"Sung" word in taijiquan practice

Postby Anderzander » Fri Dec 10, 2004 1:06 pm

Hello again...

Kuo Lien-Ying describes the 8 gates in these terms very well:

Peng is upwards and outwards
Lu is downwards and inwards
An is Peng drawn down and forwards
Chi is both hands with Peng combined inside

To build on my description above - suspending the crown, putting the Yi down and the Chi sinking is Lu (the mind closes but the body opens - ie in opening their is closing etc)

When Lu reaches it's extreme, the Yi stays down and, a 'back pressure' travels from the foot upwards and outwards. That is Peng (the mind opens but the body closes etc).

suspending the crown, putting the Yi down and the Chi sinking downwards and forwards is An.

the Yi stays down, a 'back pressure' travels from the foot upwards, combines the two arms as it moves outwards. That is Chi (press).

(Incidentally - when I first got Kuo Lien Ying's book I was unfamiliar with almost all of it's contents. After having read Doughlas Wiles - Taiji touchstones I was able to cross reference much more of it. There is however still more content in Kuo Lien Ying's book than appears in any of the other English translations that I have. Is it possible that the remainde of Kuo Lien Ying's material could be from Ku Liu-Hsin's 'T'ai-chi ch'uan yen-chiu' (Studies on T'ai-chi Ch'uan) ? Can you offer any opinion Louis??


I would like to say a bit more though:

It is my feeling that Taiji can be viewed to hold a number of different 'techniques' dependant upon the individuals ability.

The above four energies, and the four corners, in themselves represent a complete martial system. Ultimately though I believe it boils down to only Lu (and central equlibrium).

Cheng Man Ching said "the unified substance and application if he 13 postures is built upon the application of 'Lu' and the substance of central equlibrium. There is nothing more - a single Yin and a single Yang: The Tao.


I was tempted to go on to describe the differences of application (technique) but feel it would be digressing from the thread too much.

Please, comments anyone?

Stephen

Dont use Jing - Use Yi Image



[This message has been edited by Anderzander (edited 12-10-2004).]
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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Dec 10, 2004 5:12 pm

Anderzander,
I haven't read too much of Chen Man Chings stuff. The bit about Lu and central equilibrium being the building block of the thirteen postures sure makes sense to me.
After all, it was a combination of learning the proper movement and application of Lu and how to root from Bill that really launched me on the path to beginning to understand some aspects of this art, at least in the limited, beginner kind of fashion that I have found.
So he's got my vote for making a great deal of sense.
Help me out here, sometimes I don't keep this all straight.
Chen Man Ching was one of Yang Cheng Fu's disciples? Is that right?
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Dec 10, 2004 6:18 pm

Greetings Stephen,

Regarding Kuo Lien-ying’s book, it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it closely, but my impression is that it draws upon a number of sources, notably Chen Xin’s book (written 1919; pub’d. 1933) on Chen family style. A while back, in the discussion thread “Empty and Full,” we talked a bit about a poem in Kuo’s book that I was able to identify as coming from Chen Xin’s book. I think you were in on that discussion. Kuo’s book also devotes a lot of attention to the text now generally attributed to Wu Yuxiang, “Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures (Shisan shi xing gongxinjie), which Kuo refers to in shorthand as the Kong Hsin Chieh, as I recall. The organization of the book, however, sometimes makes it difficult to identify what is source text, and what is Kuo’s or someone else’s commentary.

Kuo (Guo Lianying) taught for many years in San Francisco. My sifu considered him a friend. I never got to meet him, but saw him across the square on one or two occasions. He had a very striking appearance—tall, lean, and powerful. He kept his head shaved, and held it high. Maybe Horacio could share some impressions of Master Kuo. He studied with him back in the 70s.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Anderzander » Fri Dec 10, 2004 6:49 pm

Gentlemen Image

Mr Wubu,

Chen Man Ching was indeed Yang Chen Fu's student, and please call me Stephen if you'd prefer.

Louis,

Thankyou. I only vaguely remember the thread, I stopped using the forum for a while when my understanding got turned on it's head. I have some basis to talk now.

I agree that Kuo Lien-Ying's book does not clearly annotate it's sources. It took me a long time to fully digest it's content. Copius rereading and taking notes.

Louis - on the subject of books... I have the Yang Chen Fu book in my amazon shopping list, awaiting publication. I can't wait :-D

Stephen
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Postby Bamenwubu » Fri Dec 10, 2004 7:03 pm

Louis,
I too have your new book on order, so does my partner in crime.

Stephen,
Call me Bob.
Good, I'm glad I got one right for once.
I have a pretty good knowledge of the first two generations of the Yang family and their disciples, but after that it kind of goes to mush.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Dec 10, 2004 11:50 pm

Greetings Stephen,

Regarding your remark: “there is quite a strong case for the Chi in Tai Chi being gravity”

I am not sure this is tenable.

