New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:32 pm

Greetings Audi,

This is a great post. Your exposition on xuling dingjin accords very much with my understanding and experience of this important idea, and in fact tracks quite well with the way it is presented in the first of Yang Chengfu’s Ten Essentials. I also really appreciate the additional information you bring regarding the role of the eyes and ears. Yang Chengfu also addresses the eyes vis-à-vis the positioning of the head in his “Discussion of Taijiquan Practice”:

"Although the gaze is extended forward evenly, there are times when following the body's changes of position that the line of sight, while directed to emptiness, plays a crucial role in the transformations and supplements the insufficiencies of body and hand techniques."

Thanks for sharing Yang Jun’s insights on 聰明 congming. Indeed, that is most often understood as “intelligent” or “bright” in modern Mandarin, but there are many examples of early usage that reflect this meaning of 聰明 as clarity of perception. Just one example is from the Record of Music, in the Li Ji, or Book of Rites:

故樂行而倫清,耳目聰明,血氣和平,移風易俗,天下皆寧。

Legge translated as: “Therefore, when the music has full course, the different relations are clearly defined by it; the perceptions of the ears and eyes become sharp and distinct; the action of the blood and physical energies is harmonious and calm; (bad) influences are removed, and manners changed; and all under heaven there is entire repose.”
--See http://ctext.org/liji/yue-ji?searchu=%E8%81%B0%E6%98%8E

Clearly, xuling dingjin is about more that posture and alignment. It’s about what I’ve called a psycho-physiological disposition.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby DPasek » Tue Apr 09, 2013 4:34 pm

Audi,

Thank you for the excellent post! I will read it to my class because it is so well presented and addresses many issues encountered when trying to understand (or translate) the classic Taijiquan literature in general, and specifically the important concept of “xuling dingjin.”

Audi wrote:Curiously, the Chinese does not directly address head position, but rather seems to speak in terms of spirit and energy. I think this is because the Ten “Needful” things are interrelated. Body shape and spirit both determine energy. Energy requires body shape and spirit.

I agree. While not included in the “10 essentials” (Yang Chengfu), the concept of slightly and gently tucking the chin, which in my experiences is commonly taught, does address the position of the head in conjunction with “xuling dingjin” and the crown. It also complements the second principle listed:
Hold in the chest and pull up the back
The phrase 'hold in the chest' means the chest is slightly reserved inward, which causes the chi to sink to the cinnabar field (dan1 tian2). The chest must not be puffed out. If you do so then the chi is blocked in the chest region, the upper body becomes heavy and lower body light, and it will become easy for the heels to float upward. 'Pulling up the back' makes the chi stick to the back. If you are able to hold in the chest then you will naturally be able to pull up the back. If you can pull up the back, then you will be able to emit a strength from the spine which others cannot oppose.

To my understanding, the chin tuck produces energy in the neck (energy up the spine at the back of the neck extending to the crown of the head, and sinking down the front through the throat) in the same way as the relationship between the chest and the upper back produce energy in the torso. The energy in the neck (and the entire head) complements the energy in the torso [and both make up the ‘microcosmic’ energy cycle of the body].

If looked at from a different but complementary perspective (from ILiqChuan), the back of the torso and the back of the head and neck are yang surfaces whereas the front of the torso and the front of the head and the throat are yin surfaces. To ‘puff out’ the chest would be to produce yang energy where there should be yin (and vice versa for the back with yin being produced where yang should be). The ‘loose neck’ during fajin allowing the head to bobble also violates this principle. When the head goes back it is because yang is not being maintained at the back of the neck (the back of the neck flexes and becomes yin instead, and the throat opens and becomes yang when it should maintain yin energy).

Both Taijiquan and ILiqChuan mention the crown of the head and the pelvic floor (baihui [Du 20] and huiyin [Ren 1] points). If we want to maintain our stability, then both of these points must be stabilized. In Taijiquan, the crown is stabilized by “xuling dingjin” and with xuling dingjin the crown of the head is maintained as the apex (in ILiqChuan terminology, the crown should maintain the ‘neutral’). If the head bobbles, then the apex of the head vacillates between being in front of and being behind the crown. Similarly, Taijiquan teaches us to maintain a level pelvic ‘bowl’ in order to maintain stability. If not, then it can be “like water sloshing around in a bucket and spilling and spraying in all directions.” [In ILiqChuan both of these points need our awareness and attention because they are transition points between yin and yang, and to maintain the proper yin/yang relationship, they need to maintain the ‘neutral’ which will result in stability and harmony in the body; yin where there should be yin, and yang where there should be yang, and neither crossing over the ‘dividing lines’ that separate yin from yang and yang from yin.]

