Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Postby Louis Swaim » Sun Jan 23, 2005 10:33 pm

Greetings,

Recent discussions about the “Taiji Circle” poem on another thread, and its references to the “Cloud Dragon, Wind Tiger” phrase, led me to some digging on dragon and tiger references. In the process, I have come across something that may shed light on an entirely different issue: the name of the taijiquan form, “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain.” A long while back, Audi asked if this name contained a literary allusion of some kind. At the time I didn’t know, and have suspended judgment on the issue. In years past, I’ve seen some strange speculation on the name, as well as some remarks about the implausibility of the scenario the name conjures up; that it therefore is likely a corruption of some other more authentic name.

I’ve found a four-character phrase that may well be the source of inspiration of the Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain name. It differs from the form name in only one of its characters.

The form name is bao4 hu3 gui1 shan1 (embrace/tiger/return/mountain). The phrase I’ve found is fang4 hu3 gui1 shan1 (release/tiger/return/mountain). The Hanyu Da Cidian says that this is a metaphor for releasing an enemy, with an extended sense of inviting certain peril as a consequence. The source for this four character phrase is the San Guo Zhi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), written c. 297 (not the San Guo Zhi Yan Yi, the Ming dynasty historical novel), so it is quite old and well established in the language. There are a number of variants of the expression (ex., zong4 hu3 gui1 shan1), all with essentially the same meaning of inviting catastrophy by allowing an enemy to return to his own territory.

It could be that whoever created this taiji form name took the literary expression, fang hu gui shan, and by changing the first character from “release” to the contrastive “embrace” put an ironic twist on it. Instead of releasing the enemy, allowing him to escape to cause future trouble, the objective is to maintain a controlling grasp. The “return to mountain” suggests that one pursues the enemy, advancing into his territory to settle the issue.

Plausible? Wild conjecture? Comments?

Take care,
Louis



[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-23-2005).]
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Postby BORIS » Mon Jan 24, 2005 1:17 pm

Hi Louis
I would have thought that any action would be taken to the benifit of the performer. In application to reliece an opponent when they are attempting to pull against an application eg loi could sever their root and leave them vulnerable to be struck.

In Yang Cheng-Fu's Self Defence Applications there is a section on acheiving perfect clarity which concludes : Causing the opponent to mentally surrender is correct. Would it not be of benifit to send a vilages champion back home mentaly defeated rather than physically dead? would this not have a deeper psycological impact on your enemy ????

More speculation I know, any thoughts???
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Postby tai1chi » Mon Jan 24, 2005 6:30 pm

Hi Louis,

"It could be that whoever created this taiji form name took the literary expression, fang hu gui shan, and by changing the first character from “release” to the contrastive “embrace” put an ironic twist on it. Instead of releasing the enemy, allowing him to escape to cause future trouble, the objective is to maintain a controlling grasp. The “return to mountain” suggests that one pursues the enemy, advancing into his territory to settle the issue."


I think, from an applications standpoint, the phrase makes perfect sense. Is your speculation that he was making a literary allusion? or that he was being ironic for a particular reason. Do you think the people who would have been expected to read(?) this would have been familiar with the text? Btw, do you know of a folk story that uses this motif? (I.e., of returning the tiger to the mountain?).

regards,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Jan 24, 2005 10:14 pm

Hi Steve,

What I’m speculating on is whether or not the expression “Release a tiger to return to the mountains” was a source of inspiration for the “Embrace tiger, return to mountain” form name. As such, it would be a literary allusion, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person who named the movement was highly literate, or familiar with the history book, Records of the Three Kingdoms. The phrase may have had currency as a proverbial saying, or it may have appeared in teahouse stories, street theater, or operas that average people would have had some access to. The Ming historical novel, San Guo Yan Yi, was based on the much earlier history book, San Guo Zhi, and a lot of people were familiar with the characters and themes, so that they become a part of ordinary speech and consciousness. For example, there is a phrase in that novel that goes something like, “Shuo dao Cao Cao, Cao Cao jiu dao.” (As soon as you mention Cao Cao, he shows up.) The phrase “shuo dao Cao Cao” came to mean something like the English phrase, “speak of the devil.” I don’t know where the English idiom “speak of the devil” came from, but I’m familiar with it, and have probably used it. There are idioms in English like, “once bitten, twice shy,” or “a stitch in time saves nine” that people use without thinking about the original sources they came from. They may have proverbial stories behind them, but one can understand the sayings without knowing the source stories.

