"Taiji's Substance & Application"

"Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby Audi » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:15 pm

Greetings all,

I was recently moved to ponder deeply Louis Swaim's translation of a line from the Song of the Thirteen Postures:

若言体用何为准意气君来骨肉臣


If you ask, what are the criteria of essence and application?
Intention (yi) and qi are the authority, the bones and tissues the subjects.


The implications of translating 意气 not as a compound, but as "Intention (yi) and qi " particularly drew my attention. Secondarily, I also wondered what I really felt about the words "essence and application."

I feel I understand qi quite well for the practical aspects for my practice and even for a fair amount of the philosophical aspects; however, this particular line led me down a new area of inquiry.

After reviewing several books, including Barbara Davis's The Taijiquan Classics: An Annotated Translation, I felt my the basis of my inquiry was confirmed; however, I did not begin to find a resolution to my doubts until I began to consult Chapter 13 of the "Yang Forty Chapters."

Neither my Chinese nor my understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of the document were quite up to the task, and the first translation I consulted left me slightly confused. Then I found a masterful Brennan translation.

I think I had read Brennan's translation before, but had not had a sufficient basis to understand a lot of the dense theoretical framework. I feel much better positioned now, but still would like to explore more.

Is anyone else interested in a close reading of this chapter? It probably doesn't relate much to the immediate practical aspects of doing form or push hands, but I think it does help solidify the overall theoretical framework that we have touched on here or there on other posts recently.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby Louis Swaim » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:03 pm

Greetings Audi,

It would be great to do some close reading of 太極體用解. It seems to be loaded with Neo-Confucian ideas and language. Zhu Xi and the Neo-Confucians of his day were very preoccupied with the interactions of 理 and 氣, and this document appears to draw on those philosophical ideas. For reference, check out section 5 of this Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy page on Zhu Xi. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/zhu- ... iAmoRelTer

Regarding: 'The implications of translating 意气 not as a compound, but as "Intention (yi) and qi " particularly drew my attention.' how would you render this? Even some translations of this as a compound tend to account for a twofold concept: "will and spirit," or the like.

Take care,
Louis
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby Audi » Sun Mar 26, 2017 8:35 pm

Greetings all,

Regarding: 'The implications of translating 意气 not as a compound, but as "Intention (yi) and qi " particularly drew my attention.' how would you render this? Even some translations of this as a compound tend to account for a twofold concept: "will and spirit," or the like.


I would suggest putting this off until, we get through Chapter 13. My own translation process entails understanding a passage in its original language before rendering a translation.

As for Chapter 13 of An Explanation/Analysis of Taiji Principles, its title in Chinese is:

太极体用解


I understand this to mean: “An Analysis of Tai Chi’s Framework and Application.” The key words are 体 (ti) and 用 (yong). There common literal meanings are usually rendered as “body” and “use,” respectively. As a yin-yang pair, they seem to be represent a way of describing the art comprehensively. Alternative translations in this context are: “Substance and Application,” “Essence and Application,” “Theory and Application,” “System and Usage,” or perhaps “Structure and Application. I think the idea here is that something like Tai Chi is defined both by how it is internally constituted and by its field of action.

The first “sentence” goes:

理为精气神之体


I understand this to mean: “Patterning is the framework of essence, qi, and spirit.

The first word originally referred to the texture or grain of a jewel. In other contexts, it is often rendered as “reason” or “principle.” I think a word like “patterning” retains the original reference.

The main stream of Neo-Confucians represented by Zhu Xi posited that the entire universe boiled down to 理 and 气, patterning/principle and qi/matter-energy. The greatest principle was the Taiji itself that represented the relationship between yin and yang and was an alternative manifestation of Wuji. In this instance, qi represents not only energy, but also solid matter. In just about all other instance, qi represents some unseen aspect of matter and corresponds better to what scientists mean when talking about energy. It is the force that underlies matter.

As for the triplet of essence, qi, and spirit, I understand this not to refer to any special Neo-Confucian ideas, but rather to a concept developed in Chinese Traditional Medicine and Daoist Internal Alchemy.

I think that qi can be used as a cover term for all three terms so that we can talk about essential qi and spiritual qi. In this sense, I think the idea is that the basic qi of the universe can be divided into three in terms of the energy of the human body.

“Jing” (精 “Essence”) seems to represent a person’s physical endowment: what you inherit from your parents, what you build up through the environment by eating and other processees, and the basis for what you can pass on to your children. This is a different word from 体 (ti), which can also be translated as “essence” in a different context. One of the literal meanings of jing is “sperm.” In Chinese medicine, it also corresponds to menstrual flow and pregnancy.

One basic attribute of jing is that the part you inherit from your parents generally wears out, resulting in aging and death. One of the major preoccupations of internal alchemy was to safeguard this type of jing. Another term for this inherited portion of jing seems to be primordial qi (元气 yuan qi).

