Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby DPasek » Wed Sep 12, 2012 5:44 pm

Phocion wrote:as through a nine-bends pearl

Louis (Dave, and others),

Thanks for the posts. This is an interesting thread even for someone like me who only recognizes infrequent characters and cannot read modern Chinese, let alone classical Chinese with its frequent use of literary references.

I do have a question.

How do you handle translations of phrases like “as through a nine-bends pearl” which seems to have a cultural understanding that most Westerners would probably be unfamiliar with? I would not normally know what a nine-bends pearl is, nor what this would be referring to. Would you leave it as a primarily literal translation (leaving it up to the reader to gain the necessary knowledge to understand it) or make a parenthetical (nine joints of the body) insert, or make a footnote explaining that the nine-bends refers to the ankle, knee, hip, wrist, elbow, shoulder, waist? (Lumbar curve?), thorax? (Thoracic curve?), neck (Cervical curve?); as well as the significance of referencing a pearl?

Or is this understanding of mine incorrect? Is the above what the nine-bends pearl is referring to?

Dan
DPasek
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Pittsboro, NC USA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Sep 12, 2012 7:18 pm

Greetings Dan,

You’re correct that the “nine-bend pearl” metaphor deserves an explanation. I don’t think the nine bends refer to anatomy specifically, although there may be some commentaries that try to make that connection. The notion of a pearl carved with a nine-bend, zigzag hole crops up in Chinese legends, stories, and poems.

Barbara Davis gives a good synopsis in her book, The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation:

“The pearl with a crooked passage is used here as a metaphor for the body and the maze of vessels and energy pathways, and the challenge of moving the qi through it. Legend has it thqat pearls such as this were made with one passage carved into nive bends, used to help develop young girls’ finger dexterity for embroidery. The nine bends, of course, made the pearl very difficult to thread. One story portrays Confucius learning a secret fro threading it from a young girl. She instructs him to tie a silk thread around an ant, and then tempt the ant to go through the pearl’s passage by placing some honey at the far end of it.”
—Davis, p. 128

The import of the metaphor, in my thinking, is that it amplifies the notion that the mind moves the qi, and the qi moves the body. The imagery of moving the qi as though along a zigzag path through a pearl evokes the focus of the intent in leading the qi as it suffuses the tissues of the body. The metaphor resonates with the other metaphor of mobilizing energy as though drawing silk, and with the notion, “The energy breaks off, but the intent does not.”

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby DPasek » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:25 pm

Thanks Louis,

I did not know this story previously, and it adds to the meaning of the pearl when it was used for training dexterity. What is the significance of the number 9 for the pearl that is used for embroidery dexterity training (or were pearls with other numbers of bends also used)? Is there some reason that 9 bends were chosen for the pearl?

For a human body the number 9 for the number of bends makes sense in terms of there being nine bends in the body that the energy (qi) needs to travel through to have a united energy throughout the body. I remember Chen Zhenglei once describing at a workshop the difficulty in getting unobstructed qi flow through the joints (especially through the knee, if I remember correctly), and so I thought that the joints was what the 9 referred to. This would still be consistent with the metaphor that you have mentioned. It is the bends that may cause difficulties threading a pearl just like it is the joints (bends) that cause difficulties in moving the qi through the human body.

“...the body and the maze of vessels and energy pathways...” and “...the tissues of the body” seem rather vague, whereas the 9 joints (bends) of the body seems specific enough to warrant the specificity of the number 9, though I suppose that the usage of the number 9 for both the pearl and the body could be coincidental.

Dan
DPasek
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Pittsboro, NC USA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Phocion » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:53 am

Hi Louis,

Louis Swaim wrote:Your translation of these lines is flawless, in my opinion!

Thank you. Accidents happen!

One thing I might change would be how to translate 形 xíng. Rather than “appearance,” I prefer “form.” In early Chinese, 形 often refers to the physical form, that is, “shape,” or actualized form of the body. (Think of how in modern parlance we strive to keep “in shape.” Mengzi, for one used the word 形 much in keeping with this sense of “actualized form,” or being “in shape.” It’s a fine distinction, I know, between “appearance,” and “form,” but in my thinking the objective here is more than emulating the appearance of a hawk, but its form. Does that make sense?

I wondered about how to render 形 myself. I avoided "form" because in taiji "form" is used both to denote individual postures as well as the entire set of linked postures, and I thought it would just add another level of potential confusion.

