Stillness in Movement

Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby UniTaichi » Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:36 am

Audi wrote:Greetings Louis, UniTaichi, and everyone else,

UniTaichi,

My reading of the quote by Audi of Gui4 is '' mind is from stillness '' or '' mind belong to stillness/silent '' There might be some better word to illustrate '' is from/belong to '' but it is somewhere along this line of meaning.

Wouldn't this meaning be more appropriate for They are pronounced the same, but have distinct meanings.

Based on what I have been taught and what I experience, I would understand The original passage I inquired about as:

身雖動心貴靜,如心一靜全身靜,雖靜又庽動焉,如動要上下相隨至要。

"Whereas the body moves, the mind has value for its stillness. As soon as the mind is still, the whole body is still. Although still, it yet contains movement inside. In movement, what is most important is to coordinate upper and lower."

I have been taught that, unlike in some other martial arts, it is very important to keep the mind calm to allow the Qi to settle and to keep the senses sharp. Techniques like "launch later and arrive first" seem possible only if the mind is very calm. The passage above seems to concern this idea.

Take care,
Audi


Hi Audi, Louis,
归 rather than 贵. Yes, when I read the quote, what I have in mind is the first Gui as in Gui Yu or Gui Shu, as the meaning the author is trying to illustrate. Like you have said, sometimes because the charater sound so similar the wrong word could be used as I often found these type of mistakes in other text and books. So without taking in the ''actual'' word used, I read it as ''belong to/is from'' which I personally found to actually make the explantion clearer.

I consulted a friend of mine earlier and his translation of the phrase 身雖動, 心貴静 , is -- ''Even as body moves, mind is still''. I think it relates very well with ''Stillness in Motion''.

Anyway, hope my perspective can help some in gaining a better understanding.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:53 pm

UniTaichi wrote:
Audi wrote:Greetings Louis, UniTaichi, and everyone else,



Hi Audi, Louis,
归 rather than 贵. Yes, when I read the quote, what I have in mind is the first Gui as in Gui Yu or Gui Shu, as the meaning the author is trying to illustrate. Like you have said, sometimes because the charater sound so similar the wrong word could be used as I often found these type of mistakes in other text and books. So without taking in the ''actual'' word used, I read it as ''belong to/is from'' which I personally found to actually make the explantion clearer.

I consulted a friend of mine earlier and his translation of the phrase 身雖動, 心貴静 , is -- ''Even as body moves, mind is still''. I think it relates very well with ''Stillness in Motion''.

Anyway, hope my perspective can help some in gaining a better understanding.

Cheers,
UniTaichi


Greetings UniTaichi and Audi,

I too had wondered if you were glossing 貴 as 歸/归, but I think there is clear evidence that Wu Yuxiang was referencing a prior usage, as he often did. There's good reason to think that he would have been familiar with either or both the Guanzi or the Liu Tao and other bingfa. Wu Yuxiang's grandfather, Wu Dayong, has been described as a "soldier-turned-scholar" (Wile, Lost T'ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch'ing Dynasty, p. 122). There's room for interpretation in how to translate 心貴静, but given the example of the exact usage in these early texts, and because I trust both Rickett and Sawyer as translators, I'm inclined to go with "the mind/heart values stillness."

By the way, just for comparison, Wile translated this and other materials from YCF's Shiyongfa in T'ai-chi Touchstones: Yang Family Secret Transmissions some time ago. His rendering of the line we're discussing, 身雖動, 心貴静: "Although the body is in motion, the mind should guard its stillness." (p. 113) To my thinking, the prescriptive "should" is a bit of an extrapolation, but it captures the general idea.