The term qi appears once in the Taijiquan Treatise, in the sentence, “The qi sinks to the dantian.” I would have to ask, Does gravity sink? If it did, would it stop once it got to your dantian?

Even more problematic is the line in the Song of the 13 Postures, which says, “With the lower abdomen completely loosened, the qi will ascend on its own.” I’m pretty sure that gravity doesn’t sink, but I’m certain it doesn’t ascend.

The Mental Elucidation of the 13 Postures mentions qi more often than any of the other core taiji classics combined. Some of the statements there include: “Use the mind/heart (xin) to move the qi. You must cause it to sink soundly, then it can gather into the bones.” Is it possible to move gravity? If it were, and you could move it into your bones, what would it do there? I would have to ask similar questions about the lines, “the qi adheres to the back, then collects into the spine.” Can the properties or behavior of gravity be described as “adhering,” or “collecting?” Then there is the line: “Qi is like the wheel of a cart; the waist is like the wheel’s axle.” Can one’s waist be the axle of gravity?

I don’t think that gravity can be moved, can it? We can certainly align our bodies in the field of gravity. Through body movement, we can optimize our center of gravity, and consciousness of the center of gravity can in turn optimize the efficiency of our movement. But I’m having difficulty with your equating of qi with gravity.

Modern terms of physics such as gravity and center of gravity were introduced to China in the 1600s by the Jesuits, but didn’t really catch on until about the 1860s. Needless to say, traditional taiji writings don’t make reference to gravity per se, but I think the technical taiji term, zhongding (central equilibrium), is functionally very close to the concept of center of gravity. Beginning in the 1930s, taiji experts increasingly began to use the modern term for center of gravity (zhongxin) in writings about taijiquan.

Yours in dialogue,
Louis
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Postby Phocion » Mon Dec 13, 2004 1:37 am

An interesting discussion.

To help me to understand the use of "song" in the Classics, would one of you be kind enough post an analysis of the Chinese character?

Etymology is sometimes useful (besides being fun!).

Thanks in advance.
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Postby JerryKarin » Mon Dec 13, 2004 7:58 pm

Well the modern graph shows a piece meaning 'hair' and another part indicating pronounced song like word for 'pine tree'. Possibly there was once some sort of notion of loose hair, not tied up. Analysis of the graph is rarely useful in understanding Chinese words. Song is a very common word which is the opposite of 'tight'.
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Postby Louis Swaim » Mon Dec 13, 2004 8:41 pm

Greetings Phocion,

I agree that etymology can be useful and fun. On the other hand, it’s not always relevant. Just as with current English usage, writers and speakers generally use words with little or no consciousness of the root meanings of the words. Of course, entailments can drive or frame meaning, conscious or not. Literate Chinese may tend to be a bit more conscious of etymology, however, because of the graphic nature of the written language. In Chinese and Japanese, there are many folk etymologies of words that are in fact patently false with regard to the actual evolution of the characters in question, but which have developed independently over time as explanations for the composition of given characters simply because they help people to easily remember the written character. Chinese also like to play word games that are sort of like graphic riddles, where you’re supposed to guess a character based upon a fanciful description of a little scenario involving the graphic elements.

As for the character “song,” it is composed of one element that means “long hair,” (which is in turn composed of discreet elements meaning “long” and “hair”). Combined, this “long hair” graphic element appears in various modern characters for the hair on one’s head, or facial hair, etc. I’ve seen one etymological explanation for a character based on that element, the character “xu,” which can mean either “beard,” or “should, must.” The explanation for the “should/must” meaning is kind of funny. Supposedly, in traditional Chinese society, a man didn’t grow a beard until he was married and in a position of authority. That is, until he had the authority to tell others what they should or must do. Is this accurate? Who knows?

In any case, “song” contains the element depicting “long hair,” plus a phonetic element that indicates its pronunciation, which here is a graph for a pine tree, pronounced “song.” I don’t know for a fact, but I think the “loosen” meaning of song comes from the image of long hair that hangs freely, and is not bound up. Prior to the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, Chinese men typically had long hair, but they usually wore their hair in a topknot, especially in formal circumstances. So, when they took their hair out of the topknot, it was “loosened.” There could be an attendant entailment here for another modern meaning of song, which means “to take it easy,” or “catch a break.” One might imagine that in less formal situations, when hanging out, strumming on a lute and drinking wine, the topknot was optional. So at times like these, you could “loosen up naturally,” and be at ease. Again, I don’t know if this is accurate. Who knows?