And although the character does mean physical shape, it's not as if we are assuming a posture called "falcon seizes rabbit." And presumably, every posture is supposed to have quality of a falcon about to seize a rabbit. So I was trying for a word which would capture the quality of the posture rather than the shape of the posture.

Perhaps it's best to read 形/神 as an outer/inner pair and say something like "Outwardly, the appearance is like a falcon about to seize a rabbit; inwardly, the spirit is like a cat about to catch a mouse." Or maybe just: "Your demeanor is like a falcon about to seize a rabbit; your spirit is like a cat about to catch a mouse." Thoughts?

And thanks for the variations on 無微不到. You're a much better gardener than I am!

Cheers!
Dave
Phocion
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:00 pm

Greetings Dave,

[/quote]
I wondered about how to render 形 myself. I avoided "form" because in taiji "form" is used both to denote individual postures as well as the entire set of linked postures, and I thought it would just add another level of potential confusion.

And although the character does mean physical shape, it's not as if we are assuming a posture called "falcon seizes rabbit." And presumably, every posture is supposed to have quality of a falcon about to seize a rabbit. So I was trying for a word which would capture the quality of the posture rather than the shape of the posture.

Perhaps it's best to read 形/神 as an outer/inner pair and say something like "Outwardly, the appearance is like a falcon about to seize a rabbit; inwardly, the spirit is like a cat about to catch a mouse." Or maybe just: "Your demeanor is like a falcon about to seize a rabbit; your spirit is like a cat about to catch a mouse." Thoughts?
[/quote]

Yes, I think the outer/inner dynamic is in play here. There’s something in one of Francois Jullien’s more recent books that resonates with my understanding of 形, and will, I hope, clarify what I’m driving at by the idea of “actualized form.” In his discussion of the concept of “body” in Zhuangzi and Mengzi, Jullien writes of the word 形 as "body":

“But the term’s meaning covers a broad spectrum, and because it has no strict limits, the notion of body thereby seems to be graduated. On the one hand, it is verb-like, connoting action (in the sense of giving form to and actualizing; compare xing xing: ‘to give form to form,’ to ‘bring it out’). On the other hand, used as a noun, it retains the idea of concrete, particular actualization. In this respect, it contrasts with the state in which something is invisible because it is not actualized.”
—Francois Jullien, Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness, Zone Books, 2007, p. 68

I know this passage may seem recondite, but this verbal sense of “forming” actually stimulates my thinking on these lines referencing a falcon about to seize a rabbit, or a cat about to catch a mouse. When we emulate the falcon, is it at the point where the falcon has spotted the rabbit and begun its dive, or at the point just above the rabbit on the ground, spreading its wings and stretching out its claws, or is it the whole progressive movement?

I suppose, too, I have falcons on the mind. I’ve been observing an American Kestrel in Skyline Serpentine Prairie, up in the Oakland hills. Beautiful bird.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/c ... e_hunt.jpg

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby UniTaichi » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:40 am

DPasek wrote:Thanks Louis,

For a human body the number 9 for the number of bends makes sense in terms of there being nine bends in the body that the energy (qi) needs to travel through to have a united energy throughout the body. I remember Chen Zhenglei once describing at a workshop the difficulty in getting unobstructed qi flow through the joints (especially through the knee, if I remember correctly), and so I thought that the joints was what the 9 referred to. This would still be consistent with the metaphor that you have mentioned. It is the bends that may cause difficulties threading a pearl just like it is the joints (bends) that cause difficulties in moving the qi through the human body.

“...the body and the maze of vessels and energy pathways...” and “...the tissues of the body” seem rather vague, whereas the 9 joints (bends) of the body seems specific enough to warrant the specificity of the number 9, though I suppose that the usage of the number 9 for both the pearl and the body could be coincidental.

Dan


Hi DPasek,

Your understanding of the '' nine bend pearl'' is similar to what I have learned and read from various source. As you mentioned, it is the bends/joints that restricts the qi from flowing smoothly. Therefore we must open up all the nine bend/joint when we fajin. In fact, you need to open the small joints of the both palm and Laogong Xue as well to perform miraculous feats of taiji. It sounds simple but not easy to do.

''.... the body and the maze etc, etc... '' seem vague but qi/jin will flow through the body and tissues (which I see as the effect), once you have the bend/joints opened. Therefore, you need to learned and practice opening up all the joints and the ''effect'' will come naturally.