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

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:17 pm

Louis, Audi and anyone else who would care to take a lash at this,
I have recently rediscovered Yang Zhen Duo's video for hand form. I have this on DVD and used to watch it quite a bit until I got Yang Jun's DVD. Since then I have not watched YZD's DVD, mostly because of the horrible, horrible translation job done on it. Considering I only know enough Chinese to get my face slapped on a good day it's hopeless for me to even attempt to understand what is being said by YZD during his speech on principles prior to going into the step by step of the hand form.
I was wandering around Youtube the other day, looking for a clear shot of either Yang Jun, Yang Zhen Duo or any other Traditional Yang Family Tai Chi Chuan player doing one particular posture for clarification on a point I was arguing about with Jim (I found it, I was wrong, it happens to the best of us) when I came across this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUnXFvD ... re=related
I thought to myself, "Man, I haven't seen this in years", so I watched it.
As I was watching his talk on principles and wishing I actually knew what he was saying I came across his talk on bow and arrow stance (Just after the 32 minute mark), what the translator first calls "Gongbu" stance, then he goes on to say (I'm guessing he's talking about the legs but it is unclear except for the context of only his legs being visible) "One is like Chinese Ba, the other is like Chinese Ding. As a posture we call it Ding Ba shaped step. In the past it was called Ding Ba shaped step" and they show a character on the screen when they say this. Then the translator goes on to say, "Ba is the Chinese character 8, Ding is the Fourth of the Ten Heavenly Stems such as Jia Yi Bing Ding"...
It goes on, please watch it for yourself for clarity.
What I would like to know is...
What the heck is he talking about?
I'm sure it makes a ton of sense if you know Chinese, but for those of us who are linguistically challenged even by English what is being said here in Chinese and then translated badly to English is simply mind boggling.
I know, sort of, what Jia Yi Bing Ding means, part of Jia Yi Bing Ding Wu Ji Geng Xin Ren Gui. From my understanding this is part of the "Heavenly Stems" referenced in the traditional Chinese calendar. I've never heard an English translation for this and have only heard it referenced from time to time by the Chinese teachers I've had in the past, or I wouldn't have any clue about it all. Well, that and searching for it on Google to remind myself where I'd heard it before.
Some help understanding what he's referencing here would be greatly appreciated.
It seems fairly important to understanding bow stance, at least one would think so since YZD spends time to explain it in detail.
Which, again, I'm sure makes perfect sense if you know what he's actually saying and have the background to understand the Chinese cultural references he's making.
Which...
I don't.
Actually, I'd really like a more accurate translation of this entire speech. I can tell it's pure gold.
But I'm not greedy so if you can just help me out with this one point I'll be happy.
For now. :wink:

Thanks!
Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:58 pm

Greetings Bob,

You’re right, the audio translation is not very helpful, and unfortunately it drowns out much of Yang Zhenduo’s speech. I’ll try to elaborate a bit on some of the terminology, and maybe Audi can jump in as well.

You probably already know that gongbu 弓步 just means a bow stance. The character gong 弓 comes from an archer’s bow, but is used to refer to anything bow-shaped, bent, arched, or curved. I think Yang Zhenduo’s narrative also makes reference to the term gongjianbu 弓箭步, or “bow and arrow stance” which is sometimes used in wushu as well as in modern sports; it has an entailment of forward propulsion, or a forward lunge.

As for dingbabu 丁八步, my sense of it is that Yang Zhenduo is pointing out that the Yang style bow stance has elements of both a ding-shaped stance and a ba-shaped stance. Really, he’s only making reference to the shape or configuration. You needn’t worry about the meaning of 丁 in the context of the traditional “celestial stems” calendrical system. The character 丁 has other, simpler meanings in modern Chinese. For example, if you add the metal classifier you get 钉, also pronounced ding, which means a nail, or a tack. That might be a useful image, as it evokes a point coming straight out from a base: 丁. So, Yang Zhenduo is simply explaining that a bow stance has these two configurations: a 八-shaped configuration where the two feet are angled out from one another, as opposed to being parallel in a horse-riding stance; and a 丁-shaped configuration in which the front leg projects straight forward.

