Taijiquan Lun

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:32 pm

I located several online Chinese versions of Xi You Ji, as well as a PDF English translation (adapted from Jenner, 1955, Beijing). Wikipedia has lots of info, and good links at the bottom of the page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xi_You_Ji

The full line from which the chengyu comes: Monkey says: “As the saying goes, ‘A bubble of piss is big but light, and a steelyard weight can counterbalance a ton.’”

Other occurrences of steelyard as metaphor include—Chapter 11, in a list of various types of hell, there is the Hell of the Steelyard Beam. In Chapter 30, a dragon remarks about a monster: “Hopeless beast, giving himself away like that. He’s broken the counterpoise of his steelyard—he has exposed himself!”

--Louis

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-11-2008).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:09 pm

Perhaps more than you ever wanted to know about steelyards in China: http://mech-history.ihns.ac.cn/papers/zhang10-e/zhang10.htm

Enjoy,
Louis
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Postby Phocion » Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:29 am

Thank you Audi, for the links. And thank you Louis, for more than I wanted to know about steelyards.

I find it difficult to relate a big, honking metal contraption for measuring hundred-weights of cord wood, scrap metal, or sides of beef to the practice of taijiquan. But a smaller version of the steelyard, suspended by a thread, calls to mind all of those exhortations to "suspend the headtop." That image, at least, encourages me to "Be erect like a balance, move like a wheel."

That more-than-you-want-to-know-about-steelyards paper reports that "Quan-heng" was a term for steelyards and balances in ancient China, and that even pre-Qin it had begun to be used for other weighing devices. Specifically, "The Qiu-bo-jun Bronze Weight, which is now kept in Museum of Chinese History, has been attributed to be an article from state Qin in later time of Spring and Autumn Period. It has a 'bi-niu' (a hole on the top for threading a cord)." So more delicate instruments were included under the term.

How that relates to ping2zhun3 I'm not sure. But it is curious that in Wu Cheng-qing's "Notes to the Original Treatise," (Wile _Lost Tai-chi Classics_) he comments on the last half of the line but not the first (p.44). This implies that Cheng-qing didn't find ping2zhun3 either obscure or unusual (assuming his version of the Classics used the term). Perhaps Louis is right that "pingzhun had currency in some regions or during some time periods as a word for a scale." As the Yang, Wu, and Li families all came from the same part of China, perhaps the term was local to Hebei Province and its environs.

Dave
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Postby JerryKarin » Wed Nov 12, 2008 2:32 pm

One interesting aspect is that Chinese scales of the type mentioned are not symmetrical like a western scale and hence are not quite as symbolic of even-handedness, equality on both sides, etc. It seems that the image is more illustrative of free movement along an axis than the associations of justice and impartiality which we in the west bring to the notion of a scale.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:56 pm

Greetings Jerry,

I’m personally fascinated by the prevalence of carpentry tool, craft, and measurement metaphors in early Chinese texts. One of my favorite Berkeley professors, David Keightley, helped sensitize me to them. These metaphors were often used to illustrate the value of aligning oneself with past exemplars, rites, or “the mean.” For example, a cluster of terms, “gui, ju, zhun, sheng” (carpenter’s compass, try square, level, and plumb line) appear in a number of places. Here’s a good example from the Mengzi: http://chinese.dsturgeon.net/text.pl?node=1602&if=en&searchu=%E8%A6%8F%E7%9F%A9%E6%BA%96%E7%B9%A9

The terms are usually discrete, but there are early occurrences of zhunsheng as a compound for a plumb line, or shengmo as an inked marking line, like a chalk snap-line. Guiju of course survives as a compound in Mandarin for rules or guidelines.

This is probably a threadworthy tangent for a separate discussion. I have a lot of thoughts on this.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Yuri_Snisarenko » Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:25 am

Greetings,

凖 is a quite interesting character. Could it etymologically mean "a bird standing on cold surface on one leg" (with one leg tucked up)?

What do you think guys?
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 18, 2008 5:54 pm

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Yuri_Snisarenko:
<B>Greetings,

ƒý is a quite interesting character. Could it etymologically mean "a bird standing on cold surface on one leg" (with one leg tucked up)?

What do you think guys?</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Greetings Yuri,

That may fall into the category of folk etymology, but it is not the traditional explanation of the graph. The Shuowen jiezi defines zhun as "level, even" (ping), and identifies the classifier as water. The other element, the bird over the cross shape, is given as the phonetic/rhyme: a type of hawk (sun). You can check out the graph here: http://zdic.net/zd/zi/ZdicE6ZdicBAZdic96.htm

There is a tab you can click on for the Shuowen gloss, plus a tab for the Kang Xi dictionary entry for zhun, which contains some interesting historical data.

Oh, and the simplified character uses the "ice" radical, but the traditional is classified under "water." This points up the hazzards of looking for graphic history in jiantizi, and blows your "cold surface" theory out of the water.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-18-2008).]

[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 11-18-2008).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Nov 18, 2008 6:09 pm

I like this appearance of the zhun character in Zhuangzi:
http://chinese.dsturgeon.net/text.pl?node=2712&if=en&searchu=%E6%BA%96

--Louis
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Postby Yuri_Snisarenko » Wed Nov 19, 2008 4:12 am

Greetings Louis,

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Oh, and the simplified character uses the "ice" radical, but the traditional is classified under "water." This points up the hazzards of looking for graphic history in jiantizi, and blows your "cold surface" theory out of the water.</font>



He-he, not entirely actually, since "a bird standing in water" has the same meaning – equilibrium in physical appearance. Thanks for the tip – I will call it "folk etymology" , I like the notion ^)

Besides, maybe there were some historical variations of this char with water and ice radicals, who knows…

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I like this appearance of the zhun character in Zhuangzi:
http://chinese.dsturgeon.net/text.pl?node=2712&if=en&searchu=%E6%BA%96</font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Yes, it's interesting of course, but it doesn’t involve a mention of any physical action or appearance. To transform pure philosophical ideas into simple practice one must have pretty much practical experience and 'some kind' of brains, mustn't he? ^)



[This message has been edited by Yuri_Snisarenko (edited 11-18-2008).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Nov 21, 2008 5:41 pm

Greetings Yuri,

You wrote: ‘Yes, it's interesting of course, but it doesn’t involve a mention of any physical action or appearance.’

The Zhuangzi passage refers to something physical. It refers to the self-leveling property of water, and to how the master carpenter (da jiang) uses that property as his standard. From what I can gather, Chinese carpentry levels were of two types. One consisted of a vertical piece attached to a horizontal base. At the top of the perpendicular post was attached a plumb line. When the surface on which the base rested was level, the plumb line would be perfectly aligned with the vertical post. Another type had a trough or groove in the cross-beam that was filled with water, with a float at each end of the groove.

There is a book by Klaas Ruitenbeek, _Carpentry and Building in Late Imperial China_ (Brill, 1996). It’s a very expensive book, but some of the content is accessibly via Google Books, here: http://books.google.com/books?id=KH2XJVKxgIMC&dq=early+chinese+carpentry&pg=PP1&ots=1VsUyaB8CT&source=in&sig=LCZ86kJrcOIQpHUgU95Z2dobaFI&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=12&ct=resu lt#PPA46,M1

The book quotes a description of the use of the water level in an 1850 source:

“To level a platform, low walls must be piled up at the four corners, and a three-foot long pole must be driven into the ground in the middle. It should have a small tenon at the top. On this, a wooden trough about two feet long is fitted, in such a way that it can be turned freely toward all four corners. It is about two inches wide, and can be filled with water. At both ends, a ‘wooden duck’ is made to float. This is what is called a water-level.

One worker is standing at a corner, holding a foot-rule and a brush. Another worker stands next to the level, leaning on a stick and looks with one eye over the floats. When he turns his hand downward, the other worker lowers the rule he is holding; when he turns his hand upwards the other worker moves the rule up. When the rule is level with the floats, he waves his hand. The worker holding the rule then makes a mark on the wall with his brush. After the three other corners have been treated the same way, the platform can be made level.”

Ruitenbeek also describes how the plumb-line type of level was used:

“Suppose that, on a building site, point A is lower than B, C, and D. At A, a wooden pole is driven into the ground in such a way that its upper end remains slightly higher than B, C, and D. At b, a few feet further on, a second pole is driven into the ground. The level is laid over these two poles. If the plumb-line hangs straight along the centre line of the upright post of the instrument, the ends of the poles are on a level plane. In the same way, the poles at b and c are compared, and so on.” (Ruitenbeek, pp. 45-47)

These are descriptions from modern sources, but from what I can gather, the features of both types of carpentry levels were typical of the types used at the time of Zhuangzi.

What is pertinent to our Taijiquan Lun discussion is that both types of carpentry tools share some of the same properties and characteristics that operate in balance scales and in steelyards.

It’s interesting that you would refer to Zhuangzi’s writings as “pure philosophical ideas.” My view of Zhuangzi is entirely different from that!

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Phocion » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:01 am

Hi Louis,

On 11/9 you gave a "rough translation" of line 22 as "Stand like a balance scale; move like the wheel of a cart," reading ping2zhun3 as a compound for "balance scale." In that same post you expressed doubts that this is correct, since ping2zhun3 "is not a standard term for a scale."

On 11/10 you discuss Wile's translation of #24 in the Yang Forty Texts. The Yang text, as you say, treats ping2 and zhun3 as two separate terms and discusses them separately. But then you say, "the 'stand like a balance scale' (li ru pingzhun) line is quoted within the text," treating ping2 zhun3 again as a compound.

It seems to be inconsistent, within the Yang text, to treat ping2 and zhun3 as separate terms in one place but a compound in another. And as the Yang text clearly treats them as separate, I would like to follow that usage.

The problem is, what to do about the line that appears both in the Lun and in the Yang text: Li ru ping zhun?

If ru is introducing a simile, then ping zhun would need to be something standing can be like, and a noun like "balance-scale" would serve. But that runs against its usage in the Yang text.

So my question is: Can ping zhun be read as a pair of adverbs modifying li? Is "Stand level and plumb" a possible reading? I can think of lots of reasons why that rendering would be desirable (it avoids making ping2 zhun3 and non-standard term for a scale; it is consistent with the treatment of the terms in the Yang text; it is a vivid exhortation to embody the qualities of a delicate scale; etc.), but I don't know if that is a possible construction in Chinese.

If it's not, how do we deal with the problem of what appears to be an inconsistent usage in the Yang text? Or am I seeing a problem where none exists?

Dave
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Postby Phocion » Sat Nov 22, 2008 1:22 am

On second thought, even if such a rendering works in the Yang text, it can't be right in the Lun since "Stand level and plumb" loses the parallel with the second clause, "Move like a cart's wheel."

So, am I seeing a problem where none exists?

More than usually befuddled,

Dave
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Postby Yuri_Snisarenko » Sat Nov 22, 2008 4:20 am

Greetings Louis,

First, thanks for the detailed reference to info about old Chinese carpentry levels. Actually I think that all these things are useful to know for understanding of that line in the Lun. I wrote about them myself in my Russian blog.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It’s interesting that you would refer to Zhuangzi’s writings as “pure philosophical ideas.” My view of Zhuangzi is entirely different from that! </font>


Of course I was referring only to that particular passage, my general view on Zhuangzi is much more complex. I know, for example, that Shi Ming very liked to quote some particular passages from Zhuangzi about Cook Ding talking to King Wen Hui to illustrate his approach to taiji.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Nov 22, 2008 6:46 pm

Hi Dave,

Your analysis and questions are astute, and raise some of the very issues I’ve attempted to deal with in the use of the pingzhun compound in the Lun. First off, regarding Text 24 in the Yang 40 Chapters, it wouldn’t be unusual to find a text in which the writer uses a compound term in one part of the text, but also uses the individual constituents of the compound separately to deconstruct or drill down into the broader meaning. I think that is what is going on in Text 24. The author was clearly familiar with the taiji phrase, “li ru pingzhun,” and may have felt a need to expand and explore the concept. Text 24, both in the title and in the text body, associates ‘ping’ with the waist, and ‘zhun’ with the crown of the head. Zhun is explained by another taiji saying, “the crown of the head is suspended.” Ping is amplified by comparing the two hands with the left and right weighing trays (pan2) of a balance, and the waist with the root-base and vertical trunk of a balance. Then the text says that if you follow this setup, even the slightest deviation in lightness/heaviness or floating/sinking will be clear. The analogy of a plum-line is evoked with reference to a “single thread” from the top to the bottom of the trunk—from the ximen point at the crown to the weilu point in the coccyx. So, while explaining zhun and ping separately, the resulting picture is of the features and operation of a balance scale.

On your question: ‘Can ping zhun be read as a pair of adverbs modifying li? Is "Stand level and plumb" a possible reading?’

That is clearly the sense of it, but the grammar of the sentence, and the use of “ru,” in my opinion, points to pingzhun as a noun. I think the greater portion of evidence supports interpreting pingzhun as “balance scale.” I just find the word choice intriguing!

Take care,
Louis


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Postby yslim » Tue Nov 25, 2008 10:00 am

HI

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.

MAY BE 'PING' IS STEELYARD AND 'ZHUN' IS FOR ITS PRECISION/ACCURACY/VERY PRECISE MEASUREMENTS AS FOR THE TAIJI'S VERY PRECISE MEASUREMENT OF YIN-YANG CHANGES.

MAYBE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION MAY GIVE SOME LIGHT TO WHAT THE WORD 'ZHUN'

<‘Explanation for deng-zi’ was dealt issue of balance of lever, including calculation of weight (gravitational force) and distance (arm of force). It was told: ‘deng-zi’ (steelyard) had two components, one was beam, another was ‘ti-xi’ (lifting cord) (section 16). ‘Niu’(纽, lifting cord) was supposed to be ‘ti-xi’ ( section 21). ‘Niu-xin’ (纽心 Image should represent edge of fulcrum knife for steelyard (section 22). ‘Zhong’ (重 Image stands for both object of weight (so-called ‘zhong-ti’, 重体 Image and weight (section 23). Dead weight of lever is a calculable factor for balance (section 23). ‘Deng’(等, equal) or ‘ZHUN-deng’ (准等, actually equal) of ‘liang-zhong’ (两重,two objects) on ‘deng-zi’ means poise of objects of different weight on both sides of lever, which was not identical as ‘xiang-deng’ (相等,equal) of ‘liang-zhong’ (两重, two objects) on balance (section 17). ‘Deng-liang’ (等梁, equal beam) represented a beam in balance.(section 23)
When a beam with two objects whose weights are not same poises, ratio between weight of heavier object and the lighter one equals to ratio between lengths of longer arm of force and the shorter one of beam.>

MAYBE THAT IS WHY IN TAIJIQUAN A SMALLER GUY STILL HAVE A CHANCE IF HIS COUNTER-BALANCE YIN-YANG CHANGES IS "ZHUN".

I WAS SURPRISED TO FOUND HOW THE TAIJIQUAN PRACTICE LINK SO DEEPLY WITH THE STEELYARD PRECISION MEASUREMENT. I HAVE BEEN PRACTICING
IN MY SOLO FORM WITH "EQUAL DENSITIES" WHICH I HAD POSTED ON THIS BOARD IN THE PAST.FOR MY 'FANG SONG' WHICH LEAD ME TO 'NO SHOULDER'.

THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT MAYBE AN INTEREST TO SOME. IT CERTAINLY HAVE ADVANCED MY TAIJI.

< Very precise measurements are achieved by ensuring that the fulcrum of the beam is essentially friction-free (a knife edge is the traditional solution), by attaching a pointer to the beam which amplifies any deviation from a balance position; and finally by using the lever principle, which allows fractional masses to be applied by movement of a small mass along the measuring arm of the beam, as described above. For greatest accuracy, there needs to be an allowance for 'THE BUOYANCY IN AIR', whose effect depends on the 'DENSITIES' of the masses involved.>

SOME OF THOSE GOOD SIZE STEELYARD BEAM ARE BEAUTIFUL WITH IT MARKINGS.I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE ONE MAKE INTO A WALKING STICK. 'WE' WILL
STAND LIKE A BALANCE SCALE IN MY 90.

CIAO
yslim




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