Monkey Trivia, Gao Tan Ma

Monkey Trivia, Gao Tan Ma

Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Feb 15, 2010 8:35 pm


I’m always interested to find information that reflects on the possible origins of taijiquan posture names. I recently came across an early occurrence of the martial posture name Gao Tan Ma (usually translated High Pat on Horse) in the Xi You Ji. The Xi You Ji is a Ming Dynasty novel, probably written in the late 1500s by Wu Cheng’en, and usually translated into English as Journey to the West, or as Monkey, after the protagonist.

Here’s the passage where the name appears:

“They had fought fifty or sixty rounds without issue when Monkey thought, ‘That bloody monster’s sword is as good as my cudgel. I’ll pretend to give him an opening and see if he can tell it’s a trick.’ The Monkey King raised his cudgel and did a ‘Reaching Up to a Tall Horse’ [gao tan ma] movement. The monster, not realizing that this was a trick, and imagining that he saw a real opening, took a tremendous swipe at Monkey with his sword. Monkey at once did a high swing to avoid the blow, then struck at the monster’s head with a ‘Stealing a Peach from under the Leaves’ movement and knocked him so hard he vanished without a trace. Monkey put his cudgel away and looked for him but without success.

“‘Wow,’ exclaimed Monkey in astonishment, ‘I didn’t just hit him—I knocked him out of existence. . .’”

Journey to the West, Chapter 31, trans. W.J.F. Jenner, online freeware version.

Here's the Wikipedia page on Journey to the West, which includes links to several online Chinese versions, a link to the freeware English version quoted above:

Louis Swaim
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Re: Monkey Trivia, Gao Tan Ma

Postby ruben » Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:25 pm

Hi, Louis.
Thank you for your post. It´s always interesting to know which is the source of the names. Maybe it could be wright.
Another form´s name is Step Back and Repulse the Monkey, 倒撵猴. I ´ve heard of this form as "the white monkey offers fruit", too, so next movement in the story could be the origin of Step back and ...?
Thanks again.

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