Within this triplet, qi seems to represent the activity and energy flow of the body. It is supported by your physical endowment, or the jing, and is directed by the shen, which is the spirit, mind, or intellect.

Western though tended to focus on substances and an opposition between the physical and the spiritual. Traditional Chinese thought seems to have focused on activities and processes, rather than substances. It did not accept a basic opposition between the physical and the spiritual, but rather saw the spiritual as merely a refinement of the physical. “Cloudy” or “turbid” qi resulted in the physical matter, but refined qi resulted in spirit and intellect (shen). A Daoist sage could fly because he or she had suitably refined his qi so that his or her body was as light as air. A Neo-Confucian sage could perceive the underlying ethical basis of the universe because his or her thought was so refined that it could interpenetrate things and perceive their patterning. According to some, shen is what separates humans from animals.

This site also sets forth a specific interrelationship among this triplet in sections 14 through 18 of this page.

What then does this first sentence mean? I think it is a statement saying the activity of the body and mind is patterned by the relationship between yin and yang.

The second sentence is:

精气神为身之体


I understand this to mean: “Essence, qi, and spirit constitute the framework of the body.”

The Chinese word for “body” here, 身 shen, is different from 体 ti, which is also frequently translated as "body," but which in this context is better translated as “substance,” “essence,” or “framework.” The word shen sometimes refers to the torso specifically, but in this case seems to cover the whole body and the action of the mind. This shen 身 is pronounced with a high level town; whereas the shen 神 meaning “spirit” is pronounced with a rising tone. The characters are also written quite differently.

I think the line is trying to say that the energy structure of the body should be looked at from the tripartite framework of essence, qi, and spirit.

The next sentences are:

身为心之用劲力为身之用


I understand this to mean: “The body is what the mind is applied to, and power and strength are what the body is applied to.”

This sets up the mind and the body at the top of the pyramid so far, as the things behind the usage of power.

The next lines, where things get interesting, are:

心身有一定之主宰者理也精气神有一定之主宰者意诚也


I understand this to mean: “The mind and body have a definite controller, which is patterning. The essence, qi, and spirit have a definite controller, which is purposeful sincerity.”

I find all of this somewhat circular and confusing, but there seems to be an attempt to interrelate mind, body, qi, power/energy, and essence, qi, and spirit. The climax of the analysis seems to arrive at the importance of patterning/principle (i.e., the Taiji relationship of yin and yang) as the mind and body controller and the importance of “sincerity” as the energy controller.

“Sincerity” is a strange word from a Western viewpoint. I would welcome comments on this. From the little I know, it seems to be a reference to Neo-Confucian ethical ideas about the necessity of sincerely trying to follow ethical principles. It is one of the main topics of the Doctrine of the Mean, a major Confucian document. What exactly it means in this case is not clear to me, and I will leave further speculation to another time.

Take care,
Audi
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby UniTaichi » Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:39 am

Hi All,

Very interesting thread. Here is my 2 cents worth;

理为精气神之体


The governing principles are the structure of jing, qi, shen.

精气神为身之体


Jing, qi , shen are the structure of the Body.

身为心之用劲力为身之用


Mind is manifest via the body(movement).
The body(movement) is manifest via power and strength.

Or

Used of the Mind is via the Body.
Used of the Body is via power and strength.

心身有一定之主宰者理也精气神有一定之主宰者意诚也


The ultimate controller of the Mind & Body are their governing principles.
The ultimate controller of jing, qi, shen is (from) a Pure Mind.


Cheers,
UniTaichi
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby ChiDragon » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:51 am

I would interpret as 作用(function)
身为心之用
The body is the function of the mind.

劲力为身之用
The powerful strength is the function of the body.
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby ChiDragon » Mon Mar 27, 2017 4:04 pm

Hi, Audi, Louis, UniTaichi and all
Here is the original document of interest of the OP.
http://www.cqvip.com/read/read.aspx?id=22532724

IMO It was written in classic which mean there were no punctuations. In order to make an accurate interpretation, it must be properly punctuated.

为精气神之体, 精气神为身之体. 身为心之用, 劲力为身之用.
心身有一定之主宰者, 理也. 精气神有一定之主宰者, 意诚也.


Try from here. I would like to hear your interpretation of the classic with your bilingual skills.
A deep discussion requires explicit details for a good comprehension of a complex subject.
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby Audi » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:45 am

Greetings all,

Thanks for the comments.

Below is my understanding so far. I should be clear that I am trying to address separately the problem of what is a correct understanding of the text and what is a good way to render it in English. I am mostly focused on the former, since I believe it should controller the latter.

