready" sparring posture, which I imagine to be true in Yang style as well. To drill individual or combination applications of the form, the training partner attacks in a set way and I would respond to that, either above or below or to the side, depending on the person and what I want to do with them. If I have dodged their first strike to the side (Play Guitar 59), my front arm may come in from the side to offset them at the shoulder while the other hand strikes, and I may simultaneously sweep with my negative foot, for example. If we are face to face and they attack, the front hand will hit them as the rear hand intercepts their attack (similar to Brush Knee and Push, and Play Guitar 10 even ends the first Wu style Brush Knee series). If they are reaching around us from the side, my hand may come under their elbow, trapping their hand in contact and locking their elbow from beneath. Another application from our Play Guitar is to use my elbow to hit their elbow from above, again if they are reaching from the side, offsetting their face into my strike as I unfold my arm to hit them after the first offset. Another example is retreating our arms into the torso in order to trap or break the arms of someone pushing us from the front (Play guitar number 10). The same motion may be used to set up a "Kao" strike from the back if someone has grabbed us from behind. The list goes on and on, the application chosen depends on minute variations in the timing and positioning of the attacker relative to my position. There are also kicks and the defense of incoming kicks implied any time that there is a step or pivot in the Play Guitar forms.

Then there is my volition above and beyond simple positioning: are there multiple opponents? Do they have weapons? Do I want to send them away or break them where they stand? Throwing them an effective distance would require me to use Fa Ching in a big circle and breaking the first part of their body that I contact either Ta or Na in a smaller circle, from the standpoint of Play Guitar. It comes down to what my needs are and how creative I am in meeting them. I also have to have the kung fu to do so, of course! ;-)

Which brings us to - I don't mind discussion, as such, but I guess that my position is based on whether or not people know what they are discussing. Otherwise you end up with redundant speculation, especially if concrete examples aren't forthcoming, as on a discussion board. I really don't know the applications for Yang style Play Guitar, I can see that it is different, however, many of the applications that I have mentioned (not an exhaustive list by any means) I can see as potentially contained in the Yang style form, but just as many aren't. I can't say authoritatively if Press, Push, etc. are the same in the two styles (although, again, I imagine they are pretty close). I can report accurately on my personal experiences, and let the readers make up their minds, so I see value in discussion to that end, but I'm not going to try and learn modern Yang style here, not even the well-preserved Yang Zhen-duo branch. I don't have time!

Apples and oranges are both fruit, and both good for you, they are just from different families of trees...

Regards,
P.
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Jul 14, 2003 11:34 pm

Hi Polaris,

I'd agree that there are differences between Wu style and Yang style. Ime, I've seen as many differences among Yang *and* Wu branches. I wouldn't say that no two teachers teach alike, but it doesn't seem that any two transmissions are alike. But, that's off the point.

You wrote, regarding the applications for Play Guitar:

"The list goes on and on, the application chosen depends on minute variations in the timing and positioning of the attacker relative to my position."

and

"Then there is my volition above and beyond simple positioning"

[SJ] My point here is that, given the enormous variety of options, how can one be certain that both Yang and Wu style would not commonly utilize some (many) of them: i.e., of the applications you suggested, many would be familiar to a Yang stylist, and some of them might be unfamiliar to another Wu stylist. For either, there's no substantial reason to assume that one would not be able to use the other --imho.

Oops, forgive me, you also wrote:

"I really don't know the applications for Yang style Play Guitar, I can see that it is different, however, many of the applications that I have mentioned (not an exhaustive list by any means) I can see as potentially contained in the Yang style form, but just as many aren't."

Well, I'd suggest that you really do know many of the applications for Play Guitar in many Yang styles. Certainly, anything that involves qinna or an elbow lock would be similar. If you say you see the potential for an application in a form, then I'd argue that that application is there inherently. Sure, your imagination --or the situation-- might require some improvisation. I don't think anyone in any style suggests that any movement is limited to any particular application. It's rather limiting and --imv-- impractical.

[Polaris]
.. but I'm not going to try and learn modern Yang style here, not even the well-preserved Yang Zhen-duo branch. I don't have time!

[SJ] I'd never claim that anyone could learn tcc here, but they could learn a lot about it. Personally, I can't understand physical descriptions of things in print.

[Polaris]
"Apples and oranges are both fruit, and both good for you, they are just from different families of trees..."