--Louis
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:49 pm

Audi,

More on Wu Yuxiang's 太極拳解. As you suggest, there is a lot to chew on in that text. I can't recall having seen it rendered into English, so we'll just have to work on that, I think. It's just packed with quotes from other more familiar taiji classics, but also with allusions to the broader classical canon. For example, the last couple of phrases, 漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣!As I mentioned, the 知止能得 is a formulaic reference to The Great Learning. As for 物來順應, that comes from the neo-Confucian thinker Zhu Xi's work, Master Zhu's Topical Sayings. Have a look at http://www.zdic.net/cd/ci/9/ZdicE9ZdicA ... 342445.htm

My rough translation of those closing phrases would be something like, "Gradually attaining (the ability) to respond to things as they come, this is also like knowing when to stop, [and thereby] achieving the desired end!"

The phrase 知止, "knowing where to stop," figures in a number of early Chinese texts, including the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi. I'm tempted to translate it using a phrase jazz musicians use for intuitive mastery: "knowing where to land." That is, finding the perfect place to fit in, the perfect landing spot for a phrase, an idea, a movement.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Audi » Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:56 pm

Greetings Louis and UniTaichi,

There's room for interpretation in how to translate 心貴静, but given the example of the exact usage in these early texts, and because I trust both Rickett and Sawyer as translators, I'm inclined to go with "the mind/heart values stillness."

My hesitation in accepting this translation is twofold. First, many people do not particularly value stillness in the mind, preferring instead excitement and stimulation. Also, although having the mind value something is clearly meaningful, the parallel usages are not. What does it mean for the eye or ear to value something? This seems meaningful to me only if I assume these are metonyms for "people" or some such similar thought. If these are metonyms, it seems simpler perhaps, to view them as grammatical topics, but not as grammatical subjects of 貴. Then we would have, "for the eye, (people) value clarity/brightness; for the ear, (people) value sharpness; for the mind (people) value wisdom."

...As I mentioned, the 知止能得 is a formulaic reference to The Great Learning. As for 物來順應, that comes from the neo-Confucian thinker Zhu Xi's work, Master Zhu's Topical Sayings. Have a look at http://www.zdic.net/cd/ci/9/ZdicE9ZdicA ... 342445.htm

My rough translation of those closing phrases would be something like, "Gradually attaining (the ability) to respond to things as they come, this is also like knowing when to stop, [and thereby] achieving the desired end!"

The phrase 知止, "knowing where to stop," figures in a number of early Chinese texts, including the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi. I'm tempted to translate it using a phrase jazz musicians use for intuitive mastery: "knowing where to land." That is, finding the perfect place to fit in, the perfect landing spot for a phrase, an idea, a movement.

Thanks for this explanation, I would never have figured it out on linguistic grounds alone.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:02 pm

Audi wrote:Greetings Louis and UniTaichi,


My hesitation in accepting this translation is twofold. First, many people do not particularly value stillness in the mind, preferring instead excitement and stimulation. Also, although having the mind value something is clearly meaningful, the parallel usages are not. What does it mean for the eye or ear to value something? This seems meaningful to me only if I assume these are metonyms for "people" or some such similar thought. If these are metonyms, it seems simpler perhaps, to view them as grammatical topics, but not as grammatical subjects of 貴. Then we would have, "for the eye, (people) value clarity/brightness; for the ear, (people) value sharpness; for the mind (people) value wisdom."

Audi


I understand your hesitation, but the notion of having an eye or an ear “value” something can perhaps be better understood by considering the conventions of speaking about senses in early China, in particular in the Warring States period. The prevailing model of the time was that the senses constituted a sort of bureaucracy, with the heart/mind being the ruler. Jane Geaney explores this in her book, On the Epistemology of the Senses in Early Chinese Thought (University of Hawai’i Press, 2002), where she writes about “the metaphor of the senses as administrative officials. . . .” There are many examples in early texts where the senses are presented as officials. The Mengzi, for example, has “Thinking is not the office of the eyes and ears, and they are clouded by things.” 耳目之不思,而蔽於物. Within this context, the senses are described as having their own agency or will. Consider this passage in the Xunxi: “The eyes desire the greatest extreme of colors, the ears desire the greatest extreme of sounds, the mouth desires the greatest extreme of tastes, the nose desires the greatest extreme of smells, the heartmind desires the greatest extreme of comfort.” 目欲綦色,耳欲綦聲,口欲綦味,鼻欲綦臭,心欲綦佚.