Cheers,
UniTaichi
UniTaichi
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Thu Sep 15, 2011 4:27 pm

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby DPasek » Fri Sep 14, 2012 12:43 pm

Here is the Baidu Wikipedia listing for 九曲珠, which lists both the story about Confucius as well as referring to the joints of the body in Taijiquan:

http://baike.baidu.com/view/2475584.htm

Someone who reads Chinese may get more from this than I do (Google translations from Chinese are terrible!).

To me, the ‘nine bends pearl’ fits well with my understanding of the major joints (bends) of the body being used to produce a spherical shape and energy (the pearl) during Taijiquan.

Dan
DPasek
 
Posts: 183
Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2004 6:01 am
Location: Pittsboro, NC USA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Phocion » Fri Sep 14, 2012 8:40 pm

Hi Louis,

Louis Swaim wrote:In his discussion of the concept of “body” in Zhuangzi and Mengzi, Jullien writes of the word 形 as "body":


I would be very wary of rendering 形 as "body," especially in this context. To render 形/神 as body/spirit is just asking for the reader to invoke our everyday Cartesianism and to read those terms as denoting independently existing substances. And with body/spirit are going to come substance/accident, the entanglement of essence and existence, and much of Western metaphysics. It is down that road that I would not want to go, since the Chinese do not think like that.

“But the term’s meaning covers a broad spectrum, and because it has no strict limits, the notion of body thereby seems to be graduated. On the one hand, it is verb-like, connoting action (in the sense of giving form to and actualizing; compare xing xing: ‘to give form to form,’ to ‘bring it out’). On the other hand, used as a noun, it retains the idea of concrete, particular actualization. In this respect, it contrasts with the state in which something is invisible because it is not actualized.”
—Francois Jullien, Vital Nourishment: Departing from Happiness, Zone Books, 2007, p. 68


Actually, I find this very interesting. It's not unusual for Chinese words to have a dynamic connotation even while being used as nouns, although this is awkward to render in English. And even to talk about being falcon-like "informing" our body is to have Aristotelian Formal Cause lurking in the background. But it's something to keep in mind when thumbing through the thesaurus looking for just the right word.

When we emulate the falcon, is it at the point where the falcon has spotted the rabbit and begun its dive, or at the point just above the rabbit on the ground, spreading its wings and stretching out its claws, or is it the whole progressive movement?


For me, it's when he's setting on the perch with a hood over his eyes. But that may just be me.

Cheers!
Dave
Phocion
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Phocion » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:12 pm

Oh! Oh! The last lines!

收即是放,連而不斷。極柔軟,然後能極堅剛;能黏依,然後能靈活。
氣以直養而無害,勁以曲蓄而有餘。
漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣!

Receiving is the same as issuing, connect and don't separate. If you can be extremely soft, afterwards you can be extremely hard; if you can stick and follow, afterwards you can be extremely agile.
The qi by this means is directly cultivated and not harmed; the energy by this means is stored in the curved and becomes abundant.
Gradually come to understand what I have written and practice it; also by knowing when to stop you can get it!

--------------------------

The first line is close to what we find in the Mental Elucidation, but with the addition of a clarifying clause after the first clause: i.e., "Receiving is the same as issuing, issuing is the same as receiving." Also, the second part of the first line has "If you can breathe," rather than "if you can be extremely soft."

The second line is identical to the one in the Mental Elucidation, but the third line is new. I'm sure I haven't done it justice and the rendering can be improved. The second clause especially, with that 知止 pair which shows up in the Great Learning and a bunch of other places, is hard for me to decipher. The pair have the sense of knowing when to stop or rest and not overshooting the mark. But I'm not sure what Wu is saying here. Is this a general admonition to not go too far or try for too much? Or does he have something more specific in mind?

Anyway, that's it!

Cheers!
Dave
Phocion
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:42 pm

Greetings Dan,

The little text on the baidu link for the taijiquan meaning of nine-bend pearl is interesting, but I’m not sure I get some of the explanation, nor is the provenance of the interpretation made clear. It correlates the nine-bend pearl with the joints of: the fists, wrists, elbows, shoulders, spine, waist, hips, knees, and ankles. When you think about it, that really adds up to more than nine joints, right? Even in one hand there are more than nine joints. I suppose you could say it refers to nine categories or places where there are joints. I don’t see anything wrong in making this correlation with joints in the body; it can be a useful heuristic. As for the number nine, in Chinese it often means “a lot, many,” rather than a specific number. There is a kind of wending zig-zag landscape feature known as a “nine-bend bridge” that may or may not have nine bends.