I’m not aware of a folk story with the theme of returning a tiger to the mountain, but there could be one. There are plenty of references to tigers in mountains of one sort or another. I’m currently in the middle of reading a book by a guy named Anthony L. Schmieg, M.D. titled, _Watching Your Back: Chinese Martial Arts and Traditional Medicine_ (2005, University of Hawaii Press). There is one section in which he discusses the contrast between the traditional Confucian notion of avoiding injury to one’s body, and the impulse for heroic action for a righteous cause. He writes, “The martial hero cries, ‘I know the mountain has tigers, but I must go to Tiger Mountain!’” (Schmieg, p. 26) The author doesn’t say where this came from, but the theme of taking a risk for a righteous cause is echoed in other Chinese proverbs I’ve seen, such as, “You can't catch a cub without going into the tiger's den.” Then there’s “Once on a tiger's back, it is hard to alight.” That one brings to mind the taiji form, “Retreat Astride Tiger.” This seems to acknowledge that certain kinds of actions are inherently dangerous, and that once you engage you must remain committed to the task.

Anyway, if releasing a dangerous enemy (to invite calamity) is a bad thing, “embracing” him, i.e., maintaining control over him would be a good thing. As you say, the scenario fits the application, so the form name makes sense given this context.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Kalamondin » Tue Jan 25, 2005 1:40 am

Hi Louis,

I saw this and did a quick Google search to see what I could see and found the following:

Li Ya-xuan’s commentary on Cheng Man-ching’s recording of Yang Cheng-fu’s oral transmission. Translated by David Chen. October, 2002.

http://www.wuweitaichi.com/articles/Embracing_Tiger.htm

Maybe you’ve already seen it. It’s an interesting set of passages with some different interpretations. I don’t know the truth of any of it, but the suggestion about turning, looking, and stepping seems plausible…but there’s a definite embrace in the movement the way I learned it.

I have heard Yang Jun suggest the motion is similar to that of a tiger catching and holding its prey (here he demonstrates the motion). I don’t know much about tiger behavior, but a friend of mine says her cat catches toys like this and gnaws on them (cats have generally retained behavior patterns from the wild). Could it be translated anything like “Tiger’s embrace, return to mountain?” where the person doing the movement is the tiger? I don’t know any Chinese.

I found this also (paragraph 2): http://www.geocities.com/yongnian/postures.html
But I have to disagree with the author’s assertion that there is no embrace. As taught by Yang Jun, the right arm circles around the waist in a kind of scooping motion, and thus pulls the opponent in and off balance.

The most analogous movement I have seen in daily life is when you see a father playing with a toddler or smaller child. There’s a movement where the father will scoop his arm around the kid’s waist, moving from the inside, going around the child’s back, and then looping his arm back and in to either carry the kid under his arm or continue the upwards motion (like White Crane Spreads Wings) until the kid slung over his shoulder.

Here’s an interpretation relating it to Hexagram 52 of the I-Ching (near the bottom of the page: “T’ai chi ch’uan and the I Ching”) by Dai Lu, a student of Sun-Lu-tang.
http://www.fortunecity.com/business/influence/1805/the_page_of_ken__the_youngest_son.h tm

Do you think the name Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain might imply a little bit of bragging: using tai chi, one could conceivably become good enough to maintain control of the enemy even after returning to his territory where he ought to have the advantage?

Best,
Kal

[This message has been edited by Kalamondin (edited 02-03-2005).]
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:22 am

Greetings Boris,

Re: "In Yang Cheng-Fu's Self Defence Applications there is a section on acheiving perfect clarity which concludes : Causing the opponent to mentally surrender is correct."

Could you tell me more about where you got this quote?

Thanks,
Louis
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Postby tai1chi » Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:52 am

Hi Louis,

yes, I think it is an interesting speculation backed up by the application. I also agree that the phrase could be a reference to a familiar folk motif as much as an allusion to a literary text. A "tiger" almost has to refer to a ferocious opponent. "Embrace" is somewhat ironic, in that it is unexpected (or counter-intuitive).

Whether it is an literary or folk allusion, it would certainly have had meaning (especially lacking the confusing prepositions that we English speakers often require.