[SJ] True, but, genetically, both Wu and Yang are fruit of the same tree, no?

Best,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Tue Jul 15, 2003 4:45 am

"I'd agree that there are differences between Wu style and Yang style. Ime, I've seen as many differences among Yang *and* Wu branches... But, that's off the point."

It is a good place off of the point, however, one that throws some light on our discussion. The perspective that every high level teacher in the end makes the form their own, that it becomes as personal as handwriting, explains why there are 'styles' of T'ai Chi Ch'uan in the first place. Anymore it gets down to: which style do you want to emulate before you find your own? Not many people got a choice in the past, and nowadays we are still restricted to fate as far as a good teacher is concerned, unless you live in a nexus for good T'ai Chi such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York or Toronto. Then you have to choose which style suits you.

"My point here is that, given the enormous variety of options, how can one be certain that both Yang and Wu style would not commonly utilize some (many) of them: i.e., of the applications you suggested, many would be familiar to a Yang stylist, and some of them might be unfamiliar to another Wu stylist. For either, there's no substantial reason to assume that one would not be able to use the other --imho."

Yeah, I pretty much agree with you there, the applications will have to be implied somehow in the ur-form for them to manifest as an emphasis for later generations. I guess the question I would ask is, do they emphasize the same things now? This relates to what you said about not many teachers teaching the same, I suppose. I don't know if the Yang Ch'eng-fu style emphasizes Na in Play Guitar the same way that Wu Kung-yi style does. As the YCF style doesn't touch the forward wrist in their Play Guitar I don't think that they are quite the same, but I could be wrong.

"Well, I'd suggest that you really do know many of the applications for Play Guitar in many Yang styles. Certainly, anything that involves qinna or an elbow lock would be similar. If you say you see the potential for an application in a form, then I'd argue that that application is there inherently. Sure, your imagination --or the situation-- might require some improvisation. I don't think anyone in any style suggests that any movement is limited to any particular application. It's rather limiting and --imv-- impractical."

Especially in a practical situation, there isn't the thought that 'I'm going to do form 32 and them form 93,' rather what ever comes out comes out, for sure. I do believe that if a snake-style groin throw happens that in retrospect we can't describe it as Play Guitar, even if a Play Guitar-specific application may precede or follow it. I think that is Monday-morning quarter-backing in a way, but it is helpful for teaching others at that level to be able to recognize forms and combinations of forms and their known effects specifically for descriptive purposes after they happen. Especially if one comes up with an unattested combination, it could happen! You could get a nickname. That happened with my Sifu's father, Wu Ta-kuei. He came up with a combination Na-leg wrap-heel kick, leg break/throw that was dubbed "Mouse Tail," and that then became his nickname in T'ai Chi circles.

"I'd never claim that anyone could learn tcc here, but they could learn a lot about it. Personally, I can't understand physical descriptions of things in print."

Agreed.

"True, but, genetically, both Wu and Yang are fruit of the same tree, no?"

Agreed.

We aren't that far apart, I'd like to say, but I still think that there are important differences of approach for all of the similarities between the styles. Have you ever seen good Sun style? There are some amazing similarities to Wu style, and yet it is still subtly different.

Beyond being able to learn on a message board, even if it were possible, there is also the matter of respect for my teacher. Because of the relationship that
I have with him and his family, I wouldn't be able to learn another style, myself, unless my teacher assigned me to go and learn it.

Regards,
P.
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Postby psalchemist » Tue Jul 15, 2003 8:36 pm

Greetings Audi,

I am swiftly becoming aware of the chasm of differences which divide the various family styles of Taijiquan. While perhaps not as wide or as deep as I had originally suspected, the flavors are different. Sorry if I was not more specific in my earlier postings.

In an attempt to address your concerns of my ('lineage'?)... let me say first, I am a student of Traditional Yang family style Taijiquan. The questions I posed on the subjects of 'cross substantiality', 'sinking', 'threading', and 'silk reeling' are being asked in the Yang family style context.

Any interest I have expressed for other styles is purely curiosity fulfillment, idea sparking and a desire to discuss the art of Taijiquan in all it's multi-faceted glory with fellow enthusiasts.

Merging systems, or creating new ones, is not and never will be on my 'things to do list' and since, unfortunately, I don't believe I will have enough time in this lifespan to even remotely draw near to the mastery of one style,I surely will not be learning a second one.

