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?
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