The “pine tree” element that gives our “song” character its pronunciation has entailments that, to me, could have some bearing on the idiomatic taiji meaning. A pine tree has an upright bearing. Its trunk is straight. Its branches don’t droop; they are buoyant and springy. (The pine, as an evergreen, also has a metaphorical entailment of longevity in Chinese culture.) Does this entailment have any validity in the taiji context? Who know? By the way, the simplified version of the “loosen” song character that has been in use on the mainland since the ‘50s no longer has the “long hair” element present in the traditional character. Instead, the character used for the meaning “loose, loosen, relax” is the same one used for “pine tree.” People who are familiar with both traditional and simplified characters (and most American students of Chinese have to learn both) tend to be biased in favor of traditional characters, because the simplified forms have a lot of the etymological detail stripped out of them. Also, the simplification scheme dictated that many characters do double duty, as in the case of this “song” character. Sometimes it works well, other times, not so well. One has to wonder what the rationale is for the pine tree character being used for “loosen, relax,” etc. Is a pine tree relaxed? You would have to ask the tree.

Was there a particular classic text you had in mind? From what I can recall, only one of the five “core” taiji classics uses the word “song.” That is the Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Postures, where it occurs a couple of times as follows:

“The energy (jin) seems loosened (song) yet not loosened; about to expand, but not yet expanding.”

“The abdomen is loosened (song) so that the qi gathers into the bones.”

Most interesting in light of the discussion we’ve been having, I think, is the first example. This idea of “seems loosened but not loosened” (si song, fei song) may capture the real feeling of what we’re talking about. In taiji movement there is a loosening of the joints and tissues—an absence of tension or rigidity, but at the same time, one’s posture is upright, and one’s limbs are extended. It seems loose, but is not loose. It’s not something that can be expressed in a cut and dried manner.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Kalamondin » Mon Dec 13, 2004 9:39 pm

Hi Jeff,

I was thinking about your discussion of spindle cells and there's a book you might be interested in that talks about bioelectricity and the body with some specific references to qi. Parts of it, particularly the parts about pressure-generated piezo-electric energy through semi-conducting parts of the body, seemed relevant to your discussion. The book is "Energy Medicine: the Scientific Basis" and is a review of the literature (as of 2000) by a biophysicist, James Oschman. I tried to sum it up a bit in another post on 12/10/04, and rather than repeat my post I'll just send you over there: http://www.yangfamilytaichi.com/ubb/Forum2/HTML/000026.html

Best wishes,
Kal
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:17 am

I think that great care has to be taken with the kind of analysis that Louis has given above. First of all, there is a lot of evidence that originally Chinese was written more phonetically and so the 'hair' portion of the graph may have been a later addition. All kinds of folk explanations have arisen through the years over graphic conventions which really don't mean squat. In addition, it is simply wrong to confuse graphology with etymology in Chinese. There are scads of cognate words with quite dissimilar graphs. The history and development of the graphs is interesting but often irrelevant to the words they are used to represent. It is important to remember that Chinese characters represent syllables of sound, which are part of a living, organic language, just like any other language. It is wrong to think of the characters as some kind of graphic code indicating the meaning directly. They are really only 'spellings' for syllables of sound. True, different 'spellings' are used for different morphemes, much like 'to' and 'too' and 'two' in English, but one must be very careful about assigning a lot of significance to these 'spellings' themselves.


[This message has been edited by JerryKarin (edited 12-13-2004).]
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:20 am

Thank you Jerry. It is refreshing to hear the correct view of the Chinese writing system. This is a difficult thing for most people to understand initially. Linguistics is not a required course. It may help to think of this order.

The generally accepted correct relationship is:

MEANING>WORD>SOUND>GRAPH

WORD>SOUND

Most of us get to words via sound and the two are inseperable. Yet, the sound, meaning and the graph of words change over time, but the word still has its own historical identity. The description and analysis, or etymology, of this change is one type of exercise while analysis of a graph is another. But, mesmerized by the writing system, Chinese and Western scholars alike have not always been clear about this.

Jerry: RE: “Analysis of the graph is rarely useful in understanding Chinese words . . . . one must be very careful about assigning a lot of significance to these 'spellings' themselves..”

Don’t forget though, that the writing system has such a huge effect on the way that Chinese view their language and the words in their language. Analysis of graphs is a very central part of how Chinese are taught to understand Chinese words. So, there are hundreds of millions of people assigning a lot of significance to these graphs. That doesn’t make it a linguistically correct understanding, but its effect is so overwhelming that it is a necessary component in learning about meaning in Chinese culture. It is the "culturally correct" way to understand their language.

I have observed the difficulty that even professors of Chinese in China have in understanding and accepting this linguistically correct view.

Jeff
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Postby Gu Rou Chen » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:22 am

Kal,

I just ordered the book. The first chapter was available on line and I was convinced to buy it. Looks like there should be some very promising connections made in the near future in with all of this activity in the mind-body research field.
Candace Pert’s book is fascinating, too. Molecules of Emotion. She wrote the preface to one of Oschman’s books.