As for whether the mind indeed “values” stillness, as you suggest, there is evidence to the contrary, but I think what is being conveyed is a capacity for stillness that can be encouraged and nourished.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby ShowHong » Sun Aug 19, 2012 3:53 am

Audi wrote:Greetings Louis and UniTaichi,

There's room for interpretation in how to translate 心貴静, but given the example of the exact usage in these early texts, and because I trust both Rickett and Sawyer as translators, I'm inclined to go with "the mind/heart values stillness."

My hesitation in accepting this translation is twofold. First, many people do not particularly value stillness in the mind, preferring instead excitement and stimulation. Also, although having the mind value something is clearly meaningful, the parallel usages are not. What does it mean for the eye or ear to value something? This seems meaningful to me only if I assume these are metonyms for "people" or some such similar thought. If these are metonyms, it seems simpler perhaps, to view them as grammatical topics, but not as grammatical subjects of 貴. Then we would have, "for the eye, (people) value clarity/brightness; for the ear, (people) value sharpness; for the mind (people) value wisdom."


Greetings,

I am not sure about this metonym/grammatical topics thing but Audi’s translation is closer to being correct.

One thing with written Chinese language is that there is no grammar. In my 16 years of schooling I’d never seen a Chinese grammar book, encountered a Chinese grammar class, heard a discussion about it, or been taught grammar as a subject, except in one incidence when the teacher showed us what parts of speech words or phrases in a verse were and I was not sure it was a formal part of the curriculum. Words are put together by convention, roughly following a linear sequence of “subject”, “verb”, and “object” with modifiers such as adjective and adverb come before what are to be modified. But “subject” is often omitted and is implied by the context or by convention. Therefore, it is not a stretch to say that unless one already knows what a person is talking about he does not necessarily understand correctly what the person says even though he understand every word of what is said. Since what is said or written often can be understand in more than one way. In many Western languages where inflection is employed words are modified according to the part of speech they assume. In Chinese, the same word can be used as more than one part of speech yet with no way to mark the distinction. In other words, Chinese language is very loosely structured and often lack specificity/precision. If you hate to read legalese in English it would definitely make you feel better if you had tried to do the same in Chinese.

In the case of “心貴静”, “heart/mind – highly valuable/highly value – still(ness)”, heart/mind is the subject of discussion but not the subject of the verse/sentence which is implied by convention. Correct translation of what the verse is meant by Chinese convention, “心静為貴”, is “(for) the heart/mind, (it is) highly valuable to be still” or “it is highly valuable/desirable that the heart/mind is still”.

I found it strange that people try to gain understanding of what they don’t know through interpretation. Interpretation is the means those who already know use to help those who don’t know understand. That is why we use/need interpreters when we encounter languages or situations that we don’t know.

Sincerely,
Show-Hong
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Aug 19, 2012 9:43 pm

Greetings Show-Hong,

It is one thing to say you’ve never seen a grammar book or encountered grammar as a subject, but that’s not the same as saying that “there is no grammar.” Every language has a grammar, which is simply the way the language works—the set of acquired conventions that users of the language habitually use. Most people learn grammar in the course of every day speaking as native speakers. They needn’t think about it much except perhaps when learning to write or speak more formally. Those who want to learn more about grammar can study “descriptive grammars,” or “prescriptive grammars.” Descriptive grammars simply describe how a given language works, based on historical usage.

The famous authority on international law, Ma Jianzhong 馬建忠, wrote probably the first Chinese textbook on Chinese grammar, 馬氏文通. It probably never made the best-seller list.

When it comes to Classical Chinese, I haven’t yet met anyone who grew up speaking 文言文, have you? So people in modern times, no matter what their native language, need to study and learn something about the particular conventions of that language from teachers, books (say, like Edwin Pulleyblank’s Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar), and research. Of course even those who have done so often disagree on meaning and interpretation of old texts.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby ShowHong » Sun Oct 28, 2012 3:17 am

Hi Louis,

Long time no see :).