What we probably cannot know is whether Wu Yuxiang had this anatomical schematic in mind when he invoked the nine-bend pearl imagery. I think he had something else in mind, but that may just be me.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Sep 15, 2012 2:56 pm

Phocion wrote:Oh! Oh! The last lines!

收即是放,連而不斷。極柔軟,然後能極堅剛;能黏依,然後能靈活。
氣以直養而無害,勁以曲蓄而有餘。
漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣!

Receiving is the same as issuing, connect and don't separate. If you can be extremely soft, afterwards you can be extremely hard; if you can stick and follow, afterwards you can be extremely agile.
The qi by this means is directly cultivated and not harmed; the energy by this means is stored in the curved and becomes abundant.
Gradually come to understand what I have written and practice it; also by knowing when to stop you can get it!

--------------------------

The first line is close to what we find in the Mental Elucidation, but with the addition of a clarifying clause after the first clause: i.e., "Receiving is the same as issuing, issuing is the same as receiving." Also, the second part of the first line has "If you can breathe," rather than "if you can be extremely soft."

The second line is identical to the one in the Mental Elucidation, but the third line is new. I'm sure I haven't done it justice and the rendering can be improved. The second clause especially, with that 知止 pair which shows up in the Great Learning and a bunch of other places, is hard for me to decipher. The pair have the sense of knowing when to stop or rest and not overshooting the mark. But I'm not sure what Wu is saying here. Is this a general admonition to not go too far or try for too much? Or does he have something more specific in mind?

Anyway, that's it!

Cheers!
Dave


Greetings Dave,

Well done. You did it!

Regarding this last line:

漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣

Wu is quoting the philosopher Zhu Xi in the first part -- 物來順應 means something like "respond to things as they come." I would render the last line: "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!"

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Phocion » Sat Sep 15, 2012 9:24 pm

Hi Louis,

Louis Swaim wrote:Regarding this last line:

漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣

Wu is quoting the philosopher Zhu Xi in the first part -- 物來順應 means something like "respond to things as they come." I would render the last line: "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!"


Thanks for that. I would never have figured it out on my own.

I've only read Zhu Xi in translation. But I'm interested in looking up that phrase in context, and I admit that my Chinese Google-fu is pretty weak. Can you give me a citation and a link to a text?

Thanks in advance.

Cheers!
Dave
Phocion
 
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Sep 15, 2012 10:10 pm

Hi Dave,

Regarding 物來順應, here's a dictionary citation with a reference to Zhu Xi's Zhuzi Yulei (Classified conversations of Master Zhu). http://www.zdic.net/cd/ci/9/ZdicE9ZdicA ... 342445.htm

And the chapter it appears in:
http://gj.zdic.net/archive.php?aid-11517.html

It appears to be an extended discussion on the 繫辭 Xi Ci (appended phrases) commentary to the Book of Changes. Pretty rough going to read!

--Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby yslim » Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:01 pm

Louis Swaim wrote:
Phocion wrote:Oh! Oh! The last lines!

收即是放,連而不斷。極柔軟,然後能極堅剛;能黏依,然後能靈活。
氣以直養而無害,勁以曲蓄而有餘。
漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣!

Receiving is the same as issuing, connect and don't separate. If you can be extremely soft, afterwards you can be extremely hard; if you can stick and follow, afterwards you can be extremely agile.
The qi by this means is directly cultivated and not harmed; the energy by this means is stored in the curved and becomes abundant.
Gradually come to understand what I have written and practice it; also by knowing when to stop you can get it!

--------------------------

The first line is close to what we find in the Mental Elucidation, but with the addition of a clarifying clause after the first clause: i.e., "Receiving is the same as issuing, issuing is the same as receiving." Also, the second part of the first line has "If you can breathe," rather than "if you can be extremely soft."

The second line is identical to the one in the Mental Elucidation, but the third line is new. I'm sure I haven't done it justice and the rendering can be improved. The second clause especially, with that 知止 pair which shows up in the Great Learning and a bunch of other places, is hard for me to decipher. The pair have the sense of knowing when to stop or rest and not overshooting the mark. But I'm not sure what Wu is saying here. Is this a general admonition to not go too far or try for too much? Or does he have something more specific in mind?

