General Qi Jiguang

General Qi Jiguang

Postby Louis Swaim » Mon May 30, 2005 10:03 pm

Greetings,

In a recent thread, someone mentioned the role of Qi Jiquang (1528-1587), the Ming general, who consolidated a martial form that evidently later formed a basis for some of the Chen family’s forms. I thought I would share this synopsis of Qi Jiguang’s approach from a chapter entitled “Ch’i Chi-kuang, The Lonely General,” in Ray Huang’s book, _1587 A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline_ (Yale Univ. Press, 1981). I read Huang’s book years ago for a graduate seminar, but was reminded of it through Barbara Davis’ mention of it in her excellent book on the taijiquan classics. I’ve changed Wade-Giles to pinyin spellings.

~~~
The techniques adopted by Qi [Jiguang] had been handed down through oral tradition by individuals, some of them working as army instructors. Yu Dayou had made some some effort to narrate the techniques; but it was Qi who put the instructions together in the form of a technical manual. The fundamental principle could be said to take a ‘dialectic approach’ to the art. Every posture had its duality: the static and kinetic aspects, the guarded and unguarded portions of the body, the frontal and lateral alignment, the defensive and offensive potentials—in short, the yin and yang. One could also maneuver a contact weapon consonantly with the techniques used in dancing and boxing, since every motion involved three phases: the start, the pause or reversal, and the continuation until the recess. Whether for effectiveness or gracefulness, the mastery of the art depended upon proper rhythm—or perfect timing in transforming the yin to the yang. The general emphatically reminded his officers and men that in dueling with an enemy with a contact weapon, the cardinal rule was to maneuver the opponent into a false move before delivering the fatal blow. In more detailed analysis he gave fancy designations to different poses and gestures, such as ‘riding the tiger,’ ‘a hermit fishing,’ ‘the maiden’s embroidery needle,’ ‘an iron buffalo plowing the land,’ and so on. Each case was a study of motion at the instant of equilibrium before reversal.
—Ray Huang, p. 168
~~~

Ray Huang's book is one of the better sources I've seen in English on Qi Jiguang and his background.

Take care,
Louis



[This message has been edited by Louis Swaim (edited 06-03-2005).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Jun 03, 2005 2:50 pm

Greetings all,

I thought I would add a little to Louis' interesting contribution.

Barbara Davis' The Taijiquan Classics also has a little material on Qi Jiguang. Since I have no personal connection to her or her book, I would say that it is a must-buy. I am ashamed to say that I have not finished reading it yet, but what I have read so far is quite interesting. Louis has posted some comments about it before.

Davis discusses some of the origin theories and the difficulties peculiar to Chinese historical materials in evaluating them. She has some interesting things to say specifically about Qi Jiguang. Here is a quote form her chapter "A Brief History of Taijiquan":

"The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) saw publication of A New Treatise on Disciplined Service (jixiao xinshu) by General Qi Jiquang (1528-1587). Qi's book included a chapter called the "Boxing Classic" (Quanjing) [Davis has a footnote here saying that this chapter is reproduced in Wile's T'ai Chi's Ancestors, pp. 7-35.] In that chapter, Qi listed more than a dozen boxing styles. He selected thirty-two moves from them and constructed an amalgamated routine. The chapter includes pictures of the moves and mnemonic ghymes about their applications (see Figure 2). Qi noted that boxing was not of use against superior arms, but was still useful for its discipline. The book also included an excerpt of Yu Dayou's (1503-1580) treatise on weapons called the "Sword Classic" (Jianjing), which exhibited concepts such as softness, listening, and sticking that we now associate with taijiquan." (pp. 4-5)

A few pages later, Davis has:

"Many of the Chen-style moves are similar in name and appearance to martial arts moves depicted Qi Jiguang's book, A New Treatise on Disciplined Service, mentioned above. In view of the overlap betweeen Chen-style moves and Qi's moves, some have speculated that Chen Wangting studied Qi's manual and derived his system of boxing from it. (Footnote 10: To make a stronger link between Chen-style taijiquan and Qi's material would necessitate, among other things, a thorough survey and analysis of boxing names and moves used in these early periods, since names of moves and the moves themselves vary even within present-day taijiquan sytles. Other Chen family written material would also have to be analyzed in more detail. See the start of this process in Hu, 'Ch'en Chung-sheng' and 'Ch'en-shih chia-p'u.')" (p. 8)

I find out all this quite fascinating, however quite complex to evaluate. For example, even a "proven" link between Chen-style Taijiquan and Qi's material does not necessitate that Chen Wangting consulted Qi's manual. Chen and Qi could both have drawn on knowledge of other sources with a common origin.

Another example is understanding how much external commonalities, like similar postures, truly reflect internal commonalities. In other words, how much does an analysis of Chen's raw material ultimately tell us about what he created for Chen Style as a whole?

Lastly, we have the issue of the continuous cross-current of martial ideas and styles, like Qi's use of Yu Dayou's Sword Classic. Does emphasizing one thread of Taijiquan's development give insufficient weight to the sharing between martial arts and the artists skilled in those arts? In other words, how much of anything is truly developed from scratch or maintained in pristine form without external influence?

Take care,
Audi
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Postby tai1chi » Fri Jun 03, 2005 5:05 pm

Hi Audi,

you raise three questions:

"For example, even a "proven" link between Chen-style Taijiquan and Qi's material does not necessitate that Chen Wangting consulted Qi's manual. Chen and Qi could both have drawn on knowledge of other sources with a common origin."

[SJ] I think people have referred to General Qi's book because it was a respected compendium of the time. Chen Wangting, who was at one time considered to have a high position, was not in a position to construct a book with the importance of Qi's manual. Rather, it is suggested that Chen may have drawn from Qi's manual.

The argument, (Tang Hao's), has been that the names of 29 of the 32 movements of the Chen old routine are found in the sequence that Qi illustrated. Thus, Qi's sequence preceded the Chen routine. It doesn't necessarily follow that the Chen's took the sequence from Qi; and I don't think that Wile suggests that. What even some Chen people have posited is that Chen Wangting took some techniques from Qi with TCM and Taoist breathing to create a new martial art.

[Audi] "Another example is understanding how much external commonalities, like similar postures, truly reflect internal commonalities. In other words, how much does an analysis of Chen's raw material ultimately tell us about what he created for Chen Style as a whole?"

[SJ] I agree. The whole may be greater than the sum of its parts.

[Audi] "Lastly . . . Does emphasizing one thread of Taijiquan's development give insufficient weight to the sharing between martial arts and the artists skilled in those arts?"

[SJ] It's interesting. There is s tendency in CMA to emphasize unique and unusual origins. For example, consider the Chang Sanfeng story.

I'm not sure how to analyze the similarity of outward form and similarity of names to the shi of TCC. General Qi uses "Twisted Single Whip", and I'm not sure how that's related to what is done in any of the Yang systems, let alone the Chens. Feng Zhiqiang often states that TCC contains elements from many martial arts, and that's it's the "idea" that holds them togther which makes it TCC.

This is a hermeneutic problem. Can we understnad any whole by examining any of its parts? Not likely. Otoh, can we understand any whole without understanding its parts? Do all the parts need to be true in order for the whole to be true? Is it better not to look to closely? These are just the problemss. They're no solutions, imo.

regards,
Steve James
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:18 pm

Greetings Audi,

I guess what I find most interesting in Ray Huang’s paragraph (besides the illustration of yin-yang theory in individual postures) is that it documents an early instance of what I think is a recurrent model: the incorporation of oral, narrative explanations into written documents. Qi Jiguang seemed to have excelled at doing that. He was a very innovative military thinker, and by consolidating the diverse martial art knowledge available at the time, he was able to train ordinary peasants, using language that could be read aloud to training groups. The style was easily understood and easily memorized.

I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but I think you’ll find this Qi Jiguang document of interest. Go to this site http://atarn.org/chinese/cn_arc_indx.htm and click on the top left-hand link, titled, “Qi Ji Guang’s Archery Method.” It’s a PDF, so you need Acrobat to view it. It’s Stephen Selby’s translation, and includes the Chinese text. For a Ming document, it’s written in a pretty accessible style. I find particularly interesting his remarks on concentration, and the references to the Da Xue (Greater Learning).

Also, I don’t remember if we’ve touched on this or not, but the Saber Formula that you translated a few years ago makes reference to “mandarin duck feet.” Qi Jiguang developed a troop formation that was named the mandarin duck (yuanyang) formation, because of a certain left-right interdependent symmetry. I wonder if this military term inspired the later martial-arts term, “yuanyang jiao?”

Only a fraction of Qi Jiguang’s writings have been translated. The section that Wile translates in his T’ai Chi’s Ancestors book appears in Gu Liuxin’s book, Taijiquan Shu (The Art of Taijiquan). Steve is right that Wile doesn’t argue that the Chen art necessarily derived from Qi’s postures; I think the way he puts it is that Qi’s postures were among several strands of “genetic materials,” or something like that, which I think is a reasonable way of viewing it.

Take care,
Louis
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Postby Louis Swaim » Fri Jun 03, 2005 6:20 pm

Greetings Steve,

Excellent remarks. You wrote: “It's interesting. There is a tendency in CMA to emphasize unique and unusual origins. For example, consider the Chang Sanfeng story.”

That’s very true. This is a trend that goes all the way back to the Spring and Autumn period. There were a number of stories whereby early military manuals (bingfa) were transmitted to historical figures by miraculous or extraordinary means. I believe Mark Edward Lewis writes about this in his book, Sanctioned Violence in Early China, and I think Ralph Sawyer may have touched on it in his Seven Military Classics of Ancient China.

Take care,
Louis
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