Hi Jerry, Louis, and fellow enthusiasts,
Jerry, I think I understand your point. For you, yongquan can be merely a meridian point, whose name is arbitrary. A number could do just as well. I would argue, however, that the name conveys something to people who speak Chinese that is not conveyed to people who do not. My default is to try to put people who speak no Chinese on the same footing as those who do.
A similar argument could be made with reference to the name of the art itself, "Taijiquan." In my view, for those who speak Chinese, both the "Taiji" and the "quan" convey important information about the nature of the art that is lost without explanation. (This does not, of course, touch on why this name was actually chosen for the art.) Early on in my studies, I read much literature that I now believe mistranslated or ignored both these terms either to argue that Taijiquan was recognized as the "ultimate" art or that it was not a martial art at all. These positions sound very different with a knowledge of the Chinese than they do in unexplained English.
As for yongquan predating Taijiquan, is that not true of the concept of something like "qi," as well? I personally think that how one explains something like "qi" can have a profound impact on practice. Is it "breath," "energy," "subtance," "matter," "a mystical force," or "merely a cultural conception unique to traditional China"? I could defend each of these "translations," and each would nudge practice in a different direction. I can also defend leaving it untranslated, but then that just dodges the question of what it means and leaves non-Chinese speakers with less knowledge than Chinese speakers, for whom "qi" is at minimum part of elementary daily vocabulary.
I also must say that my Taiji journey has been quite affected by situations where I originally believed one thing, based on what I heard or read in English, but later revised my views quite substantially based on what I read or heard in Chinese. I think I have mentioned previously on this board that some of these occasions were even hearing people like you translating at seminars and confirming for me that some of the English tags we use for Chinese terms can be quite misleading.
I have often heard people express views about such terms as fangsong, yao, li, jin, xin, yi, and qi that I consider unsupportable from a linguistic basis. This does not mean that their Taijiquan is wrong, but it does color my confidence in their practice methods if their primarly reasoning is based on incorrect information or if they exclude views that I know fit equally well with other possible Chinese meanings of these words.
From your words, I think you see my translation speculations in this illegimate light and see them as creating a history of meaning that simply does not exist. If yongquan is a technical term that predates Taijiquan, any meaning based on its use within Taijiquan would be academically invalid. And yet, Taijiquan has reworked many Neo-Confucian and Daoist concepts for its own purposes, why should TCM be immune from this?
I should also say that my basic approach is to go with what works. If the translations distract from your practice, I say do not bother about them. If they help, use them. I myself find the concepts inspired by the meaning of yongquan helpful to understanding what use I can put to it. I think that I stated that I was not concerning myself with translation choices per se, but rather with mental imaging, mental hooks, and mental tags. An academic approach to the meaning of yongquan would be quite a different exercise. Even something like translating it in the Taiji Info section of this board would be a different exercise, because such an undertaking would have to take into account historical usages, the greater Taiji community, the lack of opportunity to clarify, standardization, etc.
As for yongquan being specifically a meridian point, what should I do if I value Taijiquan, but am doubtful of meridian theory and TCM? Reducing yongquan to a meridian point would leave me wondering what kind of a theory I was being asked to buy into if I were told to center my balance on this point.
On the other hand, suppose I am completely taken by meridian theory and TCM. Defining yongquan as primarily a meridian point might lead me to interpret all Taijiquan in this way. There is, after all, much more material about TCM than about Taijiquan. I might switch from focus on the Ten Essentials to mapping out all Jin points in terms of meridan points and dedicate a substantial amount of time to practicing the microcosmic orbit and consciously manipulating jing, pre- and post-birth qi, etc. I am not saying that either approach is right or wrong, but rather that it should be a conscious decision and not hampered by lack of knowledge about what the name of the point might be intended to convey in the context of Taijiquan. Taijiquan has reworked many Neo-Confucian and Daoist concepts for its own purposes, why should TCM be immune from this?
Let me explain my position further with reference to the term "dantian." I think I know the basics about the probable origin or reference of this term, but do not bother with coming up with good English equivalents in the context of the Yangs' approach to form. I have never heard them teach based on these origins and so do not particularly highlight TCM or Daoist aspects of it. When appropriate, I do explain what I know, but I do not use that information to guide mental imagery and draw attention from less esoteric matters. Some people teach in terms of cultivating a glow in the dantian, but I do not think this fits in well with a practical focus on the Ten Essentials. I can sink Qi to the Dantian without worrying about kindling or cooking up an elixir there. Those sorts of Qi sensations seem less reliable to "sinking" than focusing on dropping elbows, containing the chest, etc.
How about mingmen? Is it not useful to know that this is termed a "door/gate," rather than just a numbered point that carries no such inherent connotation? It is easy to imagine that doors can be open or closed, but not so easy to see numbered "points" in this light. I often think that to guard my "life" I must keep this door open and drop my tailbone. It does not matter to me that TCM may be referring to a completely different aspect of "life" or may have adopted the term for some other reason.
The last comparison I can make is talking about keeping the spine straight. According to what I understand of modern medicine, a truly straight spine would be disasterous for health. But when we talk about keeping the spine straight in Taijiquan, we are not talking in terms of medical science, but in terms of daily concepts. For me, the academic truth of the imagery as worded is not really relevant for my practice, although I do sometimes explain the discrepancy to friends who I believe might benefit from such detail. I see most of meridian theory in this light.