Anyway, that's it!

Cheers!
Dave


Greetings Dave,

Well done. You did it!

Regarding this last line:

漸至物來順應,是亦知止能得矣

Wu is quoting the philosopher Zhu Xi in the first part -- 物來順應 means something like "respond to things as they come." I would render the last line: "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!"

Take care,
Louis


HI ALL (I'M NOT SCREAMING JUST POOR EYE SIGHT)
"KNOWING WHEN TO STOP" IS NOT TOO GOOD FOR THE TAIJI DIGESTING. I KNOW BECAUSE I USED TO TAKE ALOT OF TAIJI TUM TUM TO ROLL ME OVER THIS POT HOLE AND RECOGNIZED THIS "STOP IS NOT A ALL STOP". MY PHYSICAL BODY MAY REACH ITS LIMITATION AND THAT MEAN ITS NEED TO DO A CHANGE WITH A CHANGE (FROM EXTREME YIN [END] to A YANG[BEGINNING])TO GO ON. WHILE THE "YI/MIND" STAY CONNECTED SO IS THE "CHI/ENERGY" STILL MARCHING IN SLOWER PACE UNTIL THE CHANGE OF THE BODY LIMITATION CATCHING UP. UNTIL ALL THREE YI-CHI-PHYSICAL, IN THAT ORDER WITH THE YI LEADING THE CHI/ENERGY SAFELY THROUGH 1 TORSO-4 LIMBS-100S BONE SKELETONS.(NO PART IS NOT REACHED) THUS COME THE PHASE " ENERGY TRAVEL THROUGH THE 9 BENDS PEARL". ONLY THEN ONE HAVE ARRIVED TO THE DESIRED END. BUT THAT IS NOT THE END OF ONE'S STORY FOR ONES WISH TO COME TRUE.

JUST BE AWARE OF THE MEANING OF "STOP". IN THE TAIJI THIS WORD IS A NO-NO! MUST BE AVOID! THE MEANING OF "KNOWING", IF YOU THINK, THAT SHOW YOU ARE NOT IN THE 'KNOWING.'

THE ABOVE IS NOT FOR MR. SWAIN. ONLY FOR 99.5 % OF US ,THAT ALSO MEAN ME, THE TAIJI APPRENTICE

CIAO
SLIM
yslim
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed May 24, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Monterey,Ca. USA

Re: Explanation of Taijiquan/太極拳解

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:24 am

Greetings,

It may clarify things to show the context of the phrase Wu Yuxiang used: 知止能得

He was truncating the phase from the Great Learning, taking the 知止 and combining it the 能得 —leaving out the middle part as intrinsically implied. In Closing Form section of Yang Chengfu’s The Essence and Applications of Taijiquan, by the way, a similar reference is made to this passage, and similarly truncating the wording to 知止有定.

Here is the passage in question, in which 知止 is preceded by 止於至善 “coming to rest in perfect goodness.” Daniel Gardner translates as “coming to rest,” or “come to rest,” while Wing-Tsit Chan translates it as “abiding.”

大學之道,在明明德,在親民,在止於至善。知止而後有定,定而後能靜,靜而後能安,安而後能慮,慮而後能得。物有本末,事有終始,知所先後,則近道矣。

Here is Daniel Gardner’s translation of the above passage:

“The way of greater learning lies in keeping one’s inborn luminous Virtue unobscured, in renewing the people, and in coming to rest in perfect goodness. Knowing where to come to rest, one becomes steadfast; being steadfast, one may find peace of mind; peace of mind may lead to serenity; this serenity makes reflection possible; only with reflection is one able to reach the resting place. Things have their roots and branches; affairs have a beginning and an end. One comes near the Way in knowing what to put first and what to put last.”
—Gardner, Chu His and the Ta-hsueh: Neo-Confucian Reflection on the Confucian Canon, Harvard Univ. Press, 1986, pp. 88-91

By the way, in Zhu Xi’s commentary on the Great Learning, he uses the phrase xu ling bu mei 虛靈不昧 (unclouded mind) to explain 明明德. The phrase 虛靈不昧 crops up in the Yang Forty Chapters in at least one text, #22 (pp. 76-77, 143-155 in Wile, Lost T’ai-chi Classics from the Late Ch’ing Dynasty).

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1344
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

PreviousNext

Return to Tai Chi Theory and Principles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Yahoo [Bot] and 2 guests

cron