Anyway, you ought to write a book about the many allusions that exist in the form names and the oldest Classics.

regards,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jan 25, 2005 6:39 am

Greetings Kal,

Thanks for these links. I’m not sure what to think of that commentary critiquing the name and explanation of “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain” in Yang’s 1934 book, but for me it doesn’t quite hold up. For one thing, Yang’s earlier book, written in 1931, used the same posture name, and the discription is very similar. That book was written before Zheng Manqing had become his student. Moreover, an even earlier book, Xu Yusheng’s 1921 _Taijiquan shi tujie_, also used the Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain name. Xu was a direct student of Yang Jianhou and had close associations with Yang Chengfu, Wu Jianquan, and Sun Lutang. Finally, there is evidence that the name was “Embrace Tiger Return to Mountain” very early on in the Yang tradition. There is a group of texts said to have been transmitted by Yang Banhou, called the Taijiquan Nine Formulae, the first of which inventories and explains the taijiquan postures. The sequence and names are remarkably close to the received form we practice today, and Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain is intact in that very early text. (reprinted in Yang Zhenduo's Yang Shi Taiji, pp. 19 ff. See Wile, Touchstones, pp. 39 ff). Chen Weiming and Chen Yanlin both used the “Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain” name in their books. There are plenty of other examples to show that the name was well established in the Yang tradition from early on.

I’ve seen references to the alternate name, Leopard* and Tiger Return to Mountain. In Wu Gongzao’s book, there is a note to Wu Jianquan’s form instructions that it’s an alternate name, but it gives Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain as the primary name.

Take care,
Louis

*corrected from 'panther' --LS


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-25-2005).]
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Postby BORIS » Tue Jan 25, 2005 12:44 pm

Hi Louis,
The quote came from Yang Ch'eng-fu's Self Defence Applications, as quoted in Douglas While's book Yang Family Secret Transmissions, under the section heading of Acheiving perfect clarity in Tai-chi, its last paragraph reads as follows:

Striking people is not correct;
Not striking people is not correct;
Causing the opponent to mentally surrender is correct.

I'm sure there are other texts quoting this as well, but this one was where I found it. Happy reading
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Postby tai1chi » Tue Jan 25, 2005 4:38 pm

Hi Louis,

"I’ve seen references to the alternate name, Panther and Tiger Return to Mountain. In Wu Gongzao’s book, there is a note to Wu Jianquan’s form instructions that it’s an alternate name, but it gives Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain as the primary name."

Fwiw, I've also heard the variation "Leopard and Tiger Return to Mountain." I mention it because of the explanation that was given at the time. It was that the upper hand was the "tiger" and the lower hand the "leopard." In some traditions, there is a Leopard hand/punch/strike/palm where the the fingers are usally curled back. The idea was that the leopard and tiger return (or "turn back"?) the mountain.


regards,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jan 25, 2005 5:39 pm

Hi Steve,

You're right, bao4 is "leopard," not "panther." I'm getting my cats mixed up!

--Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Jan 25, 2005 6:15 pm

Greetings Boris,

Thanks for the Wile reference. That helped me find the original Chinese text. Yes, I like that! Causing the opponent to mentally surrender is certainly preferable to harsher measures, but that would still be different from simply releasing him to cause future harm. This quote in fact prescribes control (zhi4) over the enemy that causes him to become compliant in his heart/mind.

I think that's germane to this Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain issue. I think "Embrace" should not be construed too literally as a “hug,” but as holding or having control of the opponent.

Take care,
Louis


[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 01-25-2005).]
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Postby Audi » Mon Feb 14, 2005 3:14 am

Hi all,

Louis, thanks for this find. Your theory sounds very plausible, although it is a little surprising that no one has made this reference before.

I too think it is important not to understand “bao4” only as “embrace.” As I understand it, the Chinese word is rather colorless and simply means to hold or take something into one or both arms. If “fang hu gui shan” implies something like: “to release a tiger only to have it return to its mountain stronghold,” then “bao hu gui shan” might imply “to grab a tiger and carry it all the way back to its mountain stronghold.”

Take care,
Audi
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:57 am

Bao could be very general like 'hold' or specific like 'hug'. Often used for holding a child or baby. As Kal mentioned, Yang Jun shows this where the right arm goes across the opponents back and encircles the opponent, pulling him under his arm almost horizontal so that the top of the opponents head is facing behind Yang Jun. Thus having embraced the tiger he can now go on to address a second opponent.
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Postby Wu Wei » Fri Feb 18, 2005 2:22 am

Consider Southern Shaolin-style technique "Tiger Descends Mountain....." (Mang Fu Ha San)

I am not suggesting that ETRM was "designed" to combat this particular technique, but instead I believe it is an allusion to Taijiquan's ability to counteract and overcome even the fiercest Wai Gong exponent.

...just a thought..

[This message has been edited by Wu Wei (edited 02-17-2005).]
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