Hopefully, Taijiquan won’t get left out. I have a sense of urgency in that currently there seems to be adequate technology for documenting many of the phenomena demonstrated by accomplished masters, but after this generation passes, this opportunity may be lost. I just don’t see many younger practitioners (under 60) carrying on the skills of the older generation.

Hi Louis,


RE:
“I wonder about this. You may be right, but I wonder how this reconciles with the way traditional taiji concepts are usually expressed. That is, many of the postural requirements are expressed as negative admonitions. For example, “xu ling ding jin” implies an “emptying” of force, intention, tension, or what have you, from the neck muscles. The prescription to “fangsong,” to “set loose,” implies a release of control, rather than a full blast implementation of control. To “han xiong” implies not throwing out the chest—a negative prescription as opposed to a positive action.”


I don’t see how any of these are negative admonitions in their –Chinese- forms.
“hánxiōng” is certainly not a negative prescription.

RE:
“The prescription to “fangsong,” to “set loose,” implies a release of control . . .”

I think this is a common misconception. However, my experience is that “sōng” involves an extremeley intense degree of attention, focus, and activation of energy. “Letting go” and “releasing tension” are –actively- controlled in Taiji. Control of the kind in not flinching under pain; not being afraid or tensing up when a bigger, stronger person is trying to harm you; not getting angry when someone who knows how to get you angry is trying to do so, etc.

Again, I feel the state/process of “sōng” as a switch that has been turned –on-, not –off-.

Jeff


[This message has been edited by Gu Rou Chen (edited 12-13-2004).]
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Postby JerryKarin » Tue Dec 14, 2004 5:16 am

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR><font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Gu Rou Chen:
<B>
Don’t forget though, that the writing system has such a huge effect on the way that Chinese view their language and the words in their language. Analysis of graphs is a very central part of how Chinese are taught to understand Chinese words. So, there are hundreds of millions of people assigning a lot of significance to these graphs. That doesn’t make it a linguistically correct understanding, but its effect is so overwhelming that it is a necessary component in learning about meaning in Chinese culture. It is the "culturally correct" way to understand their language.
Jeff</B></font><HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

There's a lot of truth in what you say and yet I find the explanations of the characters to be mainly a very thin veneer on top of a perfectly ordinary spoken language which can be described and analyzed very well by ordinary linguistic tools. Don't forget that a word like song is aquired by children and used by them perfectly well, long before they ever learn to read and write. Their language aquisition is essentially complete by the time they go to school and learn to read the characters. And it is essentially the word song that they learned before they could read that we are talking about here. There is nothing mysterious about it and we should be wary of wandering off into the straightness of pines and all that based on the graph. Yes this is a technical term in taiji, but we need not appeal to a kind of mystical, non-discrete, anything goes graphic analysis to come to an understanding of its use in taiji.
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Postby Bamenwubu » Tue Dec 14, 2004 4:30 pm

I will stay out of the linguistics discussions, completely.
I can barely understand english, and I don't pretend to do it well, so I certainly have no isights into chinese of any dialect.
Fun stuff to read, though there seems to be no concensus.
My only comment goes to a statement made by Gu Rou Chen, who wrote:
"I have a sense of urgency in that currently there seems to be adequate technology for documenting many of the phenomena demonstrated by accomplished masters, but after this generation passes, this opportunity may be lost. I just don’t see many younger practitioners (under 60) carrying on the skills of the older generation."

Well, of course not!
And those Masters didn't show much hope for carrying on the skills of the older generation, and before them the practitioners/Masters didn't see much hope of the younger generation carrying on their skills, and before them that generation didn't see much hope for the next carrying on their skills.....
Does any generation ever see the hope that the next will carry on their skills?
No.
But somehow, someway, the skills get carried on and even sometimes improved.
No one starts out a Master. No one. It takes years and years of full time dedication, talent and sweat equity to achieve Mastery of a skill. Until you do achieve that Mastery of skill you certainly won't be displaying much hope of carrying on those skills yourself.
But eventually, even the worst student can Master a skill if they have the dedication and perseverance to the cause.
In this way, we've managed to pass on Tai Chi Chuan skill, and many, many others, down the generations to this time, and I would have to imagine that will contiunue unabated as long as there are those who wish to Master it.
Think about it. Did you start out displaying a lot of skill?
Of course not. You had to work, hard, to get where you are. Everyone does.
But in time, the current student becomes the Master. They, then, will start to say, "I don't see much hope in the next generation carrying on this skill! Look at them!".
Yet, here we are, with Masters of great skill to learn from, and so it will be in future.
Please, don't keep carrying on about "lost arts".
I doubt that very many skills of this art are truly "lost". Just because WE don't know someone who exhibits them, does not mean there isn't someone, more than likely more than one, that does.
Relax, the true transmissions are known to enough folks to carry on the art as it is. Heck, the next generation may even make it better.
You never know.
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