I hope I have expounded enough on this matter to squelch any discomfort I caused. I ask you these questions, because I do value your opinion.

May I also query your comments to Wushuer on the subject of double weighting in Taijiquan? You stated that Wu and Yang style share the same expression for two different ideas, "...from what we have been proposing for the concept of double weighting in Yang style."

I have now heard such a mixture of information on this topic that you could not possibly confuse me any further with an explanation. Could you please, kindly indulge me with your views of what double weighting entails within the realm of Yang family style Taijiquan?

Lastly, but certainly far from leastly, I wish to extend my gratitude for the in-depth analysis of the 'play the guitar' posture into it's diverse components. Very helpful to me, Thank-you. Now I just have to perform the same dissection of the other hundred-some movements. Busy,busy!

Best-regards,
Psalchemist.


[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 07-15-2003).]

[This message has been edited by psalchemist (edited 07-15-2003).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Jul 15, 2003 11:29 pm

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Postby psalchemist » Tue Jul 15, 2003 11:54 pm

Jerry Karin,

Thank-you for the references, appreciated.

Psalchemist.
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Postby Polaris » Wed Jul 16, 2003 4:22 am

“There are two kinds of double weighting. There is double weighting between the other and myself and there is double weighting in my own body. Double weighting between the other and myself necessarily results in “butting” (ding). Double weighting in my own body necessarily results in stagnation (zhi).”

-Meng Naichang, from one of Louis Swaim's posts on the other thread Jerry provided the above link to.

Yes! This quote resonates perfectly with how I understand it...

P.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jul 16, 2003 8:21 am

Greetings,

Here’s another bit of commentary about empty and full and double weighting (shuang zhong, or ‘doubling’ shuang chong) that I’ve translated from an essay by Xiang Kairan that was published in the 1940 book _Taiji Zhengzong_ (Orthodox Taiji) by Wu Zhiqing. Wu Zhiqing was a student of Yang Chengfu. Xiang Kairan studied with Yang Chengfu and with Wu Jianquan, among others. The passage I’ve translated below is Xiang’s explication of the all important phrases in Wang Zongyue’s “Taijiquan Treatise”: “Sink to one side, then follow. If double weighted, then one will stagnate. Whenever we see those who for several years have perfected their skill, yet are unable to employ this neutralization and are generally overpowered by others, this is merely from not having come to understand the fault of double weighting.” Here are Xiang’s thoughts on this:

~~~
What is called double weighting, then, is an inability to clearly differentiate empty and full. I observe that when ordinary taijiquan practitioners explain the theory of double weighting, they mostly hold the view that when both feet are simultaneously touching the ground, this is then called double weighting, and when one foot is empty and one is full, then that is not double weighting. Or the two hands simultaneously striking out is deemed a case of double weighting, while if one hand is empty and the other hand full, then that’s not double weighting.

If it were merely like this, then what would be so difficult about understanding the fault of double weighting? How could one have spent several years perfecting skill, yet still be unable to understand this little bit of theory?

From what I’ve gained in my own experience, it’s not only a matter of double weighting in the two hands and the two feet, but rather that one must still clearly differentiate empty and full even to the minutest level of one finger. If you touch a person with one finger, but you’re unable to differentiate empty and full, you’ve committed the error of double weighting.

When practicing the form, the entire body, from the crown of the head to the heels, is a circulating (xunhuan) of empty and full. Within one hand there is a mutual alternating of empty and full; increasingly dense and increasingly subtle. From Raise Hands to the conclusion [of the form] there is everywhere a productive cycle whereby empty and full follow in one another’s wake. Suppose there is a space an inch large to which one hasn’t paid attention. One will then unavoidably have the flaw of double weighting in this one inch of space. With this sort of [meticulous] practicing, how can one proceed hurriedly? With this sort of practicing, there can be greater progress in one round than in ten or twenty rounds of casual practice.
—Xiang Kairan, in Wu Zhiqing’s Taiji Zhengzong, pp. 247-248
~~~

Enjoy,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 07-16-2003).]
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Jul 16, 2003 2:45 pm

Hi Louis,

thanks for the translation. I think the problem still remains as to the nature of the quantity that is "empty" or/and "full." The container (volume) is relatively clear: i.e., the entire body as a whole and each individual part. "Intention" is one thing that Xiang describes. However, "mental intention" doesn't seem to be all that is meant by double-weighting. And, intention (perhaps in the sense of 'paying attention') --in Xiang's essay-- seems to be what is necessary to *avoid* double-weighting.

So, imho, fwiw, Xiang is contradicting the conceptions that "double-weighting" simply means a redundancy in weight distribution. [Btw, since he was closely familiar with the Yang and Wu training, I think he also suggests that there is little difference in the concept among those styles. Personally, if WCC and YCF taught together, I can't possibly imagine that they differed greatly in terms of tcc theory. As you know, the usual saying is "Two tigers cannot stay on the same mountain." Imo, their level of agreement must have been extraordinary.]

But, my main point is that Xiang does not seem to quantify the matter/energy? that is make up "full." If the movements must always be intent-filled, always 'on', then where is the empty? Or, "full" and "empty" are not the best terms to use to quantify "intention." Thus, my question is, what do the terms "full and empty" quantify?

Do you see the problem? Or, do you think it's just my idiotsyncracy?

Regards,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Jul 16, 2003 5:47 pm

Hi Steve,
Perhaps it’s not quantity that Xiang Kairan is addressing, but quality. That is, he’s talking about a quality of movement, with “empty and full” being metaphors for a way of moving—a waxing and waning of muscle loading, contracting and expanding, etc. He even makes a point of contrasting “this sort of practice” (quality) with “ten or twenty rounds” (quantity) of casual (suibian) practice. The quantity that he does endorse is an increased attention from the gross to the fine. That’s why he’s incredulous that after years of practice one would be unable to understand the flaw of double weighting if it were merely a matter of the gross separation of weight or pressure between one limb and the other. The difficulty lies in identifying the full and empty at progressively finer and denser levels in one’s form. This resonates well, I think, with the understanding of the issue expressed in the little Li Yiyu document I posted earlier.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Wed Jul 16, 2003 6:39 pm

Hi Louis,

I understand your reply, but I did not mean "quantity" in the sense of number or amount --Certainly, not "number." But even taking your distinction of "quality" of, let's say, movement. What type of movement. I can understand "quality of circular movement", and distinguishing between the fullness or emptiness of circularity. As you point out, however, distiguishing between xu and shi applies to many, if not all, things.

I'm not questioning anyone's understanding of this except my own, btw. I wondering, as I suggested previously, whether there is something specific that even Xiang's essay refers to --though it might very well be interpreted/explained differntly by others.

Regards,
Steve James
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Postby Polaris » Wed Jul 16, 2003 8:18 pm

Gents,

What Xiang Kairen has to say is as close as could be imagined to the way it has been presented to me by the current Wu family teachers.

As for Wu Chien-ch'uan and Yang Ch'eng-fu (and Yang Shao-hou and Sun Lu-t'ang) they were indeed all very close friends and colleagues, teaching together in the same establishment for at least fifteen years. The tradition in the Wu family is that it was only seeing these masters together that brought about the concept of "style" in the student's minds, as Ch'eng-fu's and Chien-ch'uan's forms were cosmetically different. It is said that the teachers themselves made no such differentiation until much later. For example, the forms "White Crane Spreads Wings" and "Step Back Repulse Monkey" are dramatically different in appearance in the two teachers'forms. Yet, I can agree that the internal mechanics are precisely the same, as outlined in Louis' posts. So I am therefore now more convinced than before of the value of comparison of core principles, at least.

To talk about what the "full" is in full and empty, that is a combination of things, but mostly intent. The intent has to be backed up by ability, of course! If a person has the years of accomplished discipline, kung fu, in T'ai Chi Ch'uan. If through decades of intense, devoted training they have refined their sensitivity to the intent of others and their own projection of intent, then the full of full and empty can be manifested wherever the practioner knows by virtue of their kung fu that it is possible to do so. By a decision, pure and simple. If one person's intent is clearer, if their kung fu is greater, their decisions will easily overrule those of their opponents. As the quote above makes clear, if I want to use clearly separate full and empty in the end of my fingertip to uproot the opponent's center and thereby disrupt their balance I may do so, if I have the technique, clearer intention and the kung fu to do so. Another way to say that you have kung fu in this sense is to say that you have an abundance of ch'i to direct with the clear intent. That sounds more new-agey than "kung fu," however, at least for English speaking students... :-)

Regards,
P.
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