>> When it comes to Classical Chinese, I haven’t yet met anyone who grew up speaking 文言文, have you? <<

No. Newton did not grow up speaking Latin either but Newton wrote his principia mathematica in Latin. How so? Because Latin was the language of the learnt in his time. He and his peers were educated in Latin. Similarly, no one in my generation or some generations before me grew up speaking classical Chinese. Historically for Chinese if they were educated at all they were educated in classical Chinese, i.e., they read and wrote in classical Chinese in their schooling and beyond. The difference is that in Newton’s time there already was in existence Latin grammar books and even grammar book for English. But that is not the case for Chinese. For educated Chinese, even if they had to write their conversation down they did not know how to write it in colloquial language or dialect. You can check out Chen Wei-Ming’s work to see this. In the section where he gave descriptions of the Form, the language used is the least classical compared to other parts of the books and yet still far from being spoken Chinese. CMC, roughly one generation down from Chen, did his books the same way even though some of his work was done in relatively modern times. Check out the Q&A sections penned by both, you can bet your house that students did not ask questions saying those written words and CMC & Chen did not give answers in the way that was written either.

>> The famous authority on international law, Ma Jianzhong 馬建忠, wrote probably the first Chinese textbook on Chinese grammar, 馬氏文通. It probably never made the best-seller list. <<

That name did not register in my memory until you mentioned it. So I checked it out – it’s got 10 volumes and the first volume alone has more than 300 pages. It figures. It was published in the late 19th century. If Chinese have had no need of compiling one such book through the centuries before and hundred years after its publication it deserves to be left in the dust bin of history undisturbed.


>> So people in modern times, no matter what their native language, need to study and learn something about the particular conventions of that language from teachers, books (say, like Edwin Pulleyblank’s Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar)…. <<

The first book Abraham Lincoln owned was a grammar book which he had studied diligently, upon the recommendation of a local teacher, to improve his (English) language skills. Apparently this approach works for English language as evidenced by many grammar text books published for use in classes in which English grammar is the subject of study in this country.
But things grammar never had a place in Chinese education and no grammar books have been produced until Ma’s work in spite of the fact that Chinese had compiled substantial dictionaries through history. If Chinese were smart enough to have discovered Pascal’s triangle, a rule of definitive substance in mathematics, centuries before Europeans, there’s got to be some reason for their inability or lack of interest over the centuries to find rules in their language. If a Chinese would ask his teacher how to improve his language skill the answer is apt to be “go read, study and memorize some good Chinese classical literature.” Grammar books? What grammar book?!

>> Of course even those who have done so often disagree on meaning and interpretation of old texts. <<

This perfectly illustrates the two points I have made: 1) You need to know the language, otherwise the so called interpretation is no more than “educated” guess at best; 2) in many cases you need to know what the author was trying to say otherwise you are only guessing what he meant even if you know the language. Without these two conditions being met all can make up their own interpretations, albeit without certainty, therefore, no one can effectively argue that others’ are wrong.

Under right circumstances it is not difficult for a smart person to leverage this “no one can say that I am wrong” and “that’s only your interpretation, I have mine” into some sort of scholarship.

For example:

>> …and because I trust both Rickett and Sawyer as translators, I'm inclined to go with "the mind/heart values stillness." <<
Technically there is nothing wrong translating/interpreting 心貴静 as "the mind/heart values stillness" because there is no rule to say that this is not right. One can perfectly argue that the mind/heart can be considered the subjective of the verse since it comes first and what comes next is reasonably a verb and so on like the way it was rendered. For those who are competent in Classical Chinese 心貴静 is equivalent to 心静為貴 or 心以静為貴. These three versions mean exactly the same thing, grammatical rules notwithstanding. They are interchangeable and the choice is dictated by the structure of the composition. So, if there is any problem it is that the translators don’t know classical Chinese and that is why they did not get it right.
Apparently things have not changed much in the decades since western sinologists, the ilk of Fairbank, somehow had the ingenuity to believe that they did not need to know the language to study ancient Chinese literature, all that was needed was dictionaries and grammar books.