Take care,
Louis
Last edited by Louis Swaim on Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Bob Ashmore » Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:27 pm

Louis,
Ah, thank you. Much appreciated.
I would be happy to loan you my copy of the DVD, where you can turn off the translation and just hear the Grand Master, if you'd translate this speech for me.
No, I'm not kidding.
Not at all.
I can pick up a great deal of what Yang Laoshi is saying just from knowing the tiny bit about T'ai Chi Ch'uan that I do, more from his facial expressions and body language.
But the translation on this thing is just infuriating.
It constantly contradicts itself, often stops right in the middle of an important point and is really just enough to make the Pope cuss like a sailor.
So when I got Yang Jun's DVD, all in English, I stopped watching this part of the DVD. Though I do still use it for learning form refinements as this video sometimes is clearer on certain points than Yang Jun's (not denigrating his DVD in any way, it's just that sometimes the angle on this one is better for seeing what is actually going on, sometimes YJ's is better that way too).
Finding the link on Youtube and watching the initial lesson again has me right back to wondering what he's really saying during his lesson. Having wondered for nearly twelve years, it's a powerful wonder!

Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:55 pm

Hi Bob,

I think I may have the original YZD video on a VHS tape without the overdubbed translation, but it may take me a while to find the section and listen to it. The jist of this discussion of footwork, however, is probably pretty familiar to you. That is, he addresses basic principles of alignment, of the interaction of the actions deng 蹬 and cheng 撐 (treading and propping) through the front and back legs, and of maintaining a channel between the feet for left-right stability.

--Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Apr 19, 2013 5:31 pm

Louis,
I figured it might be, but without knowing for sure I was curious.
If you would take a look at the original speech and let me at least know if there are any eye openers in there I'd appreciate it.
I've been considering picking up a program, something like Rosetta Stone (though I'm not set in stone on that, ah ha, ah ha ha), to learn Chinese.
If I do, and I'm not sure yet that I can (I have to find the time to do it in, that's not going to be easy between family, work, teaching and practice I barely have time to eat and sleep), would you recommend that I learn Mandarin or Cantonese?
That's how little I know about the language!

Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:19 pm

Hi Bob,

Whether you study Cantonese or Mandarin depends upon your objective. Assuming your objective is taijiquan related, and just from a practical standpoint, I would recommend Mandarin. The Yangs speak Mandarin. Most taijiquan materials in the West reference the Mandarin pronunciations of all terminology. Most Western scholarship on Chinese history, politics, etc. is Mandarin based. In addition, when traveling in China, including southern China, Canton, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, most people understand Mandarin, while Cantonese is less widely understood.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby yslim » Sat Apr 20, 2013 6:32 pm

Louis Swaim wrote:Hi Bob,

Most Western scholarship on Chinese history, politics, etc. is Mandarin based. In addition, when traveling in China, including southern China, Canton, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, most people understand Mandarin, while Cantonese is less widely understood.

Take care,
Louis


Good Morning Mr. Swiam

Since you are a Western scholar on Chinese. Are you look at this "guy" "ding 丁" in Mandarin? Since I am a Cantonese and not from Ohio, Now I understand why you explained and look at this guy/丁 is differently then I would have. very interesting. lol

Thank you again for bringing up all the good links...
Ciao
yslim
yslim
 
Posts: 136
Joined: Wed May 24, 2006 6:01 am
Location: Monterey,Ca. USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:08 pm

Greetings Mr. Lim,

Yep. 丁 can mean a guy, a dude. As you recall, I grew up in Sacramento, with many Cantonese speaking friends, but unfortunately, I've never learned much Cantonese myself. Is there a special meaning of 丁 in Cantonese you want to share? Don't hold out on me now! In any case, I hope my meaning was clear, that the use of 八 and 丁 in describing foot work just has to do with the shape of the characters as analogs for the configuration of the feet in a given stance. It's similar to using a letter from the alphabet as in "T-shaped," "L-shaped," or "X-shaped."

