Form Names in Chinese

Form Names in Chinese

Postby LarryC » Mon Mar 15, 2004 3:01 am

I have been going through the listing of the forms in an effort to memorize the Chinese names. (A complete lack of knowledge of Chinese certainly hinders this effort!) This process has led me to wonder about the literal meanings of the Chinese words.

For example, wouldn't "Fist under elbow" (zhou3 di3 chui2) be rendered in a very literal sense something like "Elbow under punch"?

Another example that baffles is goa1 tan4 ma3. Could that be something like "Noble Scout"? In other words, is tan4 ma3 a 'set phrase'?

Would someone help me translate (in a very literal sense) the terms jin4 bu4, shang4 bu4, and tui4 bu4? (I get the sense that these are, respectfully, advancing step, step up step, and retreating step. I have tried on-line dictionaries, but they confuse more than help.

Thanks,
LarryC
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Postby Audi » Tue Mar 16, 2004 6:47 pm

Greetings Larry:

I think we have covered some of this ground before. If you go to the list of topics within an individual forum, you will see a box on the upper right. Click on the arrow next to the dialog box and select "All Topics." If you search through the topics, you will find two topics, "Posture Names" and "Posture Names II."

As usual, the discussion on these threads was quite free-ranging, but the initial attempt behind the threads was to go into the names of each of the form postures. As I recall we got as far as about "Punch Downward."

"Fist Under Elbow" has two similar Chinese versions: "zhou3 di3 chui2" and "zhou3 di3 kan4 chui2." "Zhou" means "elbow." "Di" means "bottom" or, more likely in this context "under" or "at the bottom." "Chui" means to "pound." I assume "chui" can also mean to "punch," either in Classically oriented Chinese or in martial arts circles, but I have not actually run across this meaning outside of posture names, where it is used consistently.

"Zhou di chui" can be understood as "pound/punch under the elbow." "Zhou di kan chui" can be understood as "Give a punch that looks under the elbow."

"Gao1 tan4 ma3" is "High patting/stretching forth/searching out horse." "Tan" has multiple meanings, even though there is a common underlying thread. The grammar leaves unclear whether the horse is acting or being acted upon.

"Jin bu" is probably "Advance your steps." "Shang bu" is probably "Make your steps go up." "Tui bu" is probably "Make your steps go to the rear." "Jin bu" and "Tui bu" are also the names of two of the Five Steps that with the Eight Gates make up the Thirteen Shi (bearings/dispositions/ configurations/postures?).

I hope this helps.

Take care,
Audi
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Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Mar 17, 2004 7:13 am

Greetings Larry,

As Audi said, you may find some useful information in the prior threads about form names.

Here’s a bit more on “zhou di kan chui.” Xu Yusheng, in his 1921 book, _Taijiquan shi tujie_, gives some interesting commentary on many of the form names. For "zhou di kan chui," he wrote that the verb "kan" here has the meaning, "kan4 shou3," a compound that means, "to stand guard," or "to watch over." This opens up several possible meanings for the form name, such as "guarding fist under elbow," "guarded fist under elbow," and the like. I've also read commentary that suggests that the fist under elbow is a "hidden fist," that can be suddenly revealed. The notion of standing guard or being watchful suggests a reserving or storing up of power, only to be issued when the situation calls for it and the opportunity is right.

Xu Yusheng's book also used a different character for "chui" than the one commonly seen in the taiji form name, this one with the metal classifier rather than the hand classifier, and with the nominal meaning “a hammer,” or the verbal, “to hammer.” There are in fact several “chui” character variants with related meanings of “to pound” or the like, but I think these are used ideomatically in martial arts for fist, or the action of a fist.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby LarryC » Thu Mar 18, 2004 6:31 am

Audi, Louis,

Thanks so much for your comments.

Could you also comment on pie1 shen1 chui2?

From my research, pie1 seems to have the meaning of rejecting or abandoning, but I'm not quite sure how this relates to the phrase pie1 shen1.

I get the sense that the complete phrase has to do with a "casting away" toward an opponent's "body". Am I correct that the term pie1 could also have the meaning of a "rending" or "tearing" motion (as in tearing a piece of cloth)?

I'd appreciate hearing your ideas about a literal translation of pie1 shen1 chui2:

reject body punch?
cast away (at someone's) body punch?
discarding?
tearing?

Thanks,
Larry C
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Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:27 pm

Hi Larry,

Your question about the meaning of “pie shen chui” is a good one.

First off, the notion of a “literal translation” is kind of elusive. Different languages have different grammatical features, different semantic uses of word order, and so forth. In many cases, simple word-for-word equivalent translations result in nonsense sentences in the target language.

That being said, I’m not completely confident I know how best to translate “pie shen chui.” The difficulty lies in the meaning and referent of the word “pie” (roughly pronounced ‘peeyeh’). It does have a meaning of “to cast” which I long assumed was the meaning here, referring to the trajectory of the performer’s backhand fist. Complicating matters, some variant names for this taijiquan form call it “zhuan shen pie shen chui,” which more explicitly names the turning of the body prior to the backhand fist. So, the issue is what does the verb “pie” mean, and what action does it refer to? Does it refer to the fist’s action on the opponent’s body? To the “casting” action of the fist itself? To an action of one’s own body? It may be the case that “pie” has an idiomatic martial arts meaning. Some commentary, for example, refers to the “folding” action of the body during the turn prior to the backhand strike. Could “pie” refer to this gathering and folding of the limbs? Another possibility—pie is a term of art in calligraphy for one of the essential stroke patterns of the brush in composing characters. I’ve seen calligraphy terms appropriated into taijiquan commentary in describing footwork and handwork. Whether that is a factor here, I don’t know.

Maybe Jerry has some input on this?

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:55 pm

I believe pie means crossing with a diagonal line. This makes sense to me because the fist goes from near the left hip up past right shoulder, crossing the body in a diagonal line. So pie shen chui is a fist, crossing the body in a diagonal line.

[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 03-18-2004).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 19, 2004 7:13 pm

Greetings Jerry,

This certainly describes what happens in the form sequence, so I think it’s a plausible explanation of the form name. I haven’t come across any specific evidence, however, that ‘pie’ means “crossing with a diagonal line.” Are you basing this on etymology, on usage specific to taijiquan, or some other usage?

On another note, last night I looked at Xu Yusheng’s form description for “pie shen chui,” and noticed he uses yet another variant character in place of the “pie” we’re talking about. The one he uses has the bow (gong) classifier instead of the hand classifier. I think that one has a different pronunciation and a different meaning altogether. I’m away from my sources, but I’ll have to take a closer look at his description to see his take on it.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Mar 19, 2004 7:21 pm

Pie is a diagonal brush stroke.
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Mar 19, 2004 7:23 pm

Admittedly this is an educated guess on my part. Have to ask Yang Jun about it.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Mar 19, 2004 8:03 pm

Hi Jerry,

Re: “Pie is a diagonal brush stroke.”

Yes. That’s kind of what I was alluding to in my post further up. I’ve seen numerous cases in taiji texts where technical calligraphy terms are used analogously for the “strokes” of taijiquan movements—for example, for the turning in or turning out of the foot as it pivots on the heel—so that could certainly be the case here. It’s rather like the way sports metaphors pervade our everyday language, in an almost unconscious way. Say, “end run,” “take the ball and run with it,” “slam dunk,” etc. It would have been quite natural for a literate person to appropriate the name of a calligraphy stroke into the name or description of taiji movement.

On the other hand, I do think pie retains a fairly strong meaning of “to cast,” “to strike,” even, perhaps “to chastise” (?), so I’m not sure we can rule those out.

Let us know what you find out.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 03-19-2004).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Fri Mar 19, 2004 9:10 pm

The target of pie shen chui is typically the face of the opponent. That is why I've always just assumed that the 'shen' of pie shen chui was your own body. So then pie shen seems to make sense as crossing ones body diagonally like a pie stroke. I could be wrong though, have to ask Yang Jun, which I will do soon.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 20, 2004 2:45 am

Here’s my rough translation of Yang Chengfu’s description of the movement, from Taijiquan Tiyong Quanshu:

Section Twenty-Nine: Turn Body and Strike (pie shen chui)

From the preceding form, suppose an opponent comes from behind to strike my spine, back, or flank. I then turn on my left foot to the right, sitting solidly on it. The right foot changes to empty. The waist follows the turn to face squarely. The right hand concurrently makes a fist, passing a moment between the left flank and armpit. The palm of the left hand closes in an upward direction to protect the left temple. Immediately the right fist casts outward in an upward rotation [from the radius of the elbow], intersecting with the opponent’s hand, using sinking energy (chenjin) to fold it over to my right flank. At the same time, my left hand comes from my left side, swiftly striking towards the opponent’s face, causing him to become utterly dazed and confused.
~~~

In this case, the target for the right fist is not the opponent’s face, but his striking arm.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby DavidJ » Sat Mar 20, 2004 3:03 am

Hi Jerry,

You wrote, > The target of pie shen chui is typically the face of the opponent. <

"Pie in the Face!" Image

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Postby JerryKarin » Sat Mar 20, 2004 4:42 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Louis Swaim:
<B>
In this case, the target for the right fist is not the opponent’s face, but his striking arm.

Take care,
Louis</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Hmnn... but even so one still doesn't seem to be pie-ing his shen or body. Shen still seems to refer to one's own body.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Mar 20, 2004 6:25 pm

Hi Jerry,

Re: "Hmnn... but even so one still doesn't seem to be pie-ing his shen or body. Shen still seems to refer to one's own body."

Yes, I agree. Your case is further strengthened if we take “shen” as “torso” instead of “body.” The fist arcs across one’s own torso. So far, this seems to be the best way to account for the grammar of the form name. I’m still attracted, though, to the verbal sense of “to cast, toss, or fling,” which seems to be the way it is being used in the Yang Chengfu passage. Notably, the verb pie is used for the action of throwing a hand granade (shou3 liu2 dan4). But even that may draw upon the calligraphic term.

Take care,
Louis
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