From another thread,
>> “黏依能跟得靈” ….. “If sticking and yielding can follow each other nimbly” <<
Similarly, there is nothing technically wrong with this translation/interpretation. Language wise, most of the words here can be rendered more than one way. The word that Louise thought odd “跟” is a common word and bears no special meaning here but how it should be rendered depends on what comes before it, the two words “黏” and “依”. And what “黏” and “依” mean depends on what idea the author wanted to convey. So, the “sticking” point here is what exactly the author meant to say. Since the subject of discussion is clearly Taichi there is one more layer of twist here. Do you want to know what exactly the author meant to say, i.e. the original intent, or what the verse signifies in the understanding of Taichi. The two are not necessary the same. Since as much a Taichi master as Wu was, he did not know clearly how Taichi worked. In all his writing he was neither delineating how Taichi worked nor was he expounding on Taichi theory. Instead, he was relating his own experience. But no one can pass on his experience. What one can transmit is his interpretation of his experience and his interpretation depends on what he knows how things work. His understanding of how things work and how things should be, in addition to his way of using the language, is the frame of reference that qualifies the expression he used for whatever idea he wanted to convey. If you don’t share the same frame of reference as the author then you cannot be sure if you understand correctly what he meant to say. On the other hand, if you approach this writing like passages in a science text book, you would have to know how Taichi works in the first place since most Taichi terminology is not adequately defined unlike the terminology and symbols used in science. So a person’s interpretation of the Taichi classics very much reflects his own understanding rather than the author’s intent or what is dictated by Taichi principle. Here lies the danger of rendering interpretation before one has actually acquired understanding.
By the way, “方” in this case does not mean “then”, it is more like a conjunctive that imparts a strict causal relationship or a restrictive condition between two parts of the sentence. So it should be something like “only so” or “only then”. I believe Audi got it right. Its colloquial equivalent is “才”. “方見…” means exactly the same as “才見…”.


Sincerely,
Show-Hong
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Re: Stillness in Movement

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Oct 28, 2012 7:46 pm

Greetings Show-Hong,

I very much appreciate your input, and welcome any corrections to or criticism of my way of understanding things. I’m not certain that you caught the distinction I made between prescriptive grammar and descriptive grammar. I think by and large, most people can live without the former, but whether they know it or not the latter is operative in speech and writing. I was merely saying that language has a grammar, and by that I don’t mean the rules about parts of speech and preferred ways of making a good sentence. When I say that every language has a grammar, I’m referring to the phenomena of language that the study of grammar seeks to describe, that is, the way the language is inherently organized and the way it works through historical usage. I agree with you that clever people needn’t pay much attention to prescriptive rules about language in which they are well steeped. As for English, most of the prescriptive grammar kids learn in school is a grammar that was imposed on English from Latin or French! It’s not always a happy fit, but English goes on being English, unruly beast that it is.

Regarding the phrase, 黏依能跟得靈, how best do you think it can be understood, and how would you put it into English? What would you say the 跟 means here? I know it’s a simple word, but what role is it playing in this sentence?

I like your reflections on Wu Yuxiang, and the importance of seeing his writing as reflective of his own experience. You write: “If you don’t share the same frame of reference as the author then you cannot be sure if you understand correctly what he meant to say.” I absolutely agree, and although it’s unlikely I can know his perspective with any great accuracy, I wouldn’t want to give up trying. When I study his “Explanation of Taijiquan” and other of his writings, I see all of his internal quotations to the 樂記 or to the Great Preface to the 詩經, to Mengzi, to Zhu Xi, etc. I can peer into something of what he read and thought about, and to some degree I can see that he saw something in these writings that resonated for him with his understanding of taijiquan. When it comes right down to it, however, I wish I were better equipped to understand just exactly what he was driving at.

Take care,
Louis
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