Oh, and 丁 is used in menus for describing certain dishes. Why, I don't know. Say, 辣子鸡丁 (spicy diced chicken). I guess we would say the chicken is "diced," but for some reason 丁 means little pieces of cut up food.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Bob Ashmore » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:51 pm

Louis,
I thought Mandarin is what the Yang's speak but was not sure. If I can find the time to study I will pick up the Mandarin course.
I found a place online that is selling a full course for around $40. It gets good reviews and since I won't be trying to learn the whole language well enough to speak it like a native it will most likely get me where I need to be.
Which is to be able to understand most of what is being said when I hear it and able to speak and read well enough to find a bathroom (from experience, the SINGLE most important thing to know how to ask in any language), order in a restaurant and find out where the beer is being sold.
If I can get that far then I'll be good with it, after that I can consider learning it more in depth.
I'll consider myself as doing OK when I can listen to a Shaw Brothers movie on youtube without turning on the subtitles!

Thanks,
Bob
Bob Ashmore
 
Posts: 603
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby BBTrip » Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:12 pm

Bob Ashmore wrote:If I can find the time to study I will pick up the Mandarin course.
I found a place online that is selling a full course for around $40.


Hey, Bob

You might want to give Memrise.com a look. As far as I can tell it's all free.

"Learn a language 220 languages. Memrise is the fastest way to pick up vocabulary in any language."

Some of the science behind Memrise
How we use science to help you push the limits of your learning potential

Plant
Short Term Memory
Vivid images and audio help you store clear, lively short term memories

Grow
Medium Term Memory
Meticulously calibrated tests exercise your brain to strengthen and mature your learning

Harvest
Long Term Memory
Adaptive reminders, timed for optimum efficiency, keep your knowledge fresh and accessible
BBTrip
 
Posts: 67
Joined: Mon May 04, 2009 6:01 am

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Apr 27, 2013 5:46 pm

Greetings,

Just for fun. . .

I encountered the ding/ba terminology for stance configuration in Li Chengfen’s Ming dynasty archery manual, 射經, which appears in Chinese and English in Stephen Selby’s book, Chinese Archery.

兩腳先取四方立,後次轉左腳大指對左肩,尖當垜中心,右腳橫直,鞋衩對垜。此為「丁字不成,八字不就」。

Selby translates this as:

“Start off with both feet parallel. Next, bring the toe of the bow-hand foot in line with the bow-hand shoulder, pointing towards the middle of the target mound. The draw-hand foot remains at right-angles with the side-opening of the sandal facing the target mound. This is called ‘not quite at right-angles and not quite in a “V”’.”
— Stephen Selby, trans., in Chinese Archery, (2000, Hong Kong University Press), pp. 298-299.

You can find a Chinese version of Li’s Archery Manual here: http://www.cos.url.tw/fight/arrow-03.htm

So I think the ding/ba terminology for stances in martial arts goes back a ways.

--Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Audi » Wed May 29, 2013 2:24 am

Greetings all,

Thanks for the interesting responses.

"Although the gaze is extended forward evenly, there are times when following the body's changes of position that the line of sight, while directed to emptiness, plays a crucial role in the transformations and supplements the insufficiencies of body and hand techniques."

Louis, thanks for this quote. Do you happen to have the Chinese version handy? The phrasing is quite interesting with many concepts whose importance it may be easy to underestimate. And yet, I do not like the use of the word "insufficiencies." It could suggest that the gaze is merely a backup to help correct mistakes in the body and hand techniques. What I think Yang Chengfu was getting at is that the gaze is critical as a rallying point and organizing principle for the techniques as a whole. Without the gaze, the body and the techniques have no focus and no orientation. Having the gaze clear is a physical expression of having the mind and spirit clear. With the mind and spirit clear, the intent will be clear. With the intent clear, the flow of Qi will be clear.

Louis wrote:Clearly, xuling dingjin is about more that posture and alignment. It’s about what I’ve called a psycho-physiological disposition.

I like the concept you are expressing, but do not find the expression "psycho-physiological disposition" particularly enticing to the right side of my brain. Can you think of a more earthy expression? I have often struggled for a handle to convey this concept in teaching and am doubtful this term would serve.

I tried to teach a student about these concepts recently and resorted to a demonstration and an analogy I believe I have described before. I asked him to smile at me. I then copied his expression and asked him whether my smile looked genuine. He said that it did not look like a real smile. I then said that we think of smiles as consisting of turning up the ends of the mouth, but this is not really accurate. For instance, we also smile with the skin around the eyes. He then smiled again, this time with eyes as well. I then copied this version and again asked whether my smile was genuine. He replied that it was not and that in fact, it was kind of creepy. I then said that although we think we know how to smile, we really don't know how to do so, at least with our deliberative mind. There are too many muscles in the face that must be precisely coordinated. We can smile, however, if we smile from inside. Our faces know how to reflect our inner feeling. To smile correctly then, we have to use an indirect method, similar to method acting, and lead the movement from our inner feeling. Similarly, in Tai Chi, our inner feeling and our gaze affect how our bodies organize themselves in movement in ways that are nearly impossible to reproduce artificially with the deliberative mind.

Dan wrote:While not included in the “10 essentials” (Yang Chengfu), the concept of slightly and gently tucking the chin, which in my experiences is commonly taught, does address the position of the head in conjunction with “xuling dingjin” and the crown.

I think this is a good example of two things: the difficulty of capturing subtle physical things in words and the variation in teaching principles.

Master Yang Jun has primarily been addressing neck position by advising us to have a sense of pushing the top of the head up, as long as we are clear on where the top is. I have also read, if I am recalling it correctly, that Yang Shaohou advised his students always to feel the back of the neck pushing against their collars. I have heard of the idea of "tucking in the chin," but have not been sure whether that refers to slightly tilting the head forward or slightly retracting the entire head backward, so that the chin feels like it is sinking slightly into the throat. I do not do the former, but do try to do a little of the latter; however, I come at from the viewpoint of trying to find the center in a world where my daily routine tends to encourage bending my head forward over books or to look at computer screens.

As for the bobbling heads, I think that the explanation for me lies in the tendency to conceive of the entire spine as one simple system, whereas the Ten Essentials do not actually teach this. If we organize it as one system, then the pulse of Jin that travels up the spine will go up into the neck and make the head bobble. If, however, we know how to transfer the vertical and upward oscillation of the Jin coming from the forward movement of the lumbar spine into the horizontal oscillation governed by Containing the Chest and Plucking up the Back, the Qi will go into the arms and hands rather than into the neck.

DPasek wrote:To ‘puff out’ the chest would be to produce yang energy where there should be yin (and vice versa for the back with yin being produced where yang should be).

I think I still do not understand how to apply this thinking. If the chest should never produce yang energy, how could you ever do Fajin with it? Even if the back is to do Fajin, don't you first have to store energy in the chest (and puff it out slightly) in order to do it? I would agree that the chest should tend to by yin and that the back should tend to by yang, but I have difficulty understanding how there can be change and circulation unless yin and yang can alternate.

I am out of time for today.

Take care,
Audi
Audi
 
Posts: 1137
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Re: New Chen Yanlin translation from Paul Brennan

Postby Louis Swaim » Wed May 29, 2013 3:32 am

Hi Audi,

Re:
"Although the gaze is extended forward evenly, there are times when following the body's changes of position that the line of sight, while directed to emptiness, plays a crucial role in the transformations and supplements the insufficiencies of body and hand techniques."


Louis, thanks for this quote. Do you happen to have the Chinese version handy? The phrasing is quite interesting with many concepts whose importance it may be easy to underestimate. And yet, I do not like the use of the word "insufficiencies." It could suggest that the gaze is merely a backup to help correct mistakes in the body and hand techniques. What I think Yang Chengfu was getting at is that the gaze is critical as a rallying point and organizing principle for the techniques as a whole. Without the gaze, the body and the techniques have no focus and no orientation. Having the gaze clear is a physical expression of having the mind and spirit clear. With the mind and spirit clear, the intent will be clear. With the intent clear, the flow of Qi will be clear.[/quote]

Here's the Chinese, from the section on the head's orientation in Yang's "Discussion of Taijiquan Practice."

目光虽然向前平视,有时当随身法而转移,其视线虽属空虚,亦为变化中一紧要之动作,而补身法手法之不足也。

--Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1345
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

PreviousNext

Return to Book and Video Recommendations

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron