To enter the gate ...

Postby Audi » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:05 am

Greetings Dave,

Something I forgot to mention in trying to interpret Classical Chinese of this sort is that style and context matter. Most descriptions of Classical Chinese used to stress that the grammar was very simple or even non-existent, but I think this is quite incorrect and very misleading, even to the extent it has any validity.

In a passage like the one at issue here, we are considering what are essentially two lines of "poetry" that have a specific form. There are seven characters to each line. In such a context, I think it is usual to expect that the characters will parse in groups of 4 and 3 for each line.

Since there are two lines in the passage, it is also quite normal to expect some structural parallelism between the lines and contrast or complementarity in the meanings. Within the first four characters of the first line, there is also a presumed parallelism between "entering the gate" and "leading down the path."

Another thing to bear in mind in choosing between English translations, or even in trying to fully understand a chosen translation, is that Classical Chinese often deliberately understates word/clause relationships in order to be more inclusive or to make the reader have more immediate access to the various possibilities of meaning. For instance, Classical Chinese has various ways to say "A and B" or "A or B"; but it is very common for such concepts to be expressed as "AB," which leaves the relationship open to interpretation. "A" and/or "B" could be two characters, two expressions, two clauses, or even two sentences.

In the "AB" expressions, it is also common for "A" to modify "B", but the exact type of modification is left vague. It might mean "B" in the context of "A," or "B" under the condition or context of "A," or something else. In the case of the passage at hand it seems that "Entering the gate and be lead to the path" are the context where oral instruction is necessary." Likewise, "the training being endless" is the context for "the method being self-study." Any rendering in English will over-specify what the Chinese actually says, and so you have to strive not to be bound by all the little words and endings that English forces us to add in order to express tense, number, person, voice, subordination, etc.

I have run out of time for tonight, but the closest (but clumsy) English renderings I can think of at the moment that express what I understand in Chinese would be as follows:

(As for) gate entering and path leading, oral teaching (is) needed (and yet)
(Since) training is ceaseless, the method (is) study by/of oneself.

Notice that nowhere in the text is the subject of any of the verbs actually mentioned. You are left to ponder what is being referred to and presumably may decide that the reader is actually the one being commented about by each of the five verb phrases.

Take care,
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Postby Yuri Snisarenko » Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:33 am

"Thirteen shi" – is one of the deepest texts that contains some oblique, even turbid lines. That's why the author says in the first line "By no means should the Thirteen shi be examined lightly". Taiji, as we know, is a very practical art – so if the author says that it's a method of cultivation, it should be a practical method incorporated into every taiji movement. But this method was pointed out in the song only as a cue, as a general scheme. To get the method working one should receive the oral instructions from a teacher. After he/she got the method, he/she can practice by oneself - this is the level where according to Wang Zongyue "the more the practice, the greater the refinement".

Just my thoughts on the topic

[This message has been edited by Yuri Snisarenko (edited 09-08-2006).]
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Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:28 pm

Not being a scholar of Chinese to English translation, or much else for that matter, I have only this simple observation to offer:
On the front page of the Yangfamilytaichi website there used to be a caption displayed (may still be, but I haven't seen it lately) of a quote made by Yang Zhen Duo which clearly states:
"For myself, I want you to better than me. Practice harder."

I notice that he does not say, "Learn the secrets of TCC from your teacher, he can give them to you." He does not say, "Your teacher will make it all happen for you if you listen to him closely." He quite clearly states only to "Practice harder."
I think that makes things pretty clear.

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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Sep 08, 2006 3:23 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bob Ashmore:
I notice that he does not say, "Learn the secrets of TCC from your teacher, he can give them to you." He does not say, "Your teacher will make it all happen for you if you listen to him closely." He quite clearly states only to "Practice harder."
I think that makes things pretty clear.



[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 09-08-2006).]
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Postby twc » Sat Sep 23, 2006 1:03 am

"Entering the gate" - to be initiated
"tracing the route" - to be taught the secrets (of Taiji), thus be shown the Way (or Path)
"requires oral instruction" - ok, this needs a little background history.....

In ancient China, litracy is low. Most common people do not read or write. As such, teachings were mostly taught orally. Also, martial arts (including Taiji) were means to protect oneselves, and not to be taught to everyone, especially to people who had "low moral values". Thus for secrets to be kept in the mind rather than written down on paper, this is a safeguard against the secrets falling into the wrong hands.

Just my $0.02's worth

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