太极体用解

理為精氣神之軆精氣神為身之軆身為心之用勁力為身之用心身有一定之主宰者理也精氣神有一定之主宰者意誠也

An Analysis of the Substance and Use (Application) of Tai Chi

Patterning (Principle) gives substance to your constitution (精 jing or “essence”), energy (气 qi), and spirit; and your constitution, energy, and spirit give substance to your body. Your body gives use to your mind, and your power (劲 jin) and strength (力 li) give use to your body. Your mind and body have a definite controller, which is patterning; and your constitution, energy, and spirit have a definite controller, which is the authenticity (诚 cheng or “sincerity”) of your intent (意 yi).


Some comments are in order. I have tried to lay out my understanding from my bias toward a modern scientific viewpoint and so have used some non-standard translations for some words. Where the choices might be surprising or might mislead the unwary, I have added the Chinese and/or the more usual English translation in parentheses at the first occurrence.

As I ponder how the word 精 jing is used in the context, I think it roughly corresponds to what we might call in English our body’s “constitution.” One problem with such a translation, however, is that the Chinese word does have connotations of “refined essence” that “constitution” lacks.

Another problematic word is 诚 cheng. The conventional translation of this word in Confucian matters is “sincerity”; however, such a translation just doesn't mean much to me. As I did some quick research on the web, I learned that the concept seems to mean that you must be true to your authentic self to let your inherent goodness shine through. This quality is then the basis for the five virtues of “benevolence” (仁 ren), “righteous conduct” (义 yi), “wisdom” (智 zhi), “appropriate conduct” (礼 li), and “faithfulness” (信 xin).

Here are some of my reactions to the kind comments:

The governing principles are the structure of jing, qi, shen.


Maybe this works, but I think that using a phrase like “the governing principles” sounds like a reference to a set of principles that are peculiar to this situation; whereas, I think the Chinese is referencing a unitary cosmic principle that applies to everything.

Mind is manifest via the body(movement).
The body(movement) is manifest via power and strength

Or

Used of the Mind is via the Body.
Used of the Body is via power and strength.


I like the meaning behind this phrasing, which is much clearer than what I had. I adjusted my earlier translation accordingly, but changed your phrasing to try to maintain better the parallelism evident in the Chinese.

I am going to continue with the text:

誠者天道誠之者人道俱不外意念須臾之間要知天人同軆之理自淂日月流行之氣其氣意之流行精神自隱微乎理矣夫而后言乃武乃文乃聖乃神則淂矣若特以武事論之於心身用之於勁力仍歸於道之本也故不得獨以末技云爾

“Authenticity” (“Sincerity”) is the Way (道 Dao/Tao) of Heaven; being authentic is the way of humanity. Neither leaves your thoughts for an instant. If you know the patterning of the like substance of Heaven and humanity, you automatically achieve the energy (气 qi) of the circulation of sun and moon and the circulation of the intent for that energy, and automatically your vitality (“essence and spirit”) is latent in the patterning. Afterwards you can talk of then the martial, then the civil, then becoming a sage, and then the spirit. Then is when you will have had it right. If you, in particular, are discussing martial matters with respect to the mind and body and using them for power and strength, it still goes back to the foundation of the Way. Hence, we are not talking merely about trifling skills.


I am particularly unsure about the translation of the middle of this paragraph and would appreciate feedback.

As for the holistic meaning of the entire passage, it seems to be that with understanding of cosmic principles--i.e., the Taiji--comes understanding of the principles that apply to the body, mind, and martial arts and that this understanding is a path to health and spiritual development. The idea seems to be that if we give sincere attention to cosmic principle, all else will naturally follow along.

By the way, my understanding is that Daoists tended to stress leaving human niceties behind and returning to the natural state of the Dao; whereas Neo-Confucians used the term Dao to refer to the Heaven-given precepts that all humanity should follow and that were described by Confucius.

Any thoughts?

Take care,
Audi
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Re: "Taiji's Substance & Application"

Postby ChiDragon » Wed Apr 12, 2017 9:41 am

Greetings!
This is a very difficult classic. Finally, I thought this might be it.
理为精气神之体,精气神为身之体,身为心之用,劲(力)为身之用,心身有一定之主宰者,理也. 精氣神有一定之主宰者, 意誠也

The reason(理) for that jing chi shen are being called the root. Jing chi shen are the root of the body. The body is the function of the mind; and jin is the function of the body. It is because the mind and body are, definitely, have a supreme ruler. Therefore, this is the reason(理也). This is why jing chi shen are, definitely, have a supreme ruler. Now, the reason has been known(意誠也).


Edit to add the interpretation of 精氣神有一定之主宰者意誠也 after a google research.
This is why jing chi shen are, definitely, have a supreme ruler. Now, the reason has